Home Health Energy Drinks and Heart Attacks: Is There a Connection?

Energy Drinks and Heart Attacks: Is There a Connection?

energy drinks Photo 97125375 © Monticelllo | Dreamstime.com
(Photo 97125375 © Monticelllo | Dreamstime.com)

Medically reviewed by Kristin Shaffer, PA-C — Written by Steve Barry

 

Energy drinks have become increasingly popular, especially among young adults. An estimated 30%Trusted Source of U.S. teenagers now consume energy drinks on a regular basis.

Although energy drinks are promoted as a way to boost physical or mental performance, excessive consumption of energy drinks has been associated with cardiovascular side effects, including increased blood pressure, heart disease, and heart attack.

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Here’s what you need to know about the connection between energy drinks and heart attacks.

Can energy drinks cause a heart attack?

In recent years, excessive energy drink consumption has been linked to an increase in emergency visits and life-threatening cardiovascular complications, including heart attacks.

Energy drinks contain moderate to high amounts of caffeine and sugar, along with various stimulating ingredients like guarana, taurine, carnitine, and ginseng.

Data suggests the maximum recommended daily intake of caffeine is 100 milligrams (mg) per day for adolescents and 400 mg per day for adults. Yet some energy drinks contain more than 500 mg of caffeine, which can lead to caffeine toxicity. Herbal ingredients like guarana also contain high amounts of caffeine.

While consuming low to moderate amounts of caffeine is considered safe, consuming high levels of caffeine can cause serious health issues.

Other ingredients like taurine and ginseng have stimulating effects that may lead to health problems in high doses, especially when combined with caffeine. Studies have shown that many energy drinks contain excessive amounts of these ingredients. For example, some energy drinks contain more than 10 times the recommended daily intake of taurine.

2017 review found that the excessive consumption of energy drinks may lead to a variety of cardiovascular issues, including arrhythmias, cardiac arrest, and myocardial infarction. The researchers noted that these cases typically involved excessive consumption of energy drinks in a short period, often combined with alcohol or other stimulants.

However, despite the link between excessive energy drink consumption and heart failure, there’s not enough evidence to determine a cause-and-effect relationship.

More research is needed on the safety of energy drink consumption and the synergistic effect of their combined ingredients.

Can energy drinks damage your heart?

Research suggests excessive consumption of energy drinks may damage the heart in several different ways, leading to various cardiovascular issues.

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia or atypical heart rhythm. It can cause a fast, pounding heartbeat or shortness of breath and is the leading cardiac cause of stroke.

2011 case report described two healthy adolescent males ages 14 and 16 who developed atrial fibrillation after consuming energy drinks. One of them consumed alcohol along with energy drinks.

Blood pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, includes complications like blood vessel damage, stroke, and heart attack.

2019 study found that energy drinks increase blood pressure, which may cause health problems in people with hypertension.

Arrhythmias

Heart arrhythmias are caused by problems with the heart’s electrical system, which regulates the heartbeat. This can lead to a heart that beats too slow or too fast.

2021 review found that acute energy drink consumption can disrupt the heart’s electrical system in several ways, leading to increased resting heart rateThe authors noted that these changes may be concerning for people with certain risk factors, including those with:

  • diabetes
  • high body mass index (BMI)
  • family history of cardiovascular disease

Heart failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood for your body’s needs.

In a 2021 case report, a 21-year-old male who consumed an average of four cans of energy drinks per day for 2 years was found to have both heart failure and kidney failure. His heart symptoms and function significantly improved with drug treatment and after he stopped consuming energy drinks.

In a different 2021 case report, a 24-year-old male who consumed 8 to 10 cans of energy drinks per day for 2 weeks showed signs of heart damage, including a dilated left ventricle and problems with the heart’s ability to pump blood.

Sugar consumption

Excessive sugar consumption can lead to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and serious medical conditions.

2020 systematic review found that high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, including energy drinks, sodas, and sweetened carbonated beverages, led to increased systolic blood pressure and hypertension in children and adolescents.

It should be noted that not all energy drinks have high amounts of sugar, and some use sugar substitutes.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

MEDICAL EMERGENCY

Call emergency medical services if you experience the symptoms below or observe them in or another person. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help reduce the amount of damage to the heart muscle.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the key symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • chest pain or discomfort, which may last more than a few minutes and feel like uncomfortable pressure or squeezing
  • weakness or light-headedness
  • cold sweats
  • pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
  • pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders
  • shortness of breath

Other symptoms of a heart attack may include unusual tiredness, nausea, or vomiting.

Frequently asked questions about energy drinks and heart attacks

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about energy drinks and heart attacks.

Can energy drinks cause heart palpitations?

Excessive consumption of energy drinks may lead to heart palpitations and arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation, according to research.

Drinking alcohol or using other stimulants along with energy drinks may increase the risk of palpitations.

How do energy drinks affect your heart rate?

Energy drinks have been shown to increase your heart rate by as much as 20 beats per minute, according to one small study.

The effect on your heart rate may depend on the amount of caffeine and other stimulating ingredients in the drink, which can vary widely among products.

How many energy drinks cause heart attacks?

There is currently no consensus on the number of energy drinks that may cause heart attacks. It may depend on many factors, including the ingredients, your age, other medical conditions you may have, and your health history.

2024 study noted instances of people having cardiac arrest after consuming energy drinks.

Takeaway

A single energy drink will likely not cause any health problems. However, consuming excessive amounts of energy drinks may potentially lead to cardiovascular issues, especially when combined with alcohol or other stimulants.

Some case reports have linked energy drink consumption with cardiovascular problems like arrhythmias and heart attacks. More research is needed on the safety of energy drinks and the effects of their various ingredients.

This article originally appeared here and was republished with permission.

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