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Energy Drinks – Bad For Your Heart?

Looking for an extra boost in your day?  You may want to think twice before grabbing that Red Bull.

Over the past few years, the energy drink market has exploded as more and more people turn to these beverages for a quick “pick me up.”  Whether staying alert through an all-night study session, trying to gain an edge during the 50-yard dash, or even just fighting that dreaded mid-afternoon sleepiness, energy drinks are consumed by a wide variety of people for a wide variety of purposes.  But with energy drink popularity on the rise, concerns about their effects on heart health are on the rise as well.

What’s the Big Deal?

So, what is it exactly that has people concerned?  Well, for one, energy drinks are known to increase heart rate and blood pressure.  This is due to the presence of high amounts of caffeine (most energy drinks contain enough caffeine to equal 2 or more cups of coffee) and taurine, an amino acid also known to boost heart rate.

While it is believed that this increase in heart rate and blood pressure is not significant enough to pose a threat to a healthy person if consumed in moderation, there is still some debate over how the drinks affect those with existing heart conditions.  For example, those with hypertension (high blood pressure) are generally advised to avoid energy drinks altogether, as the beverages may aggravate the condition or interfere with the effectiveness of heart medication.  Similarly, people who have any kind of arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) or heart disease should also stay away from these beverages, as drinking even one has the potential to be harmful.

I’ll Have A Red Bull & Vodka, Please

Another major issue with energy drinks is that many people mix them with alcohol.  There are inherent problems with mixing caffeine (a stimulant) and alcohol (a depressant), making this a potentially dangerous combination.  First, the caffeine makes it difficult for a person to gauge his or her level of impairment.  The stimulant causes the drinker to feel more alert, and therefore less intoxicated, which could lead to over-consumption of both the alcohol and the caffeine.  Over-consumption of energy drinks can lead to abnormally high heart rates and, some believe, even heart attacks.

Additionally, it has been shown that binge drinking can also have negative effects on heart health.

Energy Drinks and Sports

A third concern with energy drinks is that they are often marketed to athletes as a way to get a quick energy boost before a game or exercise session.  Since exercise already increases your heart rate and blood pressure, adding an energy drink into the mix has the potential to put unnecessary strain on your heart.  Caffeine is also a well-known diuretic, meaning that is causes people to lose water and thus become dehydrated.  Given that information, it seems rather counterintuitive to drink an energy drink while playing sports, when hydration is very important!


Under the right conditions, consuming energy drinks may indeed provide an energy boost without causing any harm to the imbiber.  However, given the potential risks to heart health, you may want to consider alternative sources for getting energy.  Children, pregnant women, and those with heart conditions may want to consult a heart specialist before partaking of these beverages!

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