What is caffeine?
Sometimes it is hard to stay awake. To prevent feeling sluggish, you may eat or drink something containing caffeine. Coffee is the most popular choice and has been a part of our diet for over 1000 years. It increases alertness by stimulating the nervous system. So in the age of home brews and Starbucks, controversy has intensified. Does caffeine raise blood pressure? The simple answer is yes, but the details make the outcome much more complex.
Caffeine is one of the most consumed pharmacological substances in the world, with more than 90% of U.S. adults stating they have a daily intake of it. It is a stimulant and, under certain conditions, can aid in being alert. It takes about 30 minutes on average for caffeine to kick in, and its effects can last up to six hours. However, it can remain in your body longer. It is important to know that it can reduce sleep and will not provide the same alertness and cognitive benefit as a good night's rest.
It is reported that adults consume 4mg/kg a day of caffeine. This is about 2 -4 cups of coffee. But many people are sensitive to even one cup and feel jittery or insomnia effects sooner. Caffeine enters every tissue of your body and has universal effects on the peripheral and central nervous systems. The universal intake of caffeine and its effects have led to many questions regarding its influence on your health.
Does caffeine have benefits?
It has been noted that coffee may have some positive effects on the GI system. Some who drink coffee have increased bowel movements, which helps with constipation. Some studies have shown results that support coffee leading to a reduced risk of gallstones, diabetes, kidney stones, and some protection from colon cancer. It stimulates urination and has been studied in men with benign prostatic hyperplasia. It may provide some relief for asthmatics because it widens bronchial tubes.
But some people may develop heartburn or acid reflux. Coffee’s metabolic effects are still being studied. Though filtered and instant coffee has no effect on cholesterol levels, Turkish, boiled, expresso, and plunger pot coffee has shown some risk of increasing values.
How does caffeine affect blood pressure?
A short, dramatic increase in your blood pressure may occur after consuming caffeine, even if you do not have clinically high blood pressure. The blood pressure response to caffeine varies between individuals, and it is unclear what exactly causes the increase. But a rise in blood pressure is the best known cardiovascular effect of caffeine, and it is the part of coffee that increases blood pressure.
Some studies suggest that blood pressure is increased by caffeine due to a rise in peripheral vascular resistance. This effect is higher in people with hypertension, and caffeine does make larger and longer-lasting increases in those prone to future hypertension due to caffeine's ability to block vascular adenosine receptors. But studies have not yet shown a definitive relationship between dietary caffeine consumption and hypertension incidence. This is because regular caffeine intake has led to tolerance to blood pressure effects.
Doctors suggest that people avoid caffeine sources like coffee before checking their blood pressure. This is advised based on the fact that caffeine will raise the blood pressure enough to wager an inaccurate BP reading. Ongoing research supports a link between coffee and hypertension, but a 1987 Italian investigator suggested that it may even reduce blood pressure. Coffee or consumption type is also a factor. Expresso is stronger, but an IV shot of caffeine should be even stronger. In a study, blood caffeine levels increased to the same degree after caffeine injections and expresso intake. But the straight caffeine had a smaller effect on blood pressure (averaging only an increase of 6mm HG) vs. the expresso shot. Coffee drinkers and those who didn’t drink coffee also responded comparably to the IV caffeine.
Where do you consume caffeine?
Most of your dietary caffeine comes from food and beverages like chocolate in small amounts. Coffee has more caffeine than most drinks, and the amount drunk depends on age. Adults drink most coffee, and teens and young adults consume caffeinated energy drinks. People drink carbonated sugary sweet drinks that begin during childhood and peak in adulthood. So chief sources of caffeine differ by age. The drinking of energy drinks has increased in recent years, and the drinking of caffeinated sugar-sweetened beverages has gone down.
A coffee brew has a lot of effects beyond the cardiovascular system and is complex. Many benefit from alertness, but some respond with anxiety, insomnia, and tremors. Consistent coffee drinkers have a mild dependence so a quick withdrawal can cause headaches. Those with migraines may trigger an attack by an unexpected increase or decrease in consumption. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises that it is safe for most people to intake 400 mg of caffeine daily.
What happens if you stop consuming caffeine?
Coffee does raise blood pressure in those who are not regular coffee drinkers, affecting those that are sensitive and younger. The hypertensive effects seem to depend on ingredients other than caffeine, according to studies. Consistent coffee drinkers have adapted to the ingredients, so their BP does not significantly rise. Those who are not used to it will get a temporary rise after drinking, so stopping the intake will decrease the effects.
Caffeine use has not been linked to a definitive diagnosis or progression of hypertension. Habitual caffeine effects on long-term BP are not permanent due to adaptation, so results will always be questionable. Studies will remain variable due to lack of attention to high-risk groups, caffeine intake reports may be unreliable, and due to universal caffeine use, a caffeine-free control group is hard to identify.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Heart Association: "Blood Pressure Response to Caffeine Shows Incomplete Tolerance After Short-Term Regular Consumption."
Centers for Disease Control: "Caffeine & Long Work Hours."
Harvard Health Publishing: "Coffee and your blood pressure."
Mayo Clinic: "Caffeine: How does it affect blood pressure?"
Nutrients: "Sources of Caffeine in Diets of US Children and Adults: Trends by Beverage Type and Purchase Location."
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