Does Caffeine Impact Atrial Fibrillation?

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If you have atrial fibrillation (AFib) or experience heart palpitations, you have probably heard that you should stop your consumption of caffeine. Dr. J. Christian Hays, Electrophysiologist for the St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute, says that is not necessarily true.

“The practice of eliminating caffeine from your diet if you have heart rhythm issues is an old standard of care,” he says. “Since 2000, there have been numerous clinical studies about the effects of caffeine on AFib and they lack evidence showing caffeine has a negative impact on AFib.”

AFib is the most common form of heart arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat. As you age, it becomes more common. Dr. Hays says, “At age 40, you have about a 1 percent chance of having AFib. By age 80, the prevalence increases to 10 percent.”

AFib may be caused by many factors including:

  • Obesity paired with sleep apnea
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid issues
  • Family history
  • Binge drinking
  • Other chronic conditions, such as diabetes and asthma

According to the American Heart Association, caffeine has many effects on the human body, but there have been no studies that link caffeine to increased risk of arrhythmia. However, if you also have high blood pressure, drinking more than five cups of coffee each day can raise blood pressure.

Dr. Hays recommends making safe choices if you have AFib or palpitations. “You want to understand what may trigger your irregular heartbeat. If you enjoy foods and beverages containing caffeine today, without incident, continuing consumption will not likely trigger an episode.”

Dr. Hays recommends keeping your daily consumption consistent. He adds, “If you feel palpitations today when you consume caffeine, you may be better off avoiding it.”

If you experience palpitations or AFib, discuss your questions and concerns with your physician. Your doctor knows and understands your entire medical history and is your best resource for guidance on caffeine consumption.

St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute is hosting a free educational event about AFib symptoms and treatment featuring Dr. Abhishek Deshmukh from Mayo Clinic and Dr. J. Christian Hays from St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute. “The Line on Atrial Fibrillation” will be held Tuesday, July 17, 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the St. Elizabeth Training and Education Center. Register online or call 859- 301-WELL (9355).