If you’re a big coffee fan—or a caffeine fan in general—you may wonder if those post-sip jitters affect your heart’s rhythm. After all, it’s not uncommon for people with heart rhythm issues to avoid caffeinated beverages altogether. But according to new research published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, caffeine might not necessarily increase the risk of arrhythmia, or irregular or abnormal heartbeats. Here’s what to know.
Studying how coffee affects heartbeat.
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For this research, the team honed in on whether caffeine intake is linked with arrhythmia risk by analyzing data from a long-term health study involving over 386,000 people that included questions about caffeine consumption.
When the follow-up for that health study came along, around 17,000 participants had developed a heart rhythm problem. (It was around four and a half years later, on average.) The researchers then looked for connections between arrhythmias and caffeine consumption.
Even after considering the genetic factors that can influence how we metabolize caffeine, “We could find no evidence on a population level that those who consumed more coffee or those exposed to more caffeine experienced a heightened risk for arrhythmias,” study co-author Gregory Marcus, Ph.D. said in a news release.
In fact, the team actually saw that drinking coffee might lower the risk for arrhythmia—but only by a small degree.
“The majority of people, even those with arrhythmias, should be able to enjoy their cup of coffee, and maybe there are some people for whom caffeine or coffee may actually help reduce their risk,” Marcus concludes. Sweet news for coffee fans everywhere.
If you have an irregular heart rhythm, you’ll of course want to ask your doctor about the caffeine protocol they recommend. As Marcus adds, these findings don’t rule out the possibility that caffeine can be a trigger for some people, but those instances were rare in this particular study.
We still have a lot to learn about how coffee impacts the heart, so this certainly isn’t a call to drink a whole pot—whether you have a heart issue or not. However, based on this research, most people should be fine enjoying their daily cup (or cups) of caffeine in moderation.