If you’re anything like me, you need a cup (or three) of coffee in the morning before you can be considered even mildly coherent. We all know the dramatic effects caffeine has on our focus and energy levels, but what kind of effect does it have on our health and longevity? 

The Rumor: Drinking coffee will add years to your life.

Is your daily addiction actually your key to longevity? This topic has been a controversial one for years, with some studies calling coffee anti-health, while others claim it's the elixir of longevity. 

The Verdict: Coffee really might give you a boost in the longevity department.

That's right: Coffee drinkers may live longer than those who don’t get their java jolts. Furthermore, drinking coffee -- which is rich in antioxidants -- may also decrease your risk of death from heart disease, respiratory problems, strokes, diabetes and infections. 

A 14-year study of 402,260 American men and women found that women who drank at least 6 cups of coffee a day had a 15 percent lower risk of death, and men who consumed that amount had a 10 percent lower risk of death compared to non-coffee drinkers. Researchers also found that as coffee consumption increased, the risk of death decreased. 

Drinking coffee may also protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. According to Neal Freedman, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, the exact mechanism by which coffee protects against aging and brain deterioration is still unknown, due to the amazing fact that coffee has “more than 1,000 compounds that might potentially affect health.” Some studies have begun to examine the many antioxidants in coffee and their effects on health and brain function.   

So, what kind of coffee should you be drinking -- and how much? While various studies have used different methods of coffee preparation and different types of beans, findings from the Ikaria Study in Athens, Greece, suggest that long-term consumption of boiled Greek-style coffee (also known as Turkish coffee) is associated with improved endothelial function in elderly individuals with an increased burden of cardiovascular risk factors. In case you didn't know, Ikaria, Greece, is now considered a Blue Zone -- a region of the world where people live considerably longer lives. “People living in the region are known to have 20 percent less cancer, half the rate of cardiovascular disease and almost no dementia," writes Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones.

As far as the amount of coffee to consume goes, while some findings indicate that the more coffee consumed the better, keep in mind that everyone's tolerance level is different. Your body will tell you when you’ve reached your limit (hint: shaking hands and eyes the size of ping-pong balls are dead giveaways). And no matter how much coffee you drink, be sure not to cancel out its longevity advantages by adding sugary, fattening extras like chocolate syrup or whipped cream. 

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