Born to be Alive
Today my family, along with many others, participated in a biking event in which we rode anywhere from 8 miles to 12 miles. The day was beautiful, the sun was bright and the event was well planned. I started my day with gluten-free, protein-enriched, organic steel-cut oatmeal and 4 cups of coffee, because FOUR is a magic number. (I’ll explain in a minute.) After that breakfast and a little early-morning folk-rock-soul-hip hop, I felt ready to take on the day.
One of the most compelling parts of being alive is a feeling of vitality. Modern dance icon, Martha Graham, often spoke of vitality. She said, “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action---and because there is only one of you in all time, your expression is unique.”
Though physical vitality is certainly desirable, vitality goes way beyond the physical. Indeed even in the face of physical challenges, vitality can be metaphysical. In general, vitality manifests itself as hunger for living—determination, persistence, concentrated energy, and at times, carefree unrestrained happiness.
Vitality means enjoying the subtle sensations of a natural landscape or the more immediate stimulation of cities. Perhaps vitality for you means listening to the Brandenburg Concertos while sitting outside under a bright sun. Perhaps you feel vital while considering a painting by Salvador Dali or a chaise lounge designed by Mies Van der Rohe. It could be that Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Erik Satie make you feel vital and alive. Sometimes quietly cozying up with a novel evokes a sense of vitality. Or maybe your sense of vitality is heightened while driving through a town replete with Victorian architecture and charming storefronts.
For most people, vitality is enhanced by the act of drinking coffee. A new landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine online on May 16, 2012, takes the coffee-vitality connection one step further. Data from a well-designed observational study shows that coffee drinking in and of itself makes you live longer.
The Evidence We’ve All Been Waiting For
In a 13-year study of more than 400,000 men and women between the ages of 50 and 71, men who drank 4 to 5 cups of coffee per day were 12% less likely to die during the study period. Women who drank the same amount of coffee were 16% less likely to die.
The biggest mortality benefits were seen in the reduction in the incidence of death from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, and diabetes. Note that men who drank just 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day were 25% less likely to die of diabetes and 16% less likely to disease to die from a stroke. Women who drank 2 to 3 cups a day were 15% less likely to die of heart disease and 21% less likely to die of respiratory disease.
The evidence has been mounting for some time. Still, a large study in the New England Journal of Medicine showing a mortality benefit is a breakthrough. Just reading the study quickened my pulse, confirming definitively and irrefutably that what I’ve known all along is absolutely true: Coffee is good for you and one way to enjoy lifelong vitality.