People in Asian countries have higher risk of stroke than many Westerners do. That's largely thanks to the high sodium content of soy sauce. The news is not all bad, however. A recent Japanese study has found that drinking green tea and coffee can lower your risk of stroke.

The benefits of coffee have been known for a while. "[But] this is the first large-scale study to examine the combined effects of both green tea and coffee on stroke risks," Yoshihiro Kokubo, lead author of the study, explained in an American Heart Association statement. "You may make a small but positive lifestyle changes to help lower the risk of stroke by adding daily green tea to your diet."

The American Heart Association advocates a holistic approach to heart heath, Ralph Sacco, a past president of the AHA, tells The Doctor. This involves getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking. "We do not want to give the wrong impression that just drinking coffee or tea will make a difference. We need to be thinking more broadly about lifestyle modification," says Sacco, chairman of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Researchers asked 83,269 Japanese adults between the ages of 45 to 74 years old about their green tea and coffee drinking habits. Study participants were followed for about 13 years.

The investigators found that those who drank at least one cup of coffee daily had about a 20 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who rarely drank it, and those who drank two to three cups of green tea daily had a 14 percent lower risk of stroke. When consumption went up to at least four cups of green tea, there was a 20 percent lower risk. Those who drank at least one cup of coffee or two cups of green tea daily had a 32 percent lower risk of Hemorraghic Stroke.

Study findings initially suggested that drinking two or more cups of coffee per day increased the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, when the researchers adjusted for the deleterious effects of cigarette smoking, they no longer saw an increase in CVD risk.

Secret Ingredient

Researchers believe that chemicals in green tea called catechins are behind its cardiovascular benefits. Compounds in coffee, such as chlorogenic acids, may lower stroke risk by reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Further research could clarify how the interaction between coffee and green tea might help further lower stroke risks, Kokubo says.

The studyis published in the journal, Stroke.