In the United States, caffeine is the single most indulged in drug, with an estimated 90% of Americans consuming it every day, in one form or another. Of this 90 % of Americans consuming caffeine, seniors are drinking more coffee than any other age group, with 74 percent of seniors aged 55 and older drinking at least one cup a day. What’s great about this statistic is that although caffeine is an addictive substance, it can offer significant health benefits for seniors, when consumed in moderation that is. For seniors, the effects of caffeine are substantially more beneficial than they are harmful. To find out just why caffeine is so great for the elderly, and when it can be concerning, keep reading.
Pros To Consuming Caffeine
As people age, memory loss and forgetfulness are inevitable effects that most seniors will experience. While caffeine serves as a great pick me up in the morning or throughout long days, studies have concluded it also helps with long-term memory. In 2014, John Hopkins University conducted a study involving males and females that viewed images and then were given either a caffeine pill or a fake pill. After twenty-four hours, these individuals were asked to reflect on the pictures they saw. It was concluded that the individuals who took the caffeine pills were able to remember and describe the images better than those who took the fake, placebo pills.
Decreased risk of Alzheimer's
Another concern that seniors have to worry about as they age is the risk of developing the increasingly prevalent diseases Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The findings on the cognitive benefits of caffeine are tremendous. In 2009, a study was held in Finland and Sweden involving 1,4000 coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers. These individuals were followed for 20 years, and upon concluding the study, it was found that those who drank between 3 and 5 cups of coffee every day were 65% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and Dementia than those who did not drink coffee. While consuming caffeine cannot single-handedly protect someone from the diseases, their likelihood of development is reduced. Regarding Parkinson's disease, multiple studies have concluded that drinking coffee on a regular basis can reduce one's risk by up to 80%. Drinking two cups of coffee every day has also been proven to offer additional health benefits, such as a 25% decreased the risk of colon cancer, and 50% decreases the chance of getting gallstones.
Reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes
Not only can caffeine lower the possibility of developing diseases such as Alzheimer's and Dementia, but it can also reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. In 2004, Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital ran a study following thousands of men and women, none of which initially had diabetes. Every few years for up to 18 years their coffee-drinking habits were recorded, and it was found that those who increased their coffee consumption by more than one cup per day had an 11% lower chance of getting type 2 diabetes than the participants that made no changes in the amount of coffee they drank. The participants who started drinking less coffee every day than they had previously, put themselves at an increased risk of developing diabetes by 17%. These studies show the further health benefits that caffeine is able to provide.
Cons Of Consuming Caffeine
A risk of dehydration
While drinking caffeine in moderate amounts has proven to offer health benefits to seniors, there is a point where consuming the beverages can put yourself at risk. While coffee and other caffeinated beverages are made mostly of water, they still do cause a diuretic effect. The Mayo Clinic has advised that drinking roughly 5 to 7 cups of coffee on a daily basis can result in severe dehydration. With the risk of dehydration already higher in seniors than it is in other age groups, it is essential to beware of these effects. There are many symptoms of dehydration in the elderly to be wary of, such as:
- Lack of sweat or tears
- Low blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Trouble walking
More difficult to sleep
Another inevitable side effect of aging is a change in the quality of sleep, struggling to fall asleep at night, or experiencing problems with waking up throughout the night. Getting an ideal amount of quality sleep every night is crucial, helping your brain to function correctly and to maintain a strong immune system and well overall physical health. To ensure that quality sleep is achieved, it is best to avoid caffeine altogether. Caffeine is a stimulant that keeps you awake by blocking the receptors in your body that make you feel sleepy. It has been found that consumption of caffeine can delay your body clock, keeping you from going to bed at your desired time. A study was conducted that found when consuming caffeine 6 hours before your anticipated bedtime your total amount of sleep is likely to be reduced by an entire hour. It is advised that if seniors want to get their highest quality of sleep caffeine should only be drank in the morning.
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