Does Coffee Make Your Heart Flutter
F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Welcome to Impact Factor, your weekly dose of commentary on a new medical study. I’m Dr F. Perry Wilson of the Yale School of Medicine.
There’s a near truism in dietary science that anything that is too pleasurable is probably not good for you. It holds for ultra-processed foods, refined sugars, alcohol. But there is one stubborn holdout to this trend, one thing you can ingest that provides both pleasure and, in study after study, health benefits. It’s sort of a unicorn. I’m speaking, of course, of coffee.
Coffee has come a long way since being falsely implicated in causing stomach ulcers or nervous exhaustion. In fact, newer studies have highlighted that coffee drinking is associated with a decreased risk for cancer, diabetes, even overall mortality. You could almost argue that it’s a heath food.
Nevertheless, some guideline-making societies have recommended avoiding coffee to certain individuals because it might promote cardiac arrhythmia.
This is in the medical zeitgeist. Coffee makes your heart race. Coffee gives you palpitations. But does it? Or, more meaningfully, does it have any long-term consequences? This study, appearing this week in JAMA Internal Medicine from Gregory Marcus and his team at UCSF, suggests quite the opposite: Coffee drinking may, in fact, reduce the risk for arrhythmia.
Now, we need to be really careful with studies like this they can go wrong in some subtle ways.
Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome
Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome , is a term used as part of sudden unexpected death syndrome to describe sudden death because of cardiac arrest occasioned by an arrhythmia in the presence or absence of any structural heart disease on autopsy. The most common cause of sudden death in the US is coronary artery disease specifically because of poor oxygenation of the heart muscle, that is myocardial ischemia or a heart attack Approximately 180,000 to 250,000 people die suddenly of this cause every year in the US. SADS may occur from other causes. There are many inherited conditions and heart diseases that can affect young people which can subsequently cause sudden death without advance symptoms.
Coffee And Heart Disease Risk
Like energy drinks, coffee can raise your heart rate and blood pressure typically when you first start drinking it, or when you increase the amount you’re drinking. Despite these changes, no large long-term studies have shown heart disease risk associated with coffee use.
In fact, an analysis of 36 studies including 1,279,804 patients that was published in February 2014 in Circulation showed that drinking up to five cups of coffee a day protected people from heart disease, including stroke, heart failure, and cardiac death. But this study didn’t look at risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Specifically, this study did not address drinking coffee and the risk for atrial fibrillation, which is not only the most common abnormal heart rhythm, but also a frequent cause of disabling strokes.
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Dr John Day Cardiologist
|Dr. John DayDr. Day is a cardiologist specializing in heart rhythm abnormalities at St. Mark Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and cardiac electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.|
Does Stress Cause Irregular Heartbeat
Things like caffeine, alcohol and stress can cause small, temporary arrhythmias like PVCs. But there are factors that can cause permanent arrhythmias, too. Your arteries are highways for oxygen and nutrients. However, fat, cholesterol and calcium can build plaques in the arteries, causing coronary artery disease.
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Things To Avoid Eating With Arrhythmia
- Atrial Fibrillation
- 6 Things to Avoid Eating with Arrhythmia
Normally, your heart beats between 60 and 100 times a minute. Eating specific foods or drinking certain beverages can raise your heart rate to above 100, creating a feeling that your heart is fluttering, racing or skipping a beat.
If it happens occasionally, its likely nothing to worry about. If you have a history of heart problems or if youve been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation or arrhythmia, you should take it seriously. An episode of irregular heartbeats could potentially lead to complications like a blood clot or stroke.
Dr. Eric Williams with Mercy Clinic Cardiology has six things that can aggravate arrhythmia:
Serious Lifestyle Changes After A Trip To The Er
I saw Pete a few weeks after his ER visit. He’d experienced heart palpitations before, but they’d been shorter and stopped on their own. His recent episode had lasted four to five hours, and when he became short of breath, he decided to go to the emergency room. He told me that this was a wake-up call, and that he was going to make some serious lifestyle changes.
The first thing he mentioned is something I hear very often: I’ve given up coffee completely, even though I didnt want to. His additional changes included trying to lose weight, get more exercise, stress less, and eat a better diet. But did he really have to give up coffee?
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The Role Of Coffee In Atrial Fibrillation
Is there anyone with atrial fibrillation who hasnt been told that coffee and caffeine can cause or trigger atrial fibrillation?
The first step to controlling atrial fibrillation, were often told, is to eliminate coffee. Because of this, coffee and caffeine are frequent topics on afib discussion forums.
But theres interesting information about coffee at the Micronutrient Information Center of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
This fascinating site contains interesting facts, such as that unfiltered coffee can raise total cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels. In addition, coffee consumption is associated with decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes, Parkinsons disease, and liver disease, and there is no evidence that it increases the risk of cancer. It can increase blood pressure, but most studies found no increased cardiovascular disease risk from moderate consumption.
What was most interesting, though, was the relationship of coffee and cardiac arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation. According to the site,
So, according to this, coffee, even 5-6 cups per day, doesnt play a role in developing atrial fibrillation or increasing the frequency or severity of arrhythmias.
When this topic comes up on a discussion forum, someone will inevitably say that they drink as much coffee they want as long as its organic or its decaf.
How many of us grab some coffee when were stressed? Could it be stress, not coffee, thats the culprit?
How Does Tea Affect Your Heart Rate
According to the Mayo Clinic, the caffeine content in tea and coffee can vary considerably. Factors like origin, processing, preparation method, brewing time and type of tea will have an impact on the amount of caffeine in tea.
Most teas do contain caffeine but much less than coffee. The average caffeine content in an 8oz cup of tea will be between 2548 mg of caffeine, except if it says decaf or if it is Rooibos tea.
Rooibos Tea is naturally caffeine-free and has many health benefits. The caffeine content in most teas are low and I did not find specific research about how tea affects or does not affect, atrial fibrillation. There were studies that indicated that drinking tea is good for your heart health. Not just because of the lower caffeine levels but also because of polyphenols and flavonoids in tea.
With all things, it is very important to know what type of tea you are drinking. Black tea is caffeinated and is not great for high blood pressure according to this site. My favorite tea will always be Rooibos Tea, because of the lack of caffeine in it but also because of all the other health benefits. And its natural!
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Coffee Won’t Upset Your Heartbeat It Might Even Calm It
But a large new study has found that most people can enjoy their morning joe or afternoon diet cola free from worry — caffeine doesn’t seem to increase most people’s risk of arrhythmias.
“We see no evidence for this broad-based recommendation to avoid coffee or caffeine,” said study co-author Dr. Gregory Marcus, associate chief of cardiology for research at the University of California, San Francisco. “There could be some individuals where caffeine is their trigger, but I think the growing evidence is those cases are actually quite rare.”
In fact, results indicate that every additional cup of coffee a person drinks daily might lower their risk of arrhythmia by about 3% on average, according to the study published July 19 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
“The majority of people, even those with arrhythmias, should be able to enjoy their cup of coffee, and maybe there are some people for whom caffeine or coffee may actually help reduce their risk,” Marcus said.
Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages worldwide, but its properties as a stimulant have prompted many doctors to warn heart patients against drinking java, Marcus said.
Of that large group, about 17,000 developed a heart rhythm problem during an average follow-up of 4.5 years, researchers said.
Should Younger Patients Livewith A
Most cardiologists agree that our treatment approach to younger patients should be more aggressive. Even though a 50 year-old may feel just fine living in A-Fib, they are so young that we dont know what their long-term future holds in store for them.
For example, it is possible that these patients may later have a heart attack or other heart problems. They might really miss the lost 20-30% of cardiac output from A-Fib when they get into their 70s.
Thus, even if younger A-Fib patients dont have any A-Fib symptoms, we often still opt for a more aggressive strategy .
Some More Dietary Factors To Consider
Following a heart-healthy diet can help people with A-fib. Alcohol can be a part of that, if used in moderation, as can caffeine.
The basic elements of a heart-healthy diet include:
- eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- varying protein sources by eating legumes and simply prepared fish and poultry
- increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids by eating fish like salmon, herring, or trout
- reducing sodium use to 2,400 mg per day, or less
- avoiding saturated fats and the foods that contain them
- limiting oil in general, selecting healthier oils like olive oil when using them, and avoiding tropical oils
- avoiding beverages with added sugars
- not smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke
Exercising regularly is essential for supporting a healthy heart function. A very basic level of activity for heart health, as recommended by the
Can You Be Active With Atrial Fibrillation
Absolutely! The goal with all of my atrial fibrillation patients is to help them be as active as they possibly can. Indeed, studies show that the more physically active you are, the better you feel, the less atrial fibrillation you will have, and the less you will weigh.
Of course, until your atrial fibrillation is under control, your doctor may not want you to be that active. The reason for this is that until things are under control, your heart might go dangerously fast with atrial fibrillation. However, with the right treatment, you should be back to full activity within a few weeks.
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Can I Live With A
Can I live with A-Fib? asked Jeff, a 63 year-old man recently diagnosed with atrial fibrillation . Jeff felt fine. In fact, he had absolutely no symptoms at all from his A-Fib. He exercised regularly without any difficulties.
When his primary care physician picked up his A-Fib on a recent physical he was in a state of shock. Wouldnt I feel it if my heart was out of rhythm? he asked his physician.
Surprisingly, most people with A-Fib dont ever feel that their heart is out of rhythm. Do these patients need to undergo aggressive treatment for their atrial fibrillation? Can they just live out of rhythm?
Is Caffeine Safe Protective For Patients With Afib Arrhythmias
Some caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea may be safe and may reduce the frequency of arrhythmias, according to a state-of-the-art-review published April 16 in JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology.
Aleksandr Voskoboinik, MBBS, et al., analyzed multiple population-based studies to determine an association between caffeine intake and its effects on atrial and ventricular arrhythmias. The studies consistently showed a decrease in atrial fibrillation with an increase in caffeine ingestion, with one meta-analysis of 228,465 participants showing AFib frequency decreasing by 6 percent in regular coffee drinkers, and a further analysis of 115,993 patients showing a 13 percent risk reduction.
The authors found that caffeine does not appear to increase the likelihood of ventricular arrhythmia. In addition, caffeine doses up to 500 mg daily did not increase the severity or rate of ventricular arrhythmias. A randomized study of 103 post-MI patients who received an average of 353 mg/day resulted in improved heart rate and no significant arrhythmias. Only two studies showed an increased risk for ventricular arrhythmias, in which patients ingested at least 10 cups and nine cups per day, respectively. According to the authors, energy drinks should be avoided by patients with pre-existing heart conditions. Three quarters of patients with pre-existing heart conditions who consumed two or more energy drinks per day reported palpitations within 24 hours.
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Feel Free To Enjoy That Coffee Without Worrying About Your Heart New Research Says
If youve been told to avoid coffee because it might make your heart beat irregularly, recent research suggests it may be time to rethink that recommendation.
Theres this quite pervasive conventional wisdom that people who have or are at risk of arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, should avoid caffeine, said Gregory Marcus, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. Many patients who come to see him have already been told by other doctors to steer clear of caffeinated products, such as coffee, he said.
But a growing body of scientific research, including a new study conducted by Marcus and other researchers at UCSF, suggests that such advice may be unnecessarily depriving many people of their daily coffee fix.
The latest study analyzed data from more than 380,000 people and found that coffee drinking habits were not associated with an increased risk of arrhythmias. Neither was an individuals ability to metabolize caffeine, according to the results, in JAMA Internal Medicine.
In fact, analysis of self-reported coffee consumption appeared to indicate that those who drank more had a potentially lower risk of developing certain types of arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation, or AFib, which can cause blood clots, stroke and heart failure, among other health complications. At least 2.7 million Americans are living with the condition, according to the American Heart Association.
Can You Ride A Rollercoaster With Atrial Fibrillation
The thrill of rollercoasters causes a massive adrenalin release. This adrenalin release then causes your blood pressure and heart rate to shoot up.
If your heart is already beating too fast with atrial fibrillation, then this adrenalin rush only makes matters worse. If, however, your atrial fibrillation is adequately treated then you should still be able to enjoy your favorite rollercoaster.
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Frequent Coffee Consumption Is Associated With Lower Incidence Of Arrhythmias A New Study Reveals That Drinking A Couple Of Daily Cups Of Coffee Does Not Lead To A Greater Risk Of Arrhythmias Potentially Debunking A Common Myth That Consuming Caffeine In Coffee And Other Drinks Could Lead To A Faster Heartbeat And The Potential For A Triggered Arrhythmia For This Patient Population 2020 Press Release
New Study Aims to Address The Myths And Anxiety Around Caffeine Consumption Among Heart Rhythm Patients
WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 2020 A new study reveals that drinking a couple of daily cups of coffee does not lead to a greater risk of arrhythmias, potentially debunking a common myth that consuming caffeine in coffee and other drinks could lead to a faster heartbeat and the potential for a triggered arrhythmia for this patient population. Researchers analyzed several types of arrhythmias to better understand the impact of caffeine on this common heart condition. Results from this observational study were released today as part of Heart Rhythm Society 2020 Science.
Americans are dependent on their daily dose of caffeine, with more than 64 percent of Americans drinking a cup of coffee every day1. Patients with arrhythmias are often cautioned against regular consumption by their doctors. Despite this specific concern, caffeine also offers health benefits, including antioxidants, improved metabolism, enhanced exercise performance, and increased alertness and concentration2. Studies have also shown regular coffee consumption can also yield positive heart health results, lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke3. With evidence showing caffeine’s positive impact on general heart health, there is a need to better understand the relationship between regular coffee consumption and arrhythmias.