It is not uncommon to hear patients say that, when they started experiencing racing or skipping a heartbeat, they stopped drinking caffeinated beverages. In general, there is a widespread perception that caffeine may be a root cause of a racing heart, even in light of our overwhelming consumption of caffeinated products, including energy drinks, coffee, and energy supplements.
Caffeine is a natural product that is derived from the raw fruit that grows on coffee plants. Some tea leaves also have caffeine, as does cocoa, kola nuts, and yerba maté. When we consume caffeine, the chemical is absorbed by the body within 30 minutes to an hour.
Whether you feel its effects or not, the fact is that caffeine does affect the heart. When caffeine is consumed in substantial amounts (and that can be a single energy drink), the level of epinephrine rises in the blood. You may not recognize this name, epinephrine, but you may know what adrenaline is, and it’s the same thing. When the body has high levels of adrenaline, blood pressure and the force of the heartbeat increases. Heart rate may also increase, but usually only slightly. For the person who is more susceptible to abnormal heart rhythms, caffeine may cause palpitations or skipped beats.
The uncomfortable sensations of increased heart beating and force are normal responses to high doses of caffeine. Typically, symptoms decrease as the body processes caffeine and its resulting epinephrine. In the susceptible person, though, it can take several minutes, hours, or even days for heart rhythm to return to normal.
In most cases, a person will build up a tolerance to caffeine over time and the heart-thumping effects will decrease. If symptoms are severe or persist long after caffeine consumption has occurred, there is a good reason to contact your doctor. A thorough examination and specific cardiac screenings may also be beneficial if you develop symptoms such as a racing or skipping heartbeat after years of regular caffeine consumption, as your sensations may originate from a source other than caffeine.
Premier Cardiology Consultants provides diagnostic and clinical care for a range of cardiac symptoms. To learn more about our services or to arrange a visit, call 516-437-5600.