Coffee may not be a significant risk for hypertension.




Archives of Internal Medicine

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Hypertension
Professional Data: Hypertension


Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. Blood pressure is created when the heart beats, propelling blood throughout the body. Blood pressure occurs in two distinct phases, corresponding to the contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle. When the heart contracts, it ejects a certain volume of blood out from its right side into the body's largest artery, the aorta. This initial thrust causes "systolic" blood pressure, which is the upper number of your blood pressure reading. As the heart relaxes, the blood presses against the walls of the arteries as it circulates, causing "diastolic" blood pressure, which is the lower number in your reading. Systolic blood pressure is a measure of the heart's blood output, while diastolic is determined by the resistance of arteries in the extremities to the flow of blood.

Hypertension has many possible causes. Hypertension that results from another disease is called "secondary hypertension." Fewer than 5 percent of people who suffer from hypertension have secondary hypertension, and in the majority of those, kidney disease in the cause. Other disorders known elevate blood pressure include thyroid disorders and Cushing's disease, which is a disorder of the adrenal glands. Certain medications— nervous system stimulants, synthetic estrogen, and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), to name a few— sometimes contribute to hypertension.

In an article recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers stated that it was unknown if coffee, a nervous system stimulant, increased the risk for hypertension if ingested over long periods of time. This investigation involved over 1,000 white males who were former medical students with an average age of 26 years. This 33-year follow up study assessed the intake of coffee, and the relationship between the individual's blood pressure and hypertension. The results showed the drinking 1 cup of coffee a day increased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure slightly. Contrasted to non-drinkers, coffee drinkers had a small increased risk of hypertension during the follow up. However, after adjustments for body mass index, alcohol consumption, and family history, the risks were not statistically important. The authors concluded, "Over many years of follow-up, coffee drinking is associated with small increases in blood pressure, but appears to play a small role in the development of hypertension."1


1. MJ Klag, et al. Coffee Intake and Risk of Hypertension. Archives of Internal Medicine. Mar 2002;162: 657-662.