It's not a bad habit: What's your coffee IQ?

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So it's 4 a.m. and I'm still up finishing a project and jonesing for a cup of my favorite brand of coffee, NuJava. Yes, I am a coffee snob, because I like my coffee like I like my men … straight! (And hot and strong and full bodied … and where was I going with this? Sorry, I digressed!)

So my coffee has to be really awesome. I've admitted to having a coffee addiction. I don't drink coffee all day but I do drink a few cups in the morning and that first cup is one of life's greatest pleasures. Ahhhhhhhh! (I just tell my husband it takes jewelry to make me happy!) And I am tired of people telling me I need to cut out this bad habit. Bad habit? NOT! So let's get real.

Coffee has gotten a bad rap. But recent research shows that those of us who drink coffee, compared to those of you who don't, are at less risk to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, dementia (including Alzheimer's), high cholesterol, certain cancers (especially liver), cirrhosis, arrhythmias, heart attacks and strokes (esp. for women). Man, preventive healthcare I can really get into!

Even with a lack of sleep, coffee increases your reaction time, but it doesn't eliminate your need for sleep. (Darn —  still haven't found a cure for that, and what nurse is not short on his or her Zzzzzzs?). But coffee does help your focus and improve your recall. Caffeine stimulates the Central Nervous System, like the medulla and cortex, and even has the ability to reach the spinal cord in larger doses.  Caffeine affects the cortex by increasing your ability to concentrate for one to three hours, and decreases fatigue. (And like what nurse can't use help with that?)

Coffee also improves your workout, so much so that the Olympic committee banned caffeine as a performance-enhancing drug (urinary test above 12 mg/liter). It's because caffeine can improve endurance in certain sports where long-term stamina is needed. Oh, and coffee helps relieve headaches (like the one you get when your med pass gets interrupted for the FOURTH time!) and makes pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen up to 40% more effective in relieving that headache if you take them with your coffee.

How about pregnancy? Staying completely away from caffeine — an urban legend. Research shows that less than 200 mg in one day, about the amount in a 12-ounce cup of coffee, should be just fine. That amount does not appear to have any relationship with miscarriage, premature delivery or fetal growth. But don't drink more than that and then consume a lot of other sources of caffeine.

Coffee is a powerful anti-aging supplement. Yup, you heard me right. Coffee is a very powerful antioxidant and because we consume it so much in this country, it may be one of our most important sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants play a very important role in anti-aging. The body's cells are continuously created and destroyed through oxidation but your cells will only turn over so many times in a lifetime. That's what leads to aging. Well, antioxidants protect your body from the destructive effects of cellular aging due to slowing down that process. How about that? Coffee may help keep you younger! (Do ya' think it will stop the effects of gravity?)

Of course, there are some medical conditions where you can't have any caffeine and everything in moderation anyway. But if you love your coffee, it's a good thing! So all you coffee lovers out there raise your mugs and drink away and tell those scoffers that they can take their concern for your health and … do a little research!

Keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC — a real life long-term care nurse who is also the director of clinical affairs for the American Medical Directors Association. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. She has not starred in her own national television series — yet.


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The Real Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, an APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.