By: Professional Health Services, Inc.
With apologies to Frank Sinatra, stress and coffee go together even better than love and marriage! But are there health risks associated with too much caffeine?
The answer is yes. Let’s take a look at some of the health risks associated with that afternoon cup of joe (or can of soda) — and how to cut back without withdrawal symptoms.
Health risks of caffeine
Moderate caffeine intake, about 2-4 cups of coffee per day, is fine — it has even been shown to have health benefits, especially when you get your caffeine in antioxidant-rich teas and coffee. But many Americans go way beyond what’s considered moderate or healthy when it comes to coffee, soda, tea and energy drink use. Too much caffeine (about 4-7 cups of coffee per day, or its equivalent from other sources) can lead to:
- stomach ailments and nausea
- fast or irregular heartbeat
- muscle tremors
- high blood pressure
Caffeine overuse can help create a vicious cycle, because caffeine can keep you from getting adequate sleep, which in turn means you need more coffee to get going the next morning. So if you’re in the high-caffeine-intake club, it’s probably time to take your caffeine consumption down a notch. But do it safely and gradually, because caffeine is an addictive drug with its own withdrawal symptoms — primarily headache, fatigue, grumpiness and possibly dehydration.
Decreasing caffeine dependence safely
Take a step away from your caffeine habit with these tips:
• Cut out a cup of coffee or a can of soda per day to begin with — or take smaller cups.
• Drink lots of water to keep hydrated and help prevent headaches.
• Take a B-vitamin supplement to help with stress and balance your moods.
• Finish drinking coffee, tea or caffeinated sodas by 2 p.m. (or eight hours before you plan to go to bed).
• If home-brewed iced tea is your drug of choice, mix in some decaf teabags with the regular ones when making your next pitcher. Increase the decaf-to-caffeinated ratio with each pitcher until it’s mostly or fully decaffeinated, depending on your needs.
• Make your coffee with half caffeinated and half decaf coffee. With soda, you can switch to diet if you’ve been drinking the sugar-laden regular colas. That can help you avoid the major crash that comes from cutting out both sugar and caffeine at the same time. However, the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas may also be addictive and harmful — so don’t simply trade one bad habit for another!
Energy drinks: A safe stimulant?
Energy drinks typically contain a combination of high doses of caffeine, large amounts of sugar and, often, added herbal supplements. Regular use can cause energy spikes that later lead to crashes and can also raise your blood pressure. The addition of vitamins doesn’t necessarily make them a healthy choice. There are safer ways to supplement.
What’s your caffeine consumption?
Want to know how much caffeine is in the coffee, tea, soda and other beverages you like best? See this Mayo Clinic list of beverages and their caffeine content.
The verdict? Caffeine can be our friend and a useful tool on “deadline days” — but use it wisely and in appropriate doses if you want to avoid addiction, sleeplessness and other serious health problems.