With our practice being based in Melbourne, we’re surrounded by a strong culture of coffee drinking. Many people feel the need for a “heart starter” in the morning … but can coffee affect your heart?
Coffee contains caffeine, which acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system and can improve alertness and decrease fatigue. Caffeine can also exert effects on the heart. However, coffee is a complex drink which contains more than 1000 different compounds, including antioxidants, which may account for some the effects on the cardiovascular system.
Palpitations and abnormal heart rhythms
Some people may be more sensitive than others to the effects of caffeine, and feel a forceful or racing heart beat after they drink coffee. However, coffee has:
- not been associated with an increase in numbers of premature atrial or ventricular beats 1
- not been associated with an increased overall risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) in large population based studies 2 though in patients actually presenting to hospital with AF, coffee has been self-reported as a fairly common trigger 3
Regular consumption of up to 300mg of caffeine a day (equivalent of 4 cups of espresso coffee) seems to be safe, and possibly even protective against cardiac rhythm issues 2.
Effects on blood pressure, cholesterol and weight
Minimal effect of coffee on blood pressure is seen in regular coffee drinkers, although blood pressure can increase for a short period in those who do not drink it often.
Unfiltered coffee may contain compounds such as cafestol, which may cause a small increase in serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Filtering coffee may decrease this effect.
Adding milk and sugar to coffee, or consuming large quantities of coffee with such additives increases overall caloric intake and may contribute to weight gain and obesity.
Coronary artery disease, stroke and heart failure
The good news is that moderate consumption of coffee (<6 cups per day) has been associated with a lower in risk of heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest and there also appears to be a protective effect in heart failure 4-5.
Overall, therefore, a moderate amount of coffee seems to be safe for most cardiac issues. It may be wise, however, to minimise or avoid coffee if you are sensitive to its effects or if you feel it tends to trigger your rhythm issues.
- Consumption of Caffeinated Products and Cardiac Ectopy. JAHA Vol 5, Issue 1, 26 Jan 2016. https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.115.002503
- Caffeine and Arrhythmias. Time to Grind the Data. J Am Coll Cardiol EP 2018; 4: 425-32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacep.2018.01.012
- Arrhythmia-provoking factors and symptoms at the onset of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. BMC Cardiovascular Disorders 2004, 4:13. https://doi:10.1186/1471-2261-4-13
- Long-term coffee consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Circulation. 2014 Feb;129(6). https://DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.113.005925
- Habitual Coffee Consumption and Risk of Heart Failure. Circulation: Heart Failure 5 (1): 401-405. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.112.967299
This article is for reference purposes only – it is not designed to be, nor should it be regarded, as professional medical advice. Please consult your own medical practitioner for health advice specific to your condition.
This article is for reference purposes only – it is not designed to be, nor should it be regarded, as professional medical advice.