Can Energy Drinks Hurt Your Heart?

Could a drink meant to wake you up cause problems for your heart? Here's what you need to know about energy drinks and your heart.

February 18, 2016
img qcgzsxorue8julyr2mdz

It’s three o’clock and your energy is lagging. Maybe it is time for an energy drink? But could a drink intended to wake you up cause problems for your heart? It turns out, the answer is yes. High-caffeine energy drinks can trigger heart rhythm issues, which could lead to long-term heart problems or even death. Maybe that energy drink isn’t such a good idea.

Although many of us turn to coffee for a pick-me-up, energy drinks have gained in popularity, especially among millennials. Caffeine is considered a safe stimulant, but a study published in the International Journal of Cardiology links consuming high-caffeine energy drinks to hospital admissions for heart problems. The problem isn’t the caffeine itself, but rather the amount in one serving. Here’s what you need to know about energy drinks and your heart.

Coffee is okay.

A cup of coffee contains about 90 mg of caffeine, and the 2016 Dietary Guidelines for Americans indicate that drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day is okay. The guidelines indicate you can consume up to 500 mg of caffeine per day without negatively affecting hydration or wellness. This is the good news.

Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine.

The bad news is that many energy drinks, especially energy shots, can contain ten times the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee. Some drinks contain nearly double the daily limit in a single serving.

People consume energy drinks differently from how they drink coffee.

The concentration of caffeine in energy drinks is compounded by the way we to drink them. While we tend to sip a cup of coffee, energy drinks are guzzled down in a few swallows. Combining energy drinks with alcohol is particularly dangerous. Not only are you more likely to over consume and make poor decisions about consumption, alcohol inhibits the body’s ability to process caffeine, thus multiplying the effect.

High levels of caffeine can trigger abnormal heart rhythms, which can lead to significant problems.

The rush of stimulant caused by a high level of caffeine consumed quickly can trigger an abnormal heart rhythm, even in seemingly healthy people. Caffeine is a significant trigger for atrial fibrillation, the most common abnormal heart rhythm. Even young and apparently healthy people can have an underlying electrical problem that is dormant until triggered. Abnormal heart rhythms cause palpitations, which many people describe as skipping beats or a fluttering or flopping in the chest. Other people may experience a racing heart or chest pain. Any of these symptoms should be evaluated by a medical professional immediately. In some cases, abnormal heart rhythm can lead to cardiac arrest and death. Chronic episodes can weaken the heart and increases the risk of stroke, which is a high price to pay for an afternoon pick-me-up.

If you need to wake up and protect your heart, choosing a good ol’ cup of joe may be your best bet. Even better, try a little walk outside. Fresh air and exercise are good for your heart and proven natural energizers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR