Do you notice how the first cup of coffee seems to jump start your internal battery? How about the aroma of fresh coffee drifting from your neighborhood café. Is there a better treat than coffee-dunked doughnuts? You either love coffee or you don’t. Now comes a study that suggests coffee drinkers may be less likely to spend time in a hospital room for heart rhythm disturbances.

A Kaiser Permanente study of men and women reveals that those who reported drinking four or more cups of coffee each day had an 18 percent lower risk of hospitalization for heart rhythm disturbances. Of those who drank one to three cups daily, the risk was 7 percent lower.

It’s been known that a very large intake of the most active ingredient in coffee, caffeine, can produce disturbances in heart rhythm. But there’s been limited epidemiologic research about the caffeine doses people take. The study, from Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, is thought to be the first large, multiethnic population study to explore all major types of heart rhythm disturbance. The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s 50th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention in San Francisco.

Even with the latest study, Arthur Klatsky, MD, the study’s lead investigator, in an e-mail interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says it’s still a good idea to stay away from coffee or caffeine if you experience unpleasant symptoms. “There are many cardiovascular conditions and coffee has different associations with several. Overall, coffee is neither bad nor good for the heart,” says Klatsky, who advises that a person with heart disease should avoid heavy amounts of coffee.

While the study looked at heart rhythms, coffee can contribute to other health problems. According to Klatsky, “It certainly causes various symptoms in many persons (insomnia, jitteriness, stomach symptoms, etc.), and possible relationships to heart attack and high blood pressure are unresolved. Caffeine can affect unborn babies in utero. Heavy coffee consumption (more than 4 cups per day) is probably inadvisable.”

Klatsky does not advise drinking coffee for health. “The major practical message from this report is that persons…already moderate coffee drinkers with no symptoms from caffeine…generally have little reason to quit.”

Just to be sure, have a chat with your doctor if you suspect coffee consumption could be detrimental to your health.