For many of us, a cup of coffee or garam chai is an essential part of our morning and/or evening routine. But there is a lot of conflicting and confusing information out there about the impacts of caffeine on various aspects of our health. So here’s the burning question: is caffeine consumption linked to heart disease? We break down the current consensus regarding this combination.
If you’ve ever felt a bit jittery after a strong cup of coffee or tea; this is attributed to caffeine’s short-term effects. It raises the heart rate and blood pressure, makes you want to use the loo more often, and boosts metabolism. But this is not something to be concerned about – caffeine’s stimulatory effects peak within the first hour, and then fade over the next few hours.
Given that caffeine raises blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, is caffeine consumption linked to heart disease? The research says that caffeine consumption does not increase your risk of heart diseases like coronary heart disease, acute heart attacks, heart failure, and stroke. Moderate caffeine intake also does not worsen episodes of abnormal heart rhythm in patients with arrhythmias (like atrial fibrillation). This is because caffeine’s impacts on heart rate and blood pressure are only temporary.
But when considering the link between caffeine consumption and heart health, two things should be kept in mind:
- How much caffeine you consume
Several sources state that your daily caffeine intake should not exceed 400 milligrams. That’s about 4 cups of brewed black coffee and 8 cups of green or black tea. It is important to note that there are caffeine sources other than hot beverages like soft drinks, chocolate, and energy drinks. Depending on your sensitivity, caffeine’s adverse effects on the heart may kick in if your daily intake far exceeds the threshold. It is important to be mindful about how much caffeine you consume from hot beverages as well as other sources.
- How you consume your caffeine
The way our favorite caffeine-containing beverages are prepared may be increasing our risk of heart disease. Fancy, store-prepared coffee and tea beverages are loaded with sugar, sweetened syrups, and whole milk. These add calories and saturated fat to the drinks, which increase your risk of weight gain and diabetes if consumed frequently. A mug of Indian chai with whole milk may contain upto 200 calories. And since milk and sugar are ingredients of the quintessential Indian chai, how much of these ingredients we add may have adverse impacts on our heart health. Frequent consumption of sugar-loaded energy drinks and sodas also worsens risk factors for heart disease like obesity and diabetes.
Tips for heart-healthy caffeine intake
Scientific evidence points towards the absence of a link between moderate caffeine intake and heart disease, but you can still take simple steps to ensure you enjoy your daily cup of coffee or chai without compromising on your heart health:
- Prepare your coffee or chai in a heart-friendly way. Reduce the quantity of sugar you add and swap whole milk for healthier alternatives. For example, using non-fat milk instead of whole milk shaves off 40 calories from a mug of chai.
- Ask the barista in your favorite coffee shop or your local tea vendor to reduce the amount of sugar added in the beverage you order. Also request for low-fat or skimmed milk if available.
- Monitor your caffeine intake from other sources like soft drinks and energy intake, especially if you are caffeine-sensitive.
- If you have a pre-existing heart condition, it is best to consult your doctor about the safe levels of caffeine consumption for you.