Ahh the morning drink. Maybe it’s coffee. Maybe it’s a latte. Maybe it’s tea. For the vast majority of people, it’s caffeinated and in addition to the taste and ritual, serves a specific purpose: provide energy for the day.
For many, maybe one cup isn’t enough. A couple coffees to start the day is very common among Americans, especially those heading into the streets of Corporate America each day. It’s not only an excuse to get up and stretch your legs, but a necessity to get through morning meetings and add a little focus to your first few tasks.
But a morning beverage isn’t an option for everyone. Some people experience terrible anxiety if they start their day by taking in even 100 milligrams of caffeine (the average cup of coffee or latte).
And other people don’t want to sign up for the physical effects too much caffeine can create. Chief among them? A rise in blood pressure and the potential for heart palpitations.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that - among older men and women - consuming 300+ milligrams of caffeine, equivalent to approximately three to four cups of coffee, can lead to a significant increase in blood pressure and heart rate. In individuals with pre-existing heart conditions, even lower doses of caffeine can trigger palpitations and other cardiovascular symptoms.
So how exactly does caffeine affect both blood pressure and heart rate?
Let’s start with blood pressure.
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries, which carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. It is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and is expressed as two numbers, such as 120/80 mmHg.
The top number, called systolic pressure, measures the force of blood against the artery walls when the heart contracts and pumps blood out. The bottom number, called diastolic pressure, measures the force of blood against the artery walls when the heart is at rest between beats.
Blood pressure is important because it indicates how well your heart and blood vessels are working. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can put a strain on your heart and blood vessels while low blood pressure, or hypotension, can cause dizziness, fainting, and other symptoms.
So what’s the relationship between caffeine and blood pressure? It starts with your brain, oddly enough.
How can caffeine cause higher blood pressure?
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that increases the production of adrenaline, a hormone that triggers the fight or flight response.
When the fight or flight response is triggered in someone, their body undergoes a series of physiological changes in preparation for a perceived threat or danger. These changes are initiated by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which releases hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline into the bloodstream.
Among those changes? You guessed it: an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
As part of the fight or flight response some feel when consuming caffeine, some people undergo vasoconstriction, or the narrowing of blood vessels.
Vasoconstriction is the narrowing of blood vessels that occurs when the muscles in the walls of the blood vessels contract, leading to a decrease in their diameter. This process can be triggered by a variety of factors, including the activation of the sympathetic nervous system during the fight or flight response.
When the fight or flight response is triggered, the sympathetic nervous system releases adrenaline and noradrenaline, which bind to receptors on the smooth muscle cells in the walls of blood vessels. This binding causes these muscle cells to contract, leading to vasoconstriction. The purpose of vasoconstriction during the fight or flight response is to redirect blood flow away from non-essential organs, such as the digestive system, and towards the muscles and other organs needed for physical activity.
When blood vessels are narrowed, blood flow is, you guessed it, constricted. The increase in resistance can lead to an increase in blood pressure as the heart begins to pump harder to continue blood flow.
And that takes us to heart palpitations.
Caffeine and Heart Palpitations
This increased pressure resulting from the vasoconstriction can then cause the heart to beat harder and faster, leading to heart palpitations. Heart palpitations are a potential side effect of caffeine consumption. Palpitations are an awareness of the heart beating and can be accompanied by a feeling of discomfort, fluttering or skipped beats.
Additionally, caffeine can interfere with the balance of electrolytes in the body, such as potassium and magnesium, which can also contribute to heart palpitations.
Electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium play a critical role in maintaining the proper function of cells, including those in the heart. Imbalances in these electrolytes can disrupt the electrical signals in the heart and lead to arrhythmias, including heart palpitations.
But there are solutions for caffeine’s blood pressure increasing tendencies.
How to counteract caffeine’s potential to raise blood pressure
Adding a vasodilator like l-theanine can mitigate caffeine's negative side effects while enhancing its cognitive benefits. l-theanine, found in green tea leaves, prevents blood vessel constriction, thereby preventing the stress response from being triggered.
So if you struggle with blood pressure and are sensitive to caffeine, there’s hope for your morning yet. You too can enjoy caffeine's glorious cognitive enhancing benefits, but it's important to be mindful of its potential negative impacts on cardiovascular health.
Ultimately, being informed and mindful of caffeine consumption habits can help individuals optimize their cognitive and physical health.
Blossom’s Superfood Latte Mixes
If you're someone who experiences anxiety or adverse effects from caffeine, Blossom's instant superfood latte mixes could be a great alternative for you.
The lattes contain a moderate 100mg of caffeine from guarana and green tea extracts, combined with 200mg of l-theanine to support focus and alertness, and 100mg of GABA to support stress and anxiety. The latte mixes are organic, plant-based, gluten-free, and available in four delicious flavors: Matcha, Chai, Turmeric, and Cacao.
We also offer a Vanilla Lavender Sleep Latte with l-theanine for mental and physical relaxation, valerian root to cut in half the time it takes you to fall asleep, and GABA to elongate REM and deep sleep cycles, ensuring that you wake up feeling refreshed.
Try our lattes today and reap the benefits of a calm, focused, and alert mind without the negative side effects of too much caffeine.