Popular energy drinks are great at delivering that jolt of caffeine you may need to finish an intense workout or an all-nighter spent studying. But for some, they may not be so great for your heart.
Research shows that consumption of these highly-caffeinated drinks can lead to a potentially serious heart condition known as Atrial Fibrillation, or Afib, a type of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) occurring in the upper chambers of the heart. If left untreated, Afib could cause heart palpitations, blood clots, stroke, and even heart failure in extreme cases.
The American Heart Association estimates that at least 2.7 million Americans are currently living with Afib.
September is National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month. Because our cardiothoracic specialists at CTVS take heart health and the conditions affecting it very seriously, here are a few important things we want you to know about energy drinks and your heart:
- In a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, evidence suggests that high levels of caffeine in energy drinks may contribute to cardiac complications, such as arrhythmia.
- Research from that same study revealed that in addition to caffeine, energy drinks often contain other ingredients such as taurine (a type of amino acid) and herbs that heighten the effects of caffeine and trigger adverse reactions in the heart.
- The elevated levels of caffeine in energy drinks are typically not labeled, or subject to testing, as with regular soft drinks.
- Patients in similar case studies who have visited emergency rooms due to a sudden rapid heart rate, and having admitted to drinking energy drinks beforehand, have been reported to show Afib on electrocardiograms.
Some symptoms of Afib might include:
- Rapid and irregular heartbeat
- Fluttering or “thumping” in the chest
- Shortness of breath and anxiety
- Light-headness or a sense of confusion
- Chest pain or pressure
How is Afib treated?
Our board-certified cardiothoracic experts treat Afib frequently in our clinics. Depending on the severity of the case, it can be treated with medication, a pacemaker, or surgery if necessary.
Surgical treatments that CTVS offers to correct Afib include the Maze Procedure and the more minimally-invasive Convergent Procedure.
It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you feel any of these symptoms which could indicate Afib or another serious heart condition. Experts agree that further research is needed about the link between energy drinks and their effects on the heart.