Saturday, February 24, 2018

Would Coffee Raise Atrial Fibrillation Risk?

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common cardiac disorder, which occurs when the normal rhythmic pumping of the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) break down. Instead of a normal heartbeat, the atria pulse or fibrillate at a fast or irregular rate. AF can cause dizziness, chest pain, and shortness of breath. It increases a person's risk of stroke and heart failure. Individuals with AF have 6 times the risk of stroke and twice the risk of all-cause mortality compared to those without AF.

Lifestyle like physical activity and diet may play a role in affecting the risk of developing AF. Studies have shown that people with AF may reduce the symptoms if they have right diet. Certain heart-healthy foods like fish, fruits and vegetables may help maintain some control over the heart's rhythms. Some foods that raises the blood pressure or heart rate are certainly bad for the heart and should be avoided. These include foods high in fat, sodium, and sugar. Eating too much of these foods can more likely to trigger events such as heart attacks.

Patients with AF are often told to avoid stimulants like caffeine and alcohol. But the science on caffeine as a trigger for AF is somewhat mixed. Older research suggests there is a link while newer studies do not. Caffeine can be found in widely consumed beverages like coffee, tea and soda.

Researchers from University of Minnesota School of Public Health reported in Journal 'Circulation' that higher alcohol intake is consistently related with an increased AF risk, while moderate intake of alcohol and caffeine seem to have no effect. Their findings were published online September 11, 2010.

Consumption of alcohol and caffeine was not significantly associated with AF risk, as revealed in the findings that were published online November 24, 2010 in the journal 'The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition'.

The other systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies, which was published online September 5, 2013 in Journal 'Heart' by BMJ, indicated that caffeine does not increase the risk of AF. In fact, low-dose caffeine may even have a protective effect.

In 2014, researchers from State Key Laboratory of Cardiovascular Disease, Beijing, China suggested that habitual caffeine intake is unlikely to increase AF risk. Their findings, which were published online January 6, 2014, argued that habitual caffeine consumption may actually reduce AF risk. The research involves analysis of 6 prospective cohort studies that included 228,465 participants. 3 of these studies were done in the US, 2 in Sweden, and 1 in Denmark.

Even though the study suggested that there is a protective effect of caffeine against AF, it is not recommended to use caffeine to treat AF on this basis. The results do reassure AF patients to continue to enjoy a cup or 2 of coffee every day without worry.

Nevertheless, one should note that too much caffeine could raise the blood pressure and heart rate that might trigger episodes of AF. So, stick to no more than 2 or 3 cups a day, or switch to decaf, or do both.

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