Caffeine and Heart Arrhythmias (Irregular Heartbeat)

heart-arrhythmia caffeine safety

The guidelines to follow for safety

A cardiac arrhythmia is when the heart beats out of rhythm sometimes missing a beat or beating twice in the time period that usually would be one beat.

Since caffeine is a stimulant and speeds up heart rate, doctors believed that this effect could be dangerous for those with heart arrhythmias.

Doctors once warned those with cardiac arrhythmias to avoid consuming caffeine, but this advice may be somewhat outdated.

Those with existing heart arrhythmias should exercise caution when consuming caffeine, which involves understanding the amount of caffeine in beverages/ foods as well as the amount they are consuming daily.

Some people do report that their heart “flutters” after drinking caffeinated beverages and are understandably concerned about this.

Moderate Caffeine Ok for those with Arrhythmias

The Arrhythmia Research:

1.The most up to date research published in the January 2016 edition of the Journal of the American Heart Association found that among regular coffee, tea, and chocolate consumers studied there was no increased instance of heart rate rhythm abnormalities compared to the study group that did not consume coffee, tea, and chocolate regularly.

You can read more about the study here.

2. An article published in The American Journal of Medicine shows that caffeine in moderation seems safe.

After reviewing all of the studies published concerning caffeine consumption among those with known arrhythmias, Daniel J. Pelchovitz, MD and Jeffrey J. Goldberger, MD concluded that moderate doses of caffeine are well tolerated by most people diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmias.

3. Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, CA recently conducted a study in which the coffee-drinking habits of 130,054 men and women were assessed along with their medical history.

The research showed that those who had 4 or more cups of coffee a day (400mg of caffeine or more) had an 18% lower risk of being hospitalized because of heart rhythm disturbances while those that consumed at least 1-3 cups had a 7% lower risk.

The head researcher, Arthur Klatsky MD, says:

“While other factors could have been involved here and that this study doesn’t prove that coffee has a protective effect, it does however, show that coffee drinkers are not harming themselves from drinking the caffeine or increasing their risk of hospitalization due to heart rhythm problems.”

4. A Danish study also looked at coffee’s relationship to heart beat fluttering. After assessing almost 950 patients, they concluded that coffee consumption was not associated with risk of heart flutter.

5. Another study which was a meta-analysis of four other studies that looked for a link between coffee consumption and atrial fibrillation risk found that there was no association between coffee or caffeine consumption and increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

This is all good news for those who love coffee and/or energy drinks but have known heart arrhythmias. It looks like they can a have caffeine-laden beverages in moderation and still be safe.

A moderate daily dose of caffeine for a healthy adult is between 300-400mg.

Those with heart rhythm problems should probably aim for no more than 200mg daily.

Most doctors advise patients with arrhythmias to quit or cut back on their caffeine consumption.

Energy Drinks and Heart Rhythm Problems

energy drinks and heart rhythm problemsUnfortunately for energy drink consumers, most of the caffeine and heart rhythm research conducted looked at coffee as the caffeine delivery method.

We know from other studies that coffee is naturally high in antioxidants, which are believed to be beneficial in protecting bodily organs from disease.

Energy Drinks do not offer the same benefit and the results could be different with this caffeine delivery agent. Especially since many energy drinks are a combination of caffeine, taurine, sugar and sometimes other stimulants.

People with existing heart arrhythmias should be extremely cautious when using these products.

People consuming energy drinks and shots should fully understand their heart health before consuming these products in larger than recommend quantities.

Excessive Caffeine May Be Deadly

For those with heart arrhythmias, excessive caffeine may be deadly. To date, there have been several reported deaths as the result of caffeine overdose in those with heart arrhythmias.

Some reported caffeine deaths of those with arrhythmias.

  • Anais Fournier died after just 480mg of caffeine.
  • A New Zealand woman died after 900-1000mg of caffeine daily.
  • Alex Morris died from reportedly drinking 320mg of caffeine though Monster Energy Drink.
  • A 25-year-old woman died after consuming a guarana based drink. Src.

It is vital that people know their heart health and respect caffeine as it can be deadly for people with arrhythmias under certain circumstances.

Caffeine Doesn’t Cause Arrhythmias to Develop

There is no scientific evidence that caffeine causes heart arrhythmias in those with a healthy heart.

Nor is there any evidence that drinking caffeinated beverages long-term will cause an arrhythmia to develop.

However, some people could be unaware that they have an arrhythmia or that they are prone to developing one based on their genetics, which is why caffeine should always be consumed in moderation.

Binging on caffeine, even once, can have dangerous consequences.

We encourage caffeine in moderation and especially in cases where people have heart arrhythmias. If you have an arrhythmia, we encourage you to use all of the tools this site has to offer to help you consume caffeine safely.

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  • christian,Koetz

    I am 72 years old.Never had a car drivingproblems with alcohol,always with coffee.
    That tells me.that some people get overconfidend after nicotine intake,which is at least as dangerous as alcohol.The combination of alcohol and coffein seams also dangerous.
    In my opinion,both substances should have limits when operating equipment.

  • I also think caffeine isn’t the cause of arrhythmia (although it can perhaps intensify it). I know this because I’ve had arrhythmia before I even started drinking coffee.
    There are other more dangerous substances than caffeine in your food and drinks. I managed to cure my arrhythmia by altering my diet, in contrast to useless drugs I was prescribed.
    You can read my whole story (along with complete medical documentation) here:
    http://www.mcarticles.com/a/how-i-cured-my-arrhythmia-a-personal-story/

  • Al Barrs

    I had open heart surgery to correct a “hereditary defect” of my coronary artery on my heart. Because of the good condition of my blood vessels the surgeon cut away an artery just below the coronary artery on my heart and grafted it downstream of the two pinched regions of my coronary artery. After surgery I developed a heart arrhythmia. Later I experienced a return of the arrhythmia when I drank four to five cups of caffeinated coffee. I stopped drinking caffeine drinks and the arrhythmia went away. When I told my doctor he explained how arrhythmia causes strokes. My cardiologist changed my medication and also put me on blood thinning medication. I believe the arrhythmia was caused by the cutting away of the secondary artery to repair the pinched coronary artery which I believe sufficiently interrupted the electric flow around the heart and that was the cause, but the caffeine also caused the arrhythmia to return when I drank several cups of caffeine coffee.

  • Mike Budd

    You have many medical studies that cover this potential risk and the global picture is in favor of a moderate consumption (coffee and caffeine).

    Here are some of these studies:

    – Koizumi A, Mineharu Y, et al. “Coffee, green tea, black tea and oolong tea consumption and risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease in Japanese men and women”. (2011) J. of Epidemiology and Community Health 65: 230–240.

    – Larsson SC, Orsini N. “Coffee consumption and risk of stroke: a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies”. Am J Epidemiol. 2011;174:993-1001.

    – Lopez-Garcia, E, van Dam RM, et al. “The Relationship of Coffee Consumption with Mortality.” Annals of Internal Medicine (2008) Jun 17;148(12):904-14.

    – Matsuura, H; Mure, K, et al. “Relationship Between Coffee Consumption and Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome Among Japanese Civil Servants.”. (2012 Feb 18) J. of epidemiology / Japan Epidemiological Association 22 (2): 160–6.
    – Montagnana M, Favaloro EJ, et al. “Coffee intake and cardiovascular disease: virtue does not take center stage”. Semin Thromb Hemost. 2012;38:164-177.

    – Wu JN, Ho SC, et al. “Coffee consumption and risk of coronary heart diseases: a meta-analysis of 21 prospective cohort studies”. Int J Cardiol. 2009;137:216-225.

    Again, a moderate consumption will have positive effects and an excessive one will higher the risks dramatically.

  • Al Barrs

    I wouldn’t be to quick to jump on the bandwagon that caffeine isn’t one of the causes for Heart Arrhythmia. It may not start it but it will cause it to return. I had open heart surgery in 2007 for a “pinched coronary artery”, in two places, for which surgeons detached an artery or vein on the heart and grafted it into my coronary artery below the two pinched regions. After I left the hospital every time I drank more that three cups of caffeine coffee the arrhythmia returned. Only when I stopped drinking caffeine beverages and instead drank decaffeine beverages did my arrhythmia go away. Even my Cardiologist had to eventually agree with me. Just consider the possible consequences of caffeine, as a stimulus, if you have had heart surgery or Heart Arrhythmia… Go slow…

  • spiros7

    “I know this because I’ve had arrhythmia before I even started drinking coffee”

    yeah but before you start drinking coffee you probably drunk a lot of sodas that contain caffeine.

  • Though evidence does not support caffeine causing arrhythmias this substance may ignite existing ones. I have PAT which is a sudden atrial tachycardia. This heart rhythm occurs infrequently and stops abruptly. When I use caffeine, excess nasal spray etc., the arrhythmia is much more frequent. If you have an arrhythmia be very careful with your caffeine intake. I gave it up and do not miss it. Mark Davis MD

  • Mc Gruber !

    The bottom line for me is zero intake of caffeine. I had a Barqs rootbeer this week accidentally (waitress said it was A&W), and within 10 minutes, I felt bad. No arrhythmia this time, but blurry vision and tenseness. Barqs has a low amount of caffeine in it.

    About 8 years ago, I ate a bag of M&M’s and 6 hours later, drank a regular Coke. 3 hours after that, I went into Atrial Fibrillation – aka rapid, irregular heartbeat, and was hospitalized. This has happened to me twice before. So, for some people, it doesn’t take much to get poisoned.

  • Jean Jackson- Leal Rudy

    I have been having increased incidents of sinus tachycardia. I decided to try eliminating all caffeine, as the toprol I’m on has not diminished the tacky. Been off all caffeine for 3 weeks and NO tacky incidents, though I do continue to have sinus palpitations.

  • El

    I just can’t believe the constant refusal to blame caffeine for heart arrhythmias – who is funding the research? I feel much better when avoiding caffeine and have arrhythmias even after one piece of dark chocolate.

  • Gareth Thomas Hale

    Please allow me to contribute some startling facts to this debate.
    In 2004 I had supraventricular tachycardia (believed due to an electric sh ock). It was treated by cardioversion which was successful for 4 years.
    In 2008 it returned. I was treated this time with ablation. I was fine for 7 years.
    In February 2015 I developed a liking for green tea, so much so that I was drinking 2 x 0.8 litre pots daily.
    On 2nd April 2015 I had to go to hospital after feeling very unwell. My pulse rate is normally 40 – 45. I do a lot of sport and have checked this pulse rate for the past 7 years weekly. On this particular day my rate was 80 – 85 and irregular. My blood pressure was also sky high. I was checked out in hospital where it was confirmed I had arrythmia. I stopped drinking green tea on the 2nd April. I returned from the hospital at midnight on the 2nd. On the 3rd April I woke up and checked my heart rate. It was 49 and regular. My blood pressure was 121/79. I had therefore drunk green tea daily in large quantities for 8 weeks and experienced arrythmia. After abstaining for ONE DAY I returned to almost normal. Draw your own conclusions.

  • Irelia Kroot

    I sometimes have the feeling that once I withdraw from caffeine I get arrhythmia, the dosage seems to be unrelated and it also barely speeds up my heart rate. I can drink an energy drink and get arrhythmia then a week later I supplement an energy drink with 200mg caffeine pill and don’t have any arrhythmia whatsoever, or the other way around. seemingly random. But once I took large amounts and go cold turkey it can be quite severe, though after a week or so of abstinence it is gone.

    Been drinking energy drinks since I’m 15, heavy user ever since and now I’m 22. i ain’t even overweight. Just don’t do caffeine kids.

  • Brit

    Omg they didn’t say it didn’t cause problems in existing conditions! God people learn to read! It said caffiene won’t cause the disease itself!

  • martinmocha

    Does anyone suffer from the following symptoms after drinking
    moderately strong black coffee as follows:
    – Irritable Bowl syndrome
    – pain in the abdomen and occasional heart burn
    – heart fluttering or the sensation of having PVCs or PACs
    – feeling lethargic and even sick within a few hours of drinking
    – producing reflux symptoms
    – occasional cramping & severe cramping during withdrawal

  • martinmocha

    I came down with PVCs and PACs after consuming very strong dark roast coffee, freshly grounded and made in a French Press after about 3 months. The PVCs etc. started last March and have CONTINUED regardless of the fact the medical providers call it “benign” or nothing special but never the less, they feel extremely unpleasant, scary and I wonder if drinking that strong black, French Press coffee started it?

  • Michael Hansen

    I have a strange problem, when I don’t have caffeine I have problems. I spread low doses of it throughout the day including right before bed. When I don’t have caffeine I have palpations weakness, sweating. If that happens I can take in about 150mg of caffine and they go away. It is very scary. My doctor says the caffine is the cause, but when I reduce my intake even slowly over several weeks it still happens. Less than 200mg per day and I am in trouble.

  • Get_All_The_Facts

    Sounds like a dependency. You should try tapering off, dropping by about 10mg per day until you have weaned off. Caffeine can cause physical dependency, including the physiological changes that you are experiencing. You should also start by taking 300-400mg magnesium in the form of magnesium malate while you are tapering, and for a period of about a month or two after, until balance is restored.

  • Get_All_The_Facts

    This is commonly a condition that is caused by the caffeine disrupting the mineral balance of your cells. My recommendation is to reduce caffeine or eliminate entirely, and start taking 300-400mg magnesium malate daily. This should restore your magnesium and potassium balance slowly, provided you are eating a nutritious diet of vegetables, fresh meats, and no refined foods.

  • Cory

    Pretty much all of those except the lethargy.

  • Momo

    So often you will find real life people explaining their symptoms and doctors and studies denying the links. GERD (acid reflux) has also been a huge trigger for arrhythmias but again, the research will say there’s no connection. Actual people document it in their lives, though. There’s something going on there if you are experiencing it yourself and the doctor keeps insisting that it’s impossible.

Last Modified: September 20, 2017

References

  • Pelchovitz, D. J., & Goldberger, J. J. (2011). Caffeine and cardiac arrhythmias: a review of the evidence. The American journal of medicine, 124(4), 284-289.
  • Klatsky, A. L., Hasan, A. S., Armstrong, M. A., Udaltsova, N., & Morton, C. (2011). Coffee, caffeine, and risk of hospitalization for arrhythmias. The Permanente Journal, 15(3), 19.
  • Frost, L., & Vestergaard, P. (2005). Caffeine and risk of atrial fibrillation or flutter: the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 81(3), 578-582.
  • Larsson, S. C., Drca, N., Jensen-Urstad, M., & Wolk, A. (2015). Coffee consumption is not associated with increased risk of atrial fibrillation: results from two prospective cohorts and a meta-analysis. BMC medicine, 13(1), 207.
  • Consumption of Caffeinated Products and Cardiac Ectopy, Shalini Dixit, Phyllis K. Stein, Thomas A. Dewland, Jonathan W. Dukes, Eric Vittinghoff, Susan R. Heckbert, and Gregory M. Marcus J Am Heart Assoc. 2016;5:e002503, originally published January 26, 2016, doi:10.1161/JAHA.115.002503