For those that are worried their daily cup of coffee is making them jittery, researchers have some good news. A heart study has determined that regular caffeine consumption does not seem to give the heart extra beats.
The study comes from Shalini Dixit, BA, Gregory Marcus, MD, and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco. They analyzed data from the Cardiovascular Health Study and published their findings in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The researchers looked at the consumption of foods that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and chocolate, and its possible relationship to premature atrial contractions (PACs) and premature ventricular contractions (PVCs), both forms of cardiac dysrhythmia. Basically, that is heart palpitations that someone may feel as their heart skipping a beat.
Study participants included 1,388 people over the age of 64 who did not have persistent atrial fibrillation. The participants provided information about their food consumption and had their heart monitored for 24 hours. More than 60 percent of the participants said they consumed more than one caffeinated product every day, with women and alcohol drinkers consuming more caffeine on average.
The researchers looked at those who consumed caffeine over a long period at time. What they found was those people did not have an increased risk of heart palpitations over those who did not consume much caffeine. More frequent caffeine consumption was not linked to abnormal heart rhythms. Together with other studies that suggest that chronic coffee consumption does not raise blood pressure, this study suggests that consuming caffeine is generally safe for the heart.
There were some limitations to the study, however. While the researchers looked at caffeine consumption over a long period of time, they did not look at the consumption of large amounts of caffeine at once. More research would be needed to see the effects of heavy caffeine consumption. They also relied on information from the patients about their general caffeine consumption but did not look at the consumption right before the 24 hour heart monitoring session.
Normally, doctors recommend those with heart palpitations to avoid drinking coffee and consuming other products that contain caffeine. However, other studies have suggested caffeine may help decrease the risk of heart problems. While more research may be needed to see exactly what is going on, the good news for coffee lovers is that they may not have to give up their daily drink. However, it is best to talk to a doctor because some patients may be affected more by caffeine than others.
Heart arrhythmia happens when the electrical impulses causing the heart to beat are a little off, causing the heart to beat irregularly, too slowly, or too quickly. Patients with heart arrhythmia may feel like their heart is racing or fluttering, which can be bothersome or, in some cases, life-threatening. Symptoms of arrhythmia may include chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and even fainting. Abnormal heart rhythms may not provide an immediate threat to most patients, but other studies have linked them with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and death.
If the heart continues to beat irregularly over a long period of time, it may not be able to pump blood effectively. This can lead to heart failure or, if the blood pools and clots, it could lead to blood clots. If the blood clots then travel to the brain, it could cause a stroke.
Doctors believe the risk factors for abnormal heart rhythms include smoking, alcohol consumption, illegal drugs, medications and supplements, an electrolyte imbalance, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, thyroid problems, and heart disease. Although caffeine consumption was originally included in this list, the current study suggests that may not be the case. Coffee drinkers will likely be happy to hear so.