Coffee is a popular beverage that many people enjoy, which may have health benefits as it contains antioxidants. However, it is important to consider its effects on blood pressure levels. When you consume coffee, the caffeine in it can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure, even if you do not have a history of hypertension. The extent of this increase varies from person to person, depending on their level of tolerance to caffeine.
What is the Mechanism of Action?
The general belief is that caffeine stimulates the release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands, leading to an increase in blood pressure. Habitual coffee drinkers who regularly consume caffeinated beverages may have a higher average blood pressure compared to those who do not consume caffeine.
The Caffeine Conundrum - How Much to Drink Safely?
Did you know that we are consuming more caffeine than ever before? For example, a large coffee from a popular chain can contain 400 mg of caffeine or more which may represent excessive coffee intake. Some individuals have underlying health issues that predispose them to high sympathetic nervous system stimulation which contributes to hypertension. For example, having a medical history of excess weight or using high amounts of salt in the diet can get our sympathetic nervous systems in overdrive.
Studies suggest that consuming 2-4 cups of coffee per day, which is equivalent to 200-300mg of caffeine, can cause a temporary average increase in your systolic blood pressure of approximately 8.1mmHg and diastolic pressures increase by an average of 5.7mmHg. These effects are transient and typically subside within 3-4 hours. It is important to note that currently there is no positive association between long-term coffee consumption and hypertension, or between regular coffee consumption and an increased cardiovascular risk in individuals with hypertension.
If you have high blood pressure, it is advisable to consult your doctor about whether you should limit or avoid caffeinated beverages. For healthy adults, the FDA has established that consuming up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is approximately four or five cups, is generally not associated with harmful effects. However, if you have a history of heart disease or increased risk of hypertension, or stroke, limiting the caffeine consumption is advised. If you are concerned about the impact of caffeine on your systolic pressure readings, it may be beneficial to limit your daily caffeine ingestion to 100 milligrams per day, which is roughly equivalent to one 8-ounce cups of brewed coffee. Of note, the caffeine content in different coffee brands and preparation methods can vary. To get an estimate of how much you consume per day, here is a popular list of Starbucks beverage caffeine content.
Sports and caffeine: safe or not?
If you are hypertensive, it is advisable to avoid consuming caffeine immediately before engaging in activities that naturally raise blood pressure, such as exercise, weightlifting, or strenuous physical labor.
How Does Coffee Affect You?
To determine if caffeine affects your blood pressure, you can measure it before consuming a caffeinated beverage, and then again 60 to 120 minutes later. If your systolic pressure increases by approximately 5 to 10 points, it may indicate you are sensitive to the blood pressure-raising effects of caffeine.
Take Away Points:
Coffee consumption has been linked to an increase in blood pressure, particularly in individuals who are susceptible.
Limit caffeine intake to less than 100 milligrams per day if you have a history of elevated blood pressure.
Avoid drinking excess caffeine before working out.
To prevent withdrawal symptoms, gradually reduce your caffeine intake over a few days to a week.