Monday Medical: Your heart and caffeine
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — If you can’t live without your morning coffee, you’re not alone. Up to 80% of adults consume some type of caffeine every day.
But all those cups of joe might leave you wondering just how caffeine affects your heart.
The results from research are sometimes conflicting. But overall, the general consensus suggests that consuming caffeine in moderation is fine for the heart, and might even have benefits.
Alexa Pighini, a physician assistant with UCHealth Heart and Vascular Clinic in Steamboat Springs, shares what you need to know about caffeine and heart health below.
The caffeine effect
There’s a reason caffeine gives you a quick jolt. The compound, which is found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate and some nuts, stimulates the central nervous system and can make people feel more alert and awake, with improved concentration and focus.
“Within an hour of ingesting caffeine, you may experience an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure,” Pighini said.
That change doesn’t last too long: your body typically eliminates half of the caffeine within four to six hours. People who drink coffee or tea every day may have less of a reaction.
Caffeine has other impacts, too, such as increased urination, which can lead to dehydration.
Various research studies suggest caffeine in moderation does not negatively affect the heart.
“Large-scale, population-based studies and randomized controlled trials suggest for most people, moderate consumption of coffee and tea is safe for the heart,” Pighini said.
Although there isn’t a clear threshold for how much caffeine is too much, health professionals recommend that people without heart issues consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day.
That’s about the amount of caffeine in four cups of coffee or 10 cups of black tea. Chocolate has less caffeine, weighing in at about 70 mg per bar, but it contains other compounds that may also act as a stimulant.
“Regular intake of up to 300 to 400 mg per day appears to be safe and does not usually provoke arrhythmias,” Pighini said.
Studies have not yet found any direct links between caffeine and cardiovascular health including cholesterol levels, irregular heartbeats or coronary artery disease.
Words of caution
Keep in mind that caffeine affects everyone differently, making it important to pay attention to how it impacts you.
“Everyone’s sensitivity to caffeine is different,” Pighini said.
Some people can drink coffee all day and barely notice it, while others may find a small cup of coffee in the morning has impacts that last into the night.
While up to 400 mg of caffeine does not appear to provoke arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats, patients who suffer from the condition may want to hold off on caffeine consumption.
“If you’re susceptible to arrhythmias, you should avoid consuming high amounts of caffeine,” Pighini said. “And it wouldn’t be unreasonable for some people experiencing more palpitations to try stopping caffeine consumption for a period of time.”
It’s best for everyone to steer clear of caffeine-loaded energy drinks, as they may quickly put you over the recommended limit of 400 mg of caffeine a day.
“Patients with underlying cardiovascular disease, and honestly everyone, should be advised to avoid energy drinks and other foods with excessive amounts of caffeine,” Pighini said.
If you want to reduce your caffeine consumption, don’t be surprised if you feel symptoms of caffeine withdrawal in the first day or two. And remember that too much caffeine can result in various negative symptoms, including headaches, anxiety and insomnia, among other issues.
“When it comes to caffeine, ‘everything in moderation’ is a good rule of thumb,” Pighini said.
Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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