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.
Skipped Heartbeats After Coffee Are Probably Safe
Whereas the CRAVE data showed an increase of heart palpitations on coffee days, its not necessarily a cause for alarm. Everyone experiences occasional heart palpitations, which can feel like your heart skipping a beat or a heavy thump. They rarely point to a serious problem. Participants in the CRAVE study did not have an increased risk of dangerous heart rhythms.
However, that doesnt mean caffeine consumption is safe for everyone. When we look at the study results, its important to consider two key points:
If you have an existing heart condition or if you experience new or more frequent PVCs, talk with your provider about whether drinking coffee is right for you. A few and occasional extra beats can be normal, but racing heart beats, especially for several minutes to hours, can be a more concerning issue.
Call your doctor anytime you are concerned about your heart health. If you experience fainting, lightheadedness, or racing heartbeats for several minutes or more, call right away these symptoms could indicate a serious heart rhythm disorder.
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Who Should Choose Decaf Over Regular Coffee
Theres a lot of individual variability when it comes to tolerance for caffeine. For some people, one cup of coffee can be excessive, while others may feel fine with more.
While individual tolerance may vary, healthy adults should avoid over 400 mg of caffeine per day. This is roughly the equivalent of four cups of coffee.
Increased consumption can lead to increased blood pressure and lack of sleep, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke .
Excess caffeine may also overwhelm the central nervous system, cause restlessness, anxiety, digestive problems, heart arrhythmia, or trouble sleeping in sensitive individuals.
People who are very sensitive to caffeine may want to limit their intake of regular coffee or switch over to decaf or tea.
Those with certain medical conditions may also require caffeine-restricted diets. This includes people who are taking prescription medications that can interact with caffeine .
Additionally, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to limit their caffeine intake. Children, adolescents, and individuals diagnosed with anxiety or who have trouble sleeping are advised to do so as well (
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How Do Healthcare Providers Diagnose Heart Palpitations After Eating
Your provider will listen to your heart to check for murmurs or other sounds. They will review your:
- Medical history.
Your provider may recommend a blood test to look for anemia or low potassium. Theyll also check for a thyroid problem or other health issues that could lead to heart palpitations.
Debunking The Coffee Is Acidic Myth
Its a common misconception that coffee is acidic, so it causes acid reflux.
However, coffee is relatively low on the pH scale . Soda is FAR more acidic than coffee. So is orange juice. And wine.
Its actually something else that makes coffee be a reflux trigger, for those who get a reflux response.
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How Are Heart Palpitations Diagnosed
Keep track of your heart palpitations. Note the following:
- When they happen.
You may need to wear a monitor after you go home so your doctor can get more information about your heart and symptoms.
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.
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How Does Caffeine Affect Your Body And Especially Your Heart
The first benefit that comes to mind when thinking about coffee is that it helps when were tired. Coffee and other drinks containing caffeine increase the activity in our brain which helps to increase alertness, reduce tiredness and increase concentration.
This can be a driver for many getting their morning coffee fix. However, there can be potentially negative side-effects for some as caffeine affects everyone in different ways and some people can be more sensitive to caffeine than others.
Some downsides can include feeling jittery, irritable or anxious, an increased heart rate and/or heart palpitations and sleep problems.
Research over the years has resulted in inconsistent messaging about whether we can continue our daily coffee fix. Most studies find no association between heart disease and coffee intake. Some also see a small benefit when looking at moderate coffee consumption.
Its important to remember that in plant sources of caffeine, and especially in coffee, there are a vast range of other compounds and nutrients, such as antioxidants, that can also have a positive influence on our heart health. Therefore, it is difficult for researchers to single out one component of the coffee bean, the caffeine, to look at the effect it has on humans.
Understanding Why Coffee Can Cause Heartburn
A long-time patient of mine, someone Ive seen on and off for three years, never got her reflux completely under control. However, one day she came in with a confession: I think Ive known all along that coffee was a trigger food for me, but I just didnt want to give it up. Now that I have, my reflux is gone. Sure enough, when I examined her, she looked terrific.
If you have any of the symptoms of reflux, you should try to identify if you have trigger foods. Its important to note that reflux isnt just heartburn or indigestion, but breathing issues, postnasal drip, sinus issues, too much mucus, coughing, chronic throat clearing, morning hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, etc.
The hardest part of treating reflux is that everyone is different, and trigger foods vary wildly. However, the most common trigger foods are chocolate, alcohol, onions, fried foods, and soft drinks. Coffee actually is not a problem for most people when consumed in moderation. But if youre getting a sour taste in your mouth after drinking coffee or a sour feeling in your stomach, especially if youre following all the basic lifestyle steps, then its time to figure out what kind of reaction youre having to your coffee.
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Coffee Can Make The Heart Skip Beats But It Brews Up Benefits Too
Countless studies have analyzed the health implications of drinking coffee, with no consensus on whether its good or bad for our hearts. Part of the problem is that most research on coffees effects has been observational reliant on self-reported data that cant be analyzed separately from a patients overall health, daily lifestyle, and diet.
But an innovative study presented at the American Heart Associations 2021 Scientific Sessions is changing our perceptions of coffee and heart health.
The Coffee and Real-time Atrial and Ventricular Ectopy clinical trial returned the first set of data that illustrates a quantifiable link between heart rhythm, duration of sleep, and coffee consumption.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, asked 100 generally healthy CRAVE participants to alternate days on which they consumed one to three cups of coffee. Their biophysical responses to the caffeine were captured through continuously worn electrocardiogram monitors, activity tracker watches, and continuous blood glucose monitors.
CRAVE showed that on coffee-drinking days, trial participants:
- Experienced 54% more premature ventricular contractions , or heart palpitations
- Got 36 fewer minutes of sleep
- Walked about 1,000 more steps
Arrhythmias As Symptoms Of Serious Disorders
Arrhythmia can be a symptom of more serious underlying disorders, including:
- cardiovascular disease
- heart valve or heart muscle abnormalities
- congenital heart disease
- an overactive thyroid gland
- problems with the electrical circuitry of the heart, such as blocked signals or signals taking an abnormal path through the heart
- significant electrolyte abnormalities
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Why Does Caffeine Cause Pvcs In Some People Mechanism
Dr. Smith explains, This is a reflection of the underlying individuals sensitivity. The effect of caffeine has a same effect in all hearts, but not everyone would be as sensitive.
It is thought that caffeine acts on the hearts cells through something called a receptor.
Once that receptor is agitated, changes happen within the heart muscle cell, including a change in the flow of calcium that promotes contraction or twitching in just a few cells, rather than the entire heart. This leads to the premature twitch or contraction.
Dr. Smith is a published author, national lecturer and Yale-trained physician-scientist certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in Cardiovascular Disease.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. Shes also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.
Coffee And Your Heart
Interestingly, studies have proved that coffee doesnt cause heart palpitation. Not only that, but it also has great health benefits.
A study conducted by the University of Southern California suggests that drinking coffee can increase lifespan. The study further emphasizes the lower rate of cardiovascular disease in people who drink coffee regularly.
All the studies that claimed that coffee is related to good heart health dont have cause and effect to back their claim. They only found the link between coffee and health benefits. Therefore, it might be something else other than caffeine in coffee that stimulates and boost heart health.
However, AHA conference research found that a cup of coffee daily can boost the blood flow among small vessels, which saves the heart from getting overworked.
In short, coffee is not only safe to drink but also has some good benefits for your heart.
The FDAs recommended healthy amount of coffee for adults is 4 or 5 cups of coffee, equivalent to 400mg per day. So, if your daily intake is around 400 mg, then theres nothing to worry about!
Coffee, if taken in a considerable amount, can:
- Boost energy and create alertness
- Provide antioxidants
- Rebalance PH levels
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What If You Experience Frequent Or Severe Palpitations
Heart palpitations are among the most common heart related symptoms that people report. They are often harmless episodes that come and go, however, on occasion, they are a symptom of an underlying serious heart rhythm disorder.
Begin by consulting your primary care physician. Your doctor can review the food and beverages you consume along with over-the-counter medications you take and determine what may have caused the palpitation. Your doctor may recommend a thorough physical exam focusing on the heart and lungs.
Unless you experience a more severe symptom such as extreme lightheadedness, chest pain, shortness of breath, or loss of consciousness, occasional palpitations should not cause great concern in patients who are otherwise healthy and have no previous heart conditions.
If more serious symptoms occur, however, it would be smart to visit with a cardiologist.
Study Participants And Data
The study protocols were approved by the institutional review board of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program. Study participants were 130,054 members of a Northern California comprehensive health care plan who voluntarily underwent a health examination between 1978 and 1985. For many years, the examination was offered to adult members as a way to have a routine health checkup. Examination questionnaire items included ethnicity, other demographics, habits, and medical history. One query was Do you drink coffee? Options for answers to that question were more than 6 cups/day, 46 cups/day, 13 cups/day, less than 1 cup/day, and never or seldom. The questionnaire included a similar query about tea intake. Coffee and tea consumption were ascertained one time only. Measurements included body mass index , blood pressure, fasting blood glucose level, total blood cholesterol level, and leukocyte count. Total coffee and tea intake were ascertained for all 130,054 participants.
Examinees in 19841985 answered queries about type of coffee, with answer options being none, caffeinated only, decaffeinated only, both caffeinated and decaffeinated. These persons also supplied data about caffeine in tea, soft drinks, and medications, enabling estimation of total caffeine intake. Caffeine intake was studied among these 11,679 participants.
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Is Caffeine Causing My Heart Palpitations
For years researchers believed caffeines stimulant effects on the heart were responsible for heart palpitations. Recent research suggests this isnt necessarily the case. That doesnt mean caffeine isnt causing your heart symptoms, and it doesnt vindicate caffeine completely.
The body adapts to the effects of caffeine. Therefore, healthy people who regularly drink coffee are unlikely to experience symptoms such as heart palpitations. Caffeine can cause heart palpitations in people with a sensitivity to caffeine and those with an underlying heart condition.
If youre new to caffeine consumption or drink excess amounts, youre more likely to experience heart symptoms. The only way to know for sure is to visit a heart specialist for a checkup.
Serious Lifestyle Changes After A Trip To The Er
I saw Pete a few weeks after his ER visit. Heâd experienced heart palpitations before, but theyâd 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: Iâve 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?
Why Does Coffee Make My Heart Palpitate
If you have just finished your morning cup of coffee, it’s not unusual to experience some initial symptoms like feeling jittery or experiencing heart palpitations. These palpitations may feel like your heart is racing, as if you cannot seem to control your heartbeat.
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Because coffee contains chemicals that have a stimulant effect, you can experience a number of symptoms, including changes in your heart function.
Some research indicates that drinking too much caffeinated coffee can lead to heart issues, including heart palpitations. Talk to your health care provider about your concerns.
Should I Stop Drinking Coffee If It Gives Me Heart Palpitations
It is worth mentioning that if drinking coffee gives you heart palpitations then you should probably stop drinking coffee and consult with a doctor.
The ingredients of the coffee show that it can cause heart palpitations to a person who is sensitive to it or already has heart problems. But a healthy person does not need to worry while having a cup of coffee.
If a person feels heart problems like irregular heartbeats etc after caffeine intake they should cut down their caffeine intake immediately. Because if they dont, it may lead to severe problems like:
- Sleep disorder
- Irregular Heartbeat
As we all know the overdose of any caffeinated drink results in the above-mentioned problems, we must be conscious while choosing the amount of our caffeine.
And the answer to the question should I stop drinking coffee after feeling heart palpitations is an obvious yes. The heart is the main human organ that maintains the whole bodys functions. If it does not work properly it means something is going to be wrong. So one should be wise and avoid the intake of caffeine.
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