By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
Like a lot of other people, I usually have a cup of coffee or green tea in the morning to get my day started.
Both of these caffeinated beverages are high in antioxidants. They boost my energy levels and brain function. They’re great for my liver and lower my risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes. Plus they help burn fat. But if you have any known arrhythmias or atrial fibrillation, your doctor may have told you to avoid caffeine altogether.
Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal rhythm caused by fast and erratic electrical impulses. Some people have no symptoms and are unaware they have this condition until it’s discovered during a physical exam
In other people, it can produce a variety of heart palpitations. The heart might feel like it’s pounding, beating too fast, beating irregularly or fluttering. It can last a few seconds or a few minutes. Anything that is “irregularly irregular” is atrial fibrillation. These sensations come and go.
But do you really have to avoid caffeine?
What your doctor probably didn’t tell you is this: In most cases, caffeinated teas and coffees are not likely to cause (drop Ventricular) arrythmias like atrial fibrillation. In fact, they may actually be protective and even reduce the incidence of arrhythmia.
This appears to be true even among people with gene variants that affect caffeine metabolism.
All of this is well documented and it’s great news, because even if you have AFib, coffee is no longer off limits. Still, there may be times when coffee isn’t your best choice.
When Coffee isn’t a Good Idea
While most people can enjoy a cup of coffee without having any adverse reactions, everyone reacts differently to different things. So there are probably a few things to watch out for when consuming caffeinated beverages.
If you’re not affected by the caffeine, it’s okay to have a couple cups of coffee or tea each day. But some people might be more sensitive to caffeine and feel palpitations after drinking it. If that’s the case, you might want to consider switching to half-caf or decaf.
A cup of coffee can cause a small, short-term increase in blood pressure. But long-term coffee drinking doesn’t appear to increase the risk of developing chronic high blood pressure. This could be because long-term coffee drinkers develop a tolerance to caffeine.
However, people with uncontrolled high blood pressure should limit their caffeine intake. While it doesn’t appear to increase blood pressure among hypertensive individuals in the long-term, even a small, short-term increase in blood pressure that’s not well controlled could increase the risk of a cardiovascular event in the hours after drinking it.
If coffee makes anxious, jittery and irritable, you might be drinking too much of it. It’s better to scale back so you get coffee’s benefits without the side effects that come with overconsumption of it.
If you have problems sleeping at night, you might be drinking your coffee too late in the day. So you should stop drinking it by about four in the afternoon. That will give your body time to metabolize before bedtime.
More About Atrial Fibrillation
Coffee isn’t the only thing that might help protect against atrial fibrillation. There are a few supplements that can really help your heart maintain a steady beat.
I like magnesium. This mineral is crucial when it comes to maintaining a normal heartbeat. In fact, it’s involved in all of the electrical activity in your body – from heart contractions and muscle function to nerve impulses, energy production and brain activity.
This explains why low magnesium levels are linked to the development of AFib, even in people who don’t have cardiovascular disease.
Acetyl L-Carnitine is good too. It helps burn off myocardial fat to improve cardiac function. A review of 13 different studies found that l-carnitine was associated with a 65% reduction in ventricular arrythmias.
And there’s good old CoQ10, a favorite of mine. I prefer the more absorbable form called ubiquinol. I think everyone over 40 should be taking it every day.
It powers up the energy factors (mitochondria) that produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate). This process is what creates all of the energy necessary to fuel the demands of your heart and reduce the instance of AFib – even in people with existing heart disease.
So there you have it. As long as you don’t have any adverse reactions, enjoy your coffee or tea – even if you have AFib. And if you do have AFib you can help steady that irregular beat with a few common supplements.
Just keep in mind that if you have chronic extra beats, chronic fluttering, or an existing heart condition, you should go see a cardiologist and address the underlying issue.
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