Americans love coffee. About 80% of Americans drink coffee every day, and the caffeine within it does affect blood pressure. Thankfully these effects aren’t necessarily harmful, but there is a definite link between coffee, caffeine, and blood pressure.
The average 12-ounce cup of coffee has around 100 milligrams of caffeine, generally speaking, though there are variations when it comes to brand, roast, etc. Within 30 minutes to two hours, you’ll experience the strongest stimulant effects of caffeine, which can include an accelerated heart rate and a higher than normal blood pressure.
But don’t let this worry you. The impacts of caffeine are acute, meaning they won’t lead to chronic high blood pressure for the majority of the population. That said, people with hypertension should definitely monitor their intake to avoid increased risk of a heart attack. As far as overall heart health goes, caffeine poses no long-term threat to blood pressure in people with normal, or even slightly high, blood pressure.
Does Caffeine Influence Blood Pressure?
Yes and no. As previously outlined, it can cause short-term increase shortly after consumption. However, there is no evidence to show chronic caffeine consumption has a long-lasting impact on blood pressure; meaning if you’ve been drinking coffee every day for 10 years it will have made virtually no impact on your blood pressure—unless, of course, you’re adding sugar or other calorie-dense ingredients that can lead to weight gain. But from the standpoint of looking specifically at caffeine, it is neutral with regard to long-term blood pressure.
Not everybody has the same acute reactions to caffeine, however. Tolerance is completely unique and differs from person to person. One person may drink coffee every day and get a buzz after one cup, while another may need two or three to exhibit the same response.
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How Does Caffeine Affect Blood Pressure?
Caffeine can cause a short and sharp increase in blood pressure, but the cause is not exactly clear. Caffeine is a known stimulant, but its impact in blood pressure could be a result of two specific factors. The first is that it might block production of a hormone that’s needed to keep arteries wide.
However, I’ve noticed this impact can be circumvented when caffeine is used in conjunction with certain amino acids like arginine or citrulline malate. The other potential cause of increased blood pressure might be that caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands to pump more adrenaline through your body, leading to increased blood pressure.
In any event, you might feel your blood pressure increase after a coffee, or you might not. Any discomfort you feel will pass within two hours. If you drink caffeine and have hypertension, try slowing down or cutting back. Because your blood pressure is already very high, the boost experienced from the influence of caffeine could potentially lead to the onset of a serious episode like a heart attack.
If you have high blood pressure, it’s recommended you avoid caffeine before doing anything that will naturally boost blood pressure. Therefore, things like weightlifting, running, or even entering a stressful situation should be done without the added stimulant—these types of activities will get your heart moving all on their own.
You can monitor how caffeine impacts your blood pressure by taking pre-and post-caffeine readings. Simply measure your blood pressure before drinking coffee, then measure it again 30 to 120 minutes following consumption to see if it affects you. If you see an increase between five and 10 mm HG, then you’re likely sensitive to caffeine.
Caffeine and Blood Pressure Response over Sex, Age and Hormonal Status
Caffeine may impact blood pressure depending on your age and gender, but exactly how much is unclear, and likely unimportant for most of the population. The only group that might want to be careful about caffeine intake—or at least monitor its effect on blood pressure—are people over 70. And women over 70 should be the most careful, if they are hypertensive.
I don’t think caffeine poses any severe risks to people with blood pressure in the normal range, and it doesn’t have to be avoided. There is really no solid science pointing to potential dangers, regardless of sex or age. If you drink a coffee or two in the morning and feel OK, I see no reason to stop.
But if you have high blood pressure or are hypertensive, it might be worthwhile switching to decaf. Ultimately, your current blood pressure is the determining factor on whether or not caffeine can pose a risk.
Is There a Link between Caffeine Consumption and Blood Pressure Measurement?
Caffeine consumption and blood pressure are linked only if you’re measuring blood pressure within two hours of having caffeine. Caffeine spikes blood pressure 30 to 120 minutes after intake (in those who are sensitive), but this is the only time when a noticeable difference in blood pressure occurs. Caffeine has a half-life of three to six hours, so it’s possible to see a slight variation in blood pressure within this time period as well, but it’s unlikely to be pronounced.
Caffeine affects diastolic blood pressure by four to 13 points, and it can impact systolic blood pressure by three to 15 points. If you’re going to have your blood pressure checked, avoid taking caffeine beforehand in order to get an accurate reading and prevent any unnecessary concerns or actions.
Effects of Caffeine on Your Health
With 80% of Americans drinking coffee every day, and even more getting it from various other sources, caffeine is not a major threat to your health or blood pressure, unless you’re hypertensive. Of course, there are ways that coffee or caffeine can become dangerous for your heart. Avoid putting in sugars, creamers, and other calorie-rich substances, and try to keep your consumption to four cups a day or less. Your tolerance will determine how much caffeine you can handle, but typically four cups is a safe limit.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant and can change how you think and feel. It causes acute changes by stimulating your central nervous system, typically leading to improved focus, alertness, and awareness.
Much like any substance, natural or not, there are some unwanted side effects that can occur depending on dosage, tolerance, and timing. These include:
- Jitters or shakes
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Increased heart rate
- Headaches or dizziness
At the end of the day, drinking coffee seems to have far more benefits than risks for the overwhelming majority of the population, and its impact on blood pressure is of little concern.
Sources for Today’s Article:
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Farag, N., et al, “Caffeine and Blood Pressure Response: Sex, Age and Hormonal Status,” Journal of Women’s Health, 2010; doi: 10.1089/jwh.2009.1664.
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