Every day, about 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine in some form. More than half of the adults in the country consume 300 milligrams a day, making it America’s most popular drug.
It seems like every other week there is a new headline on the impact of caffeine on our health. It can be hard to keep up with doctor-approved recommendations on how much coffee is too much. Tryon Medical Partners cardiology specialist Dr. Sanjay Patel sets the record straight with three key facts about the impact of caffeine on your heart and overall health.
Caffeine has a neutral impact on heart health.
Caffeine, if consumed in moderation, has a neutral to positive impact on heart health. Dr. Patel recommends 1-2 cups a day but says that any number of cups up to four is normal, and anything from four to 10 cups is excessive. For those who are pregnant, Dr. Patel recommends cutting caffeine consumption in half, although it is still safe to drink.
Dr. Patel adds, “I wouldn’t encourage people to start drinking caffeine for any sort of health benefit, but if you’re drinking caffeine in moderation, it’s unlikely to have a negative impact on your health.”
Moderation is the key to a healthy relationship with caffeine.
Although it’s unlikely to cause any sort of negative reaction, Dr. Patel advises to watch for the following symptoms: heart palpitations (in which the heart starts racing out of the blue), irritability, jitteriness, trouble sleeping at night and hypertension. If you start experiencing those symptoms, it may be time to cut back on the amount of caffeine you’re drinking. He also notes that caffeine is a cardiac stimulant so for those who drink caffeine excessively (more than 10 cups), there is a risk of sudden cardiac death.
If you think it’s time to drink less caffeine, taper off slowly. Anyone who drinks more than two cups of coffee a day shouldn’t stop drinking coffee all at once. If they do, they’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms like irritability, headaches and jitters.
It is also important to consider age and general health when deciding how much caffeine is too much. “While adults can handle up to four cups, children ages 12 to 18 shouldn’t have more than one cup a day,” he notes. “And children 12 and under shouldn’t have any caffeine.”
How you consume caffeine makes a difference.
Caffeine isn’t just in coffee – Dr. Patel is careful to note that caffeine can also be found in certain teas, chocolate and energy drinks. But different coffees, teas and chocolate have varying amounts of caffeine. One 8-ounce coffee contains 100 milligrams of caffeine while decaffeinated coffee has 5 milligrams. Energy drinks are similar, with the average 8-ounce energy drink having 75 milligrams of caffeine. Most teas are slightly less caffeinated – one 8-ounce tea has about 50 milligrams of caffeine.
Factors outside of the type of beverage can also impact health. For coffee and tea, the brew also impacts the amount of caffeine in the beverage. The longer you brew coffee or tea, the more caffeine you’ll have in the beverage. Dr. Patel emphasizes that filtered coffee has no impact on cholesterol levels, whereas with unfiltered coffee (finely ground coffee that doesn’t require a coffee filter for preparation purposes), cholesterol levels may go up slightly.
Dr. Patel cautions to factor in portion sizes. “Over the past few years, portion sizes have steadily gotten bigger,” he notes. “A standard coffee used to be four ounces and now it is much bigger. When you consider the health impact of the cream and sugar people add to their coffee, it may become more negative for their health.”
If you’re eager to continue the heart health conversation, go to the Tryon website to learn more.