Coffee Can Affect Your Heart’s Rhythms

By Dennis Thompson
Health Day reporter

MONDAY, November 15, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Your daily cup of coffee may be a quick uplift, but it comes with a mix of good and less good effects on your health, a new study reports.

Drinking coffee helps people stay more active, but it also significantly interferes with sleep, researchers say.

And while Java doesn’t appear to cause irregular rhythms in the heart’s upper chamber, it can cause beats to jump in the lower chambers, according to results presented at the American Heart Association’s annual online meeting on Sunday.

“People need to understand that this hugely consumed drink does have substantial effects on our health, and they vary,” said senior author Dr Gregory Marcus, deputy head of cardiology for research at the University of California to San Francisco. “It’s not that coffee is necessarily all good or all bad. It is very likely that whether it is net good or net bad depends on a combination of factors.”

Doctors have long viewed caffeine as a potential heart health risk because it is a stimulant that increases heart rate. But previous studies on the subject produced results that were “everywhere,” said Dr. Sana Al-Khatib, a heartbeat expert at Duke.

“A very common question that we get almost every week from patients is, can I drink coffee? Especially in patients with atrial fibrillation,” a heart rhythm disorder that increases the risk of stroke and heart attack, said Al-Khatib, the Duke’s electrophysiologist. Electrophysiology Clinic in Durham, North Carolina

“It was not easy for us clinicians to counsel patients,” noted Al-Khatib, who was not involved in the study.

For this clinical trial, Marcus and his team recruited 100 coffee drinkers and outfitted them with several devices to continuously record their health – a Fitbit, a heart monitor, and a blood sugar monitor.

For two weeks, participants were randomly assigned each day to drink as much coffee as they wanted or to forgo it.

The researchers then tracked changes within and between people that occurred when they were exposed to or without coffee.

The study found no evidence that coffee consumption created irregular rhythms in the atria, the upper chambers of the heart. This is good news, as one of the main medical concerns with coffee was whether it could promote atrial fibrillation, a potentially dangerous condition.

But they found that drinking coffee could cause the ventricles – the lower chambers of the heart – to skip beats.

“On randomly assigned coffee days, people had about 50% more premature ventricular contractions [PVCs] – more early beats coming from the lower chambers of the heart, “said Marcus.” Those who consumed more than one glass of coffee exhibited essentially a doubling of their PVC count. “

These PVCs are common and are generally considered harmless, he added.

“We all have them from time to time, and generally they’re considered benign,” Marcus said. “But we and others have shown that more VSE is an independent risk factor for heart failure over time. Not everyone with more VSE does not have heart failure, but it is. a factor. “

Coffee has also had dramatic effects on two other major factors in your health: physical activity and sleep.

On days they were randomly assigned to drink coffee, participants averaged about 1,000 more steps than they normally would, Marcus said.

“For each additional cup of coffee consumed, there were 500 additional steps,” he said.

On the other hand, coffee tended to deprive people of sleep.

“On the days assigned to the random cafe, people averaged about half an hour less sleep that night,” Marcus said. “For each additional cup of coffee, there was about 18 minutes less sleep.”

But people genetically inclined to metabolize coffee faster showed no significant relationship between their coffee consumption and sleep deprivation.

While Al-Khatib said the study was well conducted, she sees a need for follow-up research involving more patients over a longer period of time to see if the immediate effects of coffee ultimately lead to an increased risk of heart disease. , stroke and other health problems.

The participants in this study were relatively young and healthy, with an average age of 38 and an average BMI in the upper range of healthy – “not typical of the patient population we see in clinical practice”, which are older and have one or more health problems, Al-Khatib said.

So if you’re concerned about the effects of coffee on your health, you should probably talk to your doctor, Marcus said. Depending on your personal health concerns, it may be a good idea to drink or abstain from coffee.

“For those worried about atrial fibrillation, this data suggests that there is no reason to worry about drinking coffee. On the other hand, if there are concerns about PVC, it may be wise to avoid or minimize coffee consumption, ”Marcus said.

“If there is a goal of increasing or maintaining physical activity, then coffee can help,” he added.

Despite his reservations, Al-Khatib plans to use this study to counsel patients.

“I wouldn’t think of those results as, oh, OK, great, so what, let’s wait for the next study,” she said. “I will incorporate these findings into my discussions with patients, of course, after reading the entire article and assuming there are no surprises.”

Research presented at meetings is generally considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Heart Association has more information on caffeine and heart disease.

SOURCES: Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS, deputy chief of cardiology for research, University of California, San Francisco; Sana Al-Khatib, MD, MHS, professor of medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, and electrophysiologist, Duke Electrophysiology Clinic; presentation, American Heart Association meeting, Boston, November 14, 2021

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