Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in the nuts, berries, and leaves of certain plants. Caffeine is most commonly consumed as coffee or tea products, and some have estimated that these beverages may be the most widely consumed foods in the world.
Because caffeine is so common in all human cultures, a great deal of research has been done to discover the health effects of caffeine. Relationships between caffeine and heart disease, as well as the caffeine-blood pressure link have been especially active fields of study.
Caffeine intake can cause raised blood pressure in some individuals. Your beginning blood pressure level plays a role in how much of an increase you will experience. Individuals who have normal blood pressure may only experience a temporary increase in blood pressure. The increase tends to be more significant for those who have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Evidence has repeatedly shown that consumption of caffeine does not increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease or heart attack. One very well-known study examined more than 85,000 women over a ten-year period and found that there was no increased risk of these diseases, even in women who drank more than six cups of coffee per day. The Joint National Committee on Hypertension has specifically stated that there is no evidence linking coffee/tea and high blood pressure.
Does caffeine raise blood pressure more drastically if you consume it frequently? Actually, while research has found that your tolerance of caffeine does play a role in how much your blood pressure will be affected by consumption, the opposite seems to be true. A Harvard study found that people who drank coffee for several weeks experienced a smaller increase in their levels than those who were not used to drinking coffee.
While some recent studies have shown a weak link between caffeine and elevations in blood pressure, the results are complicated and only consider short-term effects.
Keep in mind that while caffeine consumption can raise your blood pressure levels, it is not considered a cause of hypertension. If you have normal blood pressure levels, you will generally not need to worry about cutting out caffeine.
If you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure and are concerned about the effects that caffeine may have on your levels, it can be ideal to limit your intake to 200 mg a day. Some healthcare providers may recommend eliminating caffeine completely, however. Decaffeinated products can be an ideal alternative if you're trying to cut back.
There are certain times when you are advised to avoid caffeine to keep your blood pressure levels under control. Women should avoid caffeine during pregnancy to reduce the risk of increased blood pressure. Also be sure to avoid caffeine consumption before having your blood pressure taken to help ensure an accurate test result.
Does caffeine raise blood pressure levels enough for you to be concerned? People who fall into the normal blood pressure range generally don't need to worry about it. If you have high blood pressure, it can't hurt to limit your intake, but ask a licensed healthcare provider to find out how much caffeine is safe for you.
Coffee and tea may actually have many health benefits. While green tea was popular for several years as a healthy source of vitamins and antioxidants, newer research has shown that darker beverages like black tea and coffee may actually be better for you. These dark beverages are a rich source of compounds called polyphenols, which may protect against both heart disease and several types of cancer. Recent studies, for example, have consistently demonstrated a decreased risk of liver cancer in men who drink coffee.
Coffee and tea polyphenols have been shown to lower the level of activated platelets in the blood, which may help prevent blood clots that can lead to stroke. Polyphenols have also been shown to lower the body's concentration of C-reactive protein (CRP), an important factor in inflammation. Decreases in CRP have previously been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and certain types of kidney disease.