Coffee is a well-loved drink by more than one billion of people around the world. Are you one of them? Others have a love-hate relationship with coffee. Some are coffee drinkers, but for medical purposes they were advised to lessen or quit drinking coffee. Others stopped drinking coffee because they felt that coffee was making them acidic. There are also people who have been led to believe that coffee is bad for their health because it can cause high blood pressure.
The increase in blood pressure is one of the common symptoms of heart problems. As such, any trigger that will raise blood pressure is a cause of concern for many people. Heart-related problems are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and European countries. At the same time, these countries are home to the largest number of coffee drinkers. Therefore, there is a growing concern about the effects of coffee on heart health, particularly to blood pressure.
Does coffee really raise your blood pressure? Is it bad to drink coffee? Let’s find out.
What do experts say?
In a health article by Mayo Clinic, Dr. Sheldon Sheps talked about the effects of coffee on a person, particularly on your blood pressure. Sheps said that coffee can increase your blood pressure even if you don’t have a history of high blood pressure. However, Sheps also emphasized that there’s nothing to be worried about because the effect is just short-term and will not cause damage to your blood vessels. In addition to this, habitual coffee drinkers can develop a tolerance to caffeine to the point that increases in blood pressure can be anywhere from minimal to unnoticeable.
If you are still worried, you can check your blood pressure within 30 to 120 minutes after drinking coffee. Also, you can limit your coffee to 200 milligrams per day, or about 2 cups of brewed coffee. Also, Dr. Sheps advised to avoid drinking coffee if you know that your activities for the day will require increased blood pressure like exercise, weightlifting, or hard physical labor.
Eating and drinking habits, according to experts, contribute to raising blood pressure levels in the body. For one, excessive alcohol intake, as well as too much consumption of trans fats, processed foods, and red meat, contribute to the increase in blood pressure. These foods and drinks thicken the walls of blood vessels, making it difficult for blood to pass through. As a result, the brain signals the heart to pump more, so that blood reaches all parts of the body. This results in a blood pressure increase that can result in a heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases.
Observation studies have been done to observe the effects of caffeine on blood pressure and to determine the extent of its effect on heart health.
In one study, researchers found that regular coffee consumption has no such harmful influence on blood vessels
This is thought to be because its pressure effects are too short-lived (about 3 hours) to do any lasting damage to the walls of our blood vessels. In a review that included over 1.2 million subjects, 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day were associated with significantly lower heart disease risk, while even heavier coffee consumption appeared to be neutral.
Another study helps explain why earlier investigations produced such different results. Coffee does raise blood pressure in people who are not used to it, but not in regular coffee drinkers and, in general, youngsters appear more sensitive to coffee. The hypertensive effects of coffee seem to depend on ingredients other than caffeine. If you love adding sugar, syrup and whipped cream, you are increasing the fat and caloric content of your coffee, which can lead to diabetes and heart diseases. Habitual coffee drinkers develop tolerance to caffeine, so their blood pressures don’t rise more than a point or two, but people who are not used to coffee can expect a temporary rise in their pressures after drinking regular or decaffeinated coffee.
There is no conclusive evidence or direct causal effect between coffee drinking and better heart health, however, it can be derived from these observational studies that if coffee were really harmful, then all coffee drinkers would have significant heart-related problems; however, no such relationship has been shown.
Coffee and adrenaline rush
We already know that coffee can raise blood pressure, but not in a long-term damaging way. Caffeine is a known psychoactive drug that stimulates the release of xanthine. Xanthine mimics the adenosine hormone found in our brain. This is why coffee gives us an energy “kick”.
When caffeine enters your bloodstream, it goes up to your brain and takes the place of adenosine. The displaced adenosine is released into your blood and it sends a “panic” signal to your brain. Automatically, as if in an emergency situation, your brain sends the signal to your adrenal gland to release adrenaline so you can have that extra energy to perform tasks like fighting or running.
These are the body’s usual response to an emergency situation. As a result, your adrenal gland signals your heart to pump more blood, so your muscles and organs can function well in case there is an emergency. That is why your blood pressure increases, but all of these immediate responses to caffeine are very temporal and can subside easily.
What causes real high blood pressure?
Blood pressure refers to the measure of the force of the blood pushing on the walls of the blood vessel. It is an important indicator of heart health.
A blood pressure reading has a top number (systolic) and the bottom number (diastolic). The ranges are:
- Normal: Less than 120 over 80 (120/80)
- Prehypertension: 120-139 over 80-89
- Stage 1 high blood pressure: 140-159 over 90-99
- Stage 2 high blood pressure: 160 and above over 100 and above
- High blood pressure in people over age 60: 150 and above over 90 and above
People whose blood pressure is above the normal range should consult their doctor about steps to take to lower it.
The exact causes of high blood pressure are not known, according to WebMD, but several factors and conditions may play a role in its development, including:
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
- Too much salt in the diet
- Too much alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)
- Older age
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Adrenal and thyroid disorders
- Sleep apnea
If you notice, there is no mention of coffee consumption in any of these risk factors. Why? Because the increase in blood pressure when you drink coffee is not permanent. However, if you have existing high blood pressure or medication for a heart-related problem, caffeine consumption should be carefully discussed with your doctor.
How much coffee should I drink?
As a guideline for the average healthy adult, 400 mg of caffeine or 3-4 cups of brewed coffee in a day. However, the severity of these side-effects also depends on your personal caffeine tolerance. Coffee lovers tend to develop a high threshold.
So, on an individual level, your true coffee limit actually depends on your genetics, your personal caffeine tolerance, and any existing medical conditions that react with caffeine. It’s important to observe how your body responds to caffeine.
Coffee drinking is a personal choice. If you love to drink coffee, please yourself and enjoy to your heart’s content. However, keep in mind that moderation is key. Also, make sure you keep your coffee to the basics. At its healthiest, coffee is best consumed black and freshly brewed.
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