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September 2021

Coffee Concerns Calmed

It’s commonly assumed that drinking coffee can increase the risk for a fast or irregular heartbeat. In fact, several professional societies recommend avoiding coffee in their official guidelines for preventing arrhythmia. But new research suggests these recommendations might be unfounded. Here’s the latest.

A new, large study including 386,258 coffee-drinkers evaluated the link between regular coffee consumption and risk for fast or irregular heartbeat. Participants were followed for an average of 4.5 years – data on coffee consumption and any incidence of irregular heartbeat were collected. Surprisingly, drinking more coffee was actually linked to a slightly reduced risk of any type of irregular heartbeat. For each additional cup consumed, the relative risk dropped by 3%. Data were also collected on genetic mutations that can affect how the body processes caffeine, and there was no evidence that these mutations affected the results.

If patients ask whether they should drink coffee, tell them there’s mounting evidence that it’s not harmful. The majority of previous recommendations advising some people to avoid it are based on older observational research – the latest evidence shows that it’s probably not a major concern. In fact, it might actually be beneficial. Drinking coffee is linked to a slightly lower risk of dying from any cause or from heart disease. It also doesn’t seem to raise blood pressure, particularly when it’s consumed regularly and in reasonable amounts. For now, tell all patients, including those with and without heart disease, to stick to no more than 4 cups of regular coffee daily. This generally provides 400 mg of caffeine and is likely safe for most people.

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