Is Coffee Bad for Your Heart?

Coffee with an electrocardiogram and stethoscope | Image by Aleksandrs Samuilovs/Shutterstock

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that coffee consumption does not increase cardiac risk or cause an abnormal heartbeat pattern known as atrial fibrillation.

The study observed 100 research participants and their heart activity. The participants had no underlying heart conditions. Data were collected using electrocardiogram devices, glucose monitors, and Fitbits for tracking their step counts and sleep patterns.

The purpose of the study was to examine the effects of caffeinated coffee on heart rhythms, activity levels, glucose levels, and sleep.

Deepak Bhatt, director of Mount Sinai Heart in New York, told The Wall Street Journal that many doctors advise cardiac patients against drinking coffee under the assumption that coffee has some correlation with atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots leading to stroke or heart failure.

However, the study found no link between atrial fibrillation and coffee consumption.

Some of the findings in the study suggested that coffee may even be beneficial to one’s health when consumed in moderation.

Researchers found that coffee drinkers attained more steps throughout the day than those who did not drink coffee, and the more coffee one ingested in a day, the higher their step count.

However, while coffee drinkers got more steps in, they did get less sleep. On average, coffee drinkers got 35 fewer minutes of sleep than coffee abstainers. Coffee drinkers also experience more premature ventricular heartbeats, another heartbeat abnormality.

Premature ventricular heartbeats are not as serious as atrial fibrillation, but if experienced frequently over a long period of time, they may cause heart weakening.

The effects also appear dependent on the person and their specific metabolism. People who metabolized caffeine more slowly lost more sleep on days they drank coffee than those with faster metabolisms. People who metabolized faster, however, had more premature ventricular heartbeats than those with slower metabolisms on days they drank coffee.

Dr. Larry Chinitz, the director of the Heart Rhythm Center and the co-lead of NYU Langone Heart, told WSJ that coffee is not a significant factor in cardiovascular health, whether one drinks it or not.

He told WSJ that it is much more critical to pay attention to diet, exercise, and sleep patterns to maintain or improve heart health.

Improvements in those areas can also reduce one’s risk for obesity, one of the leading health problems in Texas and across the nation.

Obesity has been associated with atrial fibrillation, according to Healthline.com. The health news outlet reported that up to one-fifth of all cases of atrial fibrillation may be linked to obesity.

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