You wake up tired, but you know that you’ve got something to look forward to. It’s not your morning commute, your day at work or getting the kids to school on time.
It’s your morning cup of coffee.
And you’re not alone. About 62% of Americans drink coffee every day. But is drinking coffee bad for you?
Some people say their heart feels weird after drinking coffee. They may experience a racing heart, heart palpitations or an increased heart rate. So, does that mean coffee is bad for the heart?
Science has the answer to these questions, and for coffee drinkers, there’s some good news and some bad news.
Heart health benefits
Coffee is full of health benefits. According to the American College of Cardiology, drinking two to three cups of coffee per day is associated with maintaining a healthy heart.
“What they found is two to three cups of coffee a day either had a neutral effect – meaning it did not cause harm – or those people experienced a 10 to 20% improvement in cardiovascular health,” said Sudhir Mungee, MD, a cardiologist at OSF HealthCare.
These cardiovascular improvements were associated with a lower risk for:
- Developing coronary heart disease
- Heart failure
- Heart rhythm problems
- Dying for any reason
If you’re a one-cup-a-day coffee drinker, there’s good news for you, too. The risk of dying of heart-related reasons and stroke is also lower in those who drink a cup a day.
Plus, coffee beans themselves have nutritious qualities.
“Coffee beans actually have over 100 biologically active compounds. These substances can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, boost metabolism, inhibit the gut’s absorption of fat and block receptors known to be involved with abnormal heart rhythms,” said Dr Mungee.
Negative effects on the heart
Caffeine’s effect on overall health is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to coffee. Coffee’s caffeine content is high – about 100 mg per 8-ounce cup.
Caffeine increases heart rate and blood pressure, and too much of it can cause anxiety, insomnia, headaches, stomach irritation and an irregular heartbeat. It’s also addictive.
About 400 mg is the maximum amount of caffeine you should consume in one day, which equals about four cups of coffee.
Besides the caffeine content, many people don’t consume their coffee black, and it’s here where coffee can go from good for you to bad. Adding creamer and sugar can significantly increase the calorie, sugar and fat content. This can cause weight gain, diabetes and increased blood sugar levels, which can lead to heart disease and other health problems.
Finally, while filtered coffee can have a positive effect on the heart, unfiltered coffee – like French press – significantly raises the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Getting the most out of your coffee
As with all things, Dr. Mungee stresses the importance of moderation.
Keep your coffee drinking to about two to three cups per day. And when adding sweetener , try something besides granulated sugar or creamer, such as:
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- Cocoa powder
- Maple syrup
- Oat milk
- Sea salt
- Vanilla extract
- Liquid stevia
A word of warning
Coffee isn’t a quick solution for or surefire way to avoid developing heart problems.
“First thing, don’t start drinking coffee if you’re not a coffee person,” Dr. Mungee warns. “If coffee gives you anxiety or heart palpitations, causes you to sweat a lot or keeps you from sleeping, don’t drink it just because it will decrease your heart attack risk.”
If you’ve been experiencing heart palpitations or a racing heart, consult your health care provider.
Finally, drinking coffee alone is not good enough to sustain heart health. You must also pair your coffee consumption with an active lifestyle and a well-balanced diet rich in heart-healthy foods, such as leafy green vegetables, whole grains, avocados, lean chicken, fish and even dark chocolate.