Heart and Vascular

How Does Caffeine Affect the Heart?

Feb 8 2023

Do you love your morning cup of coffee but fear that it could be harmful to your heart health?

If so, you’re not alone. Researchers have been studying the effects of caffeine on the heart for years. To help you out, we’ve gathered information about the effects of caffeine on your heart to ensure your caffeine habit isn’t hindering your health.

How does caffeine affect the heart?

Caffeine affects the heart in a lot of different ways. Some ways aren’t good, but others are. When you drink caffeine, it enters your bloodstream from your stomach and small intestine. It stimulates your central nervous system, which causes your heart to beat faster.

Some people have a higher sensitivity to caffeine than others. And for some of those people, one of the effects of drinking caffeine can be heart palpitations, or an irregular heart rate. Heart palpitation are a common heart-related symptom people report. However, it should concern you if you are experiencing them frequently when consuming caffeine. If this is the case, reach out to your health care provider.

As for caffeine and hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, people who suffer from this condition will want to keep an eye on how much they consume. This is because caffeine can sometimes cause a short, but significant increase in blood pressure. If you have hypertension, talk to your health care provider to learn how much caffeine is safe for you.

Some heart-healthy benefits

However, as long as you aren’t exceeding the suggested daily caffeine intake, researchers have found that caffeine, specifically in coffee, can have some heart-healthy effects. Coffee contains phytochemicals that can reduce inflammation. And because inflammation in the heart can cause heart failure and atherosclerosis, it’s great that drinking coffee might help prevent it. Other research has shown that caffeine can act as an antioxidant, which could reduce your risk for diabetes.

Overall, more research needs to be done to confirm the exact benefits and risks of caffeine on the heart.

What amount of caffeine is safe?

Research shows that a caffeine intake of up to 400 milligrams a day is safe for most average-sized adults. That equals about two cups of coffee per day.

However, having a high caffeine intake can cause harmful side effects. More than four cups of coffee a day can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, increase stress levels and increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke. This is especially true for people who are not used to consuming large amounts of caffeine.

However, if you are a moderate caffeine drinker — rest easy in knowing that limited caffeine won’t harm your heart.

How much caffeine is in my favorite drink?

So, 400 milligrams of caffeine equals two cups of coffee. But what about our other favorite caffeine drinks? How does that translate?

Here are a few breakdowns for you:

  • Espresso: 240 to720 milligrams
  • Energy drinks: 50 to 160 milligrams
  • Brewed tea: 40 to 120 milligrams
  • Soft drinks: 20 to 40 milligrams

However, drinking more than 500 milligrams of caffeine per day can cause caffeine intoxication. This includes uncomfortable and sometimes serious symptoms, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks
  • Increased gastric acid
  • Bowel irritability
  • Anxiety

Tips on lowering your caffeine intake

Whether you are drinking more caffeine than the recommended daily amount, you’re feeling the side effects of too much caffeine or you simply want to consume less, you can ease up with a few relatively easy changes.

For some, reducing their caffeine intake is as simple as eliminating an extra cup of coffee a day. However, for others, significantly reducing their intake may be necessary. Try swapping a caffeinated drink for a non-caffeinated one, such as:

  • Decaf coffee
  • Caffeine-free herbal tea
  • Sparkling water in place of a soft drink or caffeinated energy drink

If you choose to reduce your caffeine consumption, try to do so over the course of several days. Doing too much too quickly can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as brain fog, jitters and brain fog.

When to talk to your doctor

When it comes to caffeine, make sure you are doing your homework and reading nutrition labels. That way, you can make sure you aren’t exceeding your 400 milligram daily limit. If you are experiencing negative reactions to caffeine or you’ve tried reducing your intake and still don’t feel right, reach out to your primary care provider, who may refer you to a cardiologist, to discuss your options.

Learn about the heart and vascular services we offer at Mercy Health.

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