Although coffee has been linked to a number of health benefits, including living longer, it was believed that too much caffeine was bad for the heart. Many doctors warned their patients with heart problems not to consume caffeinated beverages because they were believed to cause abnormal heart rhythms. Turns out, new research from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests otherwise.
The review found that coffee and tea are not only safe, but can actually reduce the frequency of arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms. Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common heart rhythm disorder and can increase your risk for stroke. Multiple studies cited in the review found regular coffee consumption was associated with a decreased risk of AFib. The research also found that caffeine has no effect on ventricular arrhythmias, an abnormal heart rhythm where the lower chambers of the heart beat very quickly.
"There is a public perception, often based on anecdotal experience, that caffeine is a common acute trigger for heart rhythm problems," said Peter Kistler, PhD, the review's lead author, according to the American College of Cardiology. "Our extensive review of the medical literature suggests this is not the case."
In fact, the researchers believe caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea may actually protect to your heart, thanks to their antioxidant properties. Large population studies and randomized control trials suggest that up to 300 milligrams of caffeine a day may be safe for patients with abnormal heart rhythms.
But there are still some patients who are sensitive to caffeine — up to 25 percent of patients who already have an atrial fibrillation diagnosis report coffee as an AFib trigger. And while coffee and tea were shown to be safe for your heart, energy drinks may be more risky thanks to other ingredients such as guarana, sugar, and ginseng along with the high amounts of caffeine. As always, you should always consult your doctor before making any major dietary changes.