Does Coffee Cause or Worsen Afib?
November 15, 2023
Of all the potential causes of Afib, one would not be blamed for thinking that coffee was high among them. After all, the whole point of coffee, for those of us who don’t just like its taste, is to get us up and awake in the morning and keep us going throughout the day. With coffee being a stimulant, wouldn’t it stand to reason that it would worsen Afib and other arrhythmias? Very interestingly, and seemingly paradoxically, this is not the case. In fact, some studies have shown that coffee – we are not yet sure if it’s both coffee and caffeine or caffeine alone – is cardioprotective or helpful in preventing heart disease. Along the same lines, it has been shown that caffeinated coffee may reduce the incidence of cardiac arrhythmias. This study flies in the face of everything we’ve thought over the past few decades, with most healthcare practitioners suggesting that patients eliminate caffeine and coffee if they are at risk of or have developed an arrhythmia.
Let’s jump into the stats surrounding the study¹
- Ground and instant caffeinated coffee reduce the incidence of arrhythmias. This risk reduction was seen with dosages of up to 5 cups per day. This was not seen, however, in decaffeinated coffee.
- Interestingly, different arrhythmias benefited from varying coffee dosages. The risk was lowest for all arrhythmias at 2 to 3 cups per day. Afib risk was lowest at 4 to 5 cups per day, as was SVT, VT, and VF risk. Why different dosages affected different arrhythmias is not entirely clear.
- All types of coffee, including decaffeinated, showed a cardiovascular protective effect.
Based on this data, caffeine and possibly other ingredients in coffee have a protective effect as it relates to arrhythmias, while all coffee products may have some benefit to the cardiovascular system more generally.
Is There Any Downside Risk to Drinking Lots of Coffee?
We are glad you asked! Yes, there can be some considerations when drinking coffee. First, some of the benefits associated with the study may be blunted by what we add to our coffee. If you consume lots of whole-fat milk, which contains saturated fat, and add plenty of sugar, you risk the increased likelihood of metabolic disease, including heart disease, which can worsen Afib. Also, while this study showed a distinct benefit of caffeine, we all react to it differently, and some patients will indeed find that caffeine triggers their Afib. These patients should avoid caffeine in the future.
Caffeine can also worsen sleep patterns, especially when consumed in the evening or before bed. Sleep is essential to mental and physical health, and proper sleep patterns have been associated with reduced metabolic disease and improved overall health. Be mindful that your coffee consumption does not cause a negative change in your sleep patterns.
Finally, we must mention the upper limit of the benefits provided by caffeine. This study covered up to 5 cups per day, a significant amount of coffee, but some people consume even more. The benefits of coffee begin to blur at these very high levels. Again, we preach moderation here, and coffee should not be considered a medicine for cardiovascular concerns.
The Bottom Line
While caffeine and coffee seem to be arrhythmia and generally cardioprotective, they are no substitute for medical care, and patients should not start or modify their caffeine or coffee consumption to try to ameliorate a cardiovascular concern. This is especially true for arrhythmias, which are chronic and worsening conditions. While lifestyle change may improve an arrhythmia, anyone who has experienced an episode of Afib or other arrhythmia should be under the care of a qualified electrophysiologist like Dr. Tordini to enjoy the full range of potential treatment options. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with Afib, we encourage you to treat them early before they become more persistent and difficult to manage. Please contact our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Tordini and get started on the path to a healthier heart.
- David Chieng, Rodrigo Canovas, Louise Segan, Hariharan Sugumar, Aleksandr Voskoboinik, Sandeep Prabhu, Liang Han Ling, Geoffrey Lee, Joseph B Morton, David M Kaye, Jonathan M Kalman, Peter M Kistler, The impact of coffee subtypes on incident cardiovascular disease, arrhythmias, and mortality: long-term outcomes from the UK Biobank, European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 2022;, zwac189, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurjpc/zwac189