If you started your day with a cup of joe, you’re not alone! 64 percent of adults reported drinking at least one cup of coffee on an average day in a 2015 Gallup polls. Approximately 150 million Americans drink 400 million cups of coffee per day - that's more than 140 billion cups per year! And in addition to these brews, over 158 million Americans are drinking tea - many in combination with their favorite Starbucks beverage.
With the majority of these beverages comes a dose of caffeine, which many people rely on to jumpstart their day. But this begs an important question - how can we ensure that we aren’t enjoying too much of a good thing? As is often the case when it comes to healthy living, caffeine can be beneficial in moderation but can have negative side effects if we enjoy too much of it. The trick, then, is enjoying the right balance of caffeine. And to help you find that balance, we’ve answered some common questions about your daily partner-in-crime:
- What is caffeine? Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant that can be found in more than 60 different plant sources, from coffee beans to tea leaves. Caffeine affects our central nervous system, and as any coffee drinker knows, it can help increase and improve alertness, concentration and focus.
- What are the benefits of consuming drinks with caffeine? Sure, caffeine is a great pick-me-up - but many studies to date have documented some additional benefits to enjoying caffeinated beverages in moderation. According to Medicalnewstoday.com, 'The potential health benefits associated with drinking coffee include protecting against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, liver disease, liver cancer, and promoting a healthy heart.' Some studies suggest that a cup of joe can improve long term memory as well. Tea drinkers may also benefit from their brew - studies suggest that tea may reduce your heart attack and stroke risk, boost your immune system, and provide a dose of antioxidants.
- Are there downsides to consuming caffeine? Too much of a good thing can quickly turn into a negative. For example, consuming too much of it may be bad news for overall heart health, although this is still being studied. But while this specific side effect is still being studied, caffeine is confirmed to contribute to an elevated heart rate and blood pressure levels. Additionally, caffeine isn’t a diabetic’s best friend, as it can raise blood sugar levels. Caffeine can also worsen insomnia, anxiety and heartburn in the right circumstances. And these effects don’t even take into account the withdrawal symptoms that can plague caffeine addicts!
- What exactly is the right amount of caffeine to enjoy and indulge in? Experts consider 400 milligrams of caffeine per day to be safe to consume. According to Livestrong.com, 'That equates to roughly 3 to 4 cups of drip coffee, 4 to 5 cups of black tea or two energy drinks, depending upon their caffeine content.' No more than this, and you should be able to enjoy the benefits of caffeine while avoiding the worst of its negative side effects.
- What can I do to avoid the negative health effects of caffeine? As you’ve probably guessed, the first step in controlling the effects of caffeine is to ensure that you don’t drink more than the recommended amount of it each day. You’ll also want to check the other beverages you drink - such as pop products - to ensure you’re not drinking too much extra caffeine from sources like these. Finally, you’ll want to stop drinking caffeine at least six hours before you plan on going to bed. Otherwise, your favorite go-to for a boost of energy will keep you from getting a good night’s sleep - which will not be good for your health in the long run.
Caffeine, like many of the things we consume each day, has its place in our daily routine and diet, as long as we consider the amount that we consume. We all should monitor ourselves to ensure our caffeine habit isn’t contributing to sleep, stomach, or other health issues. If you find that you could use a little help analyzing and addressing the effect of caffeine on your health, contact your Genesis Medical doctor to schedule an appointment and review your concerns. Our offices and staff are more than happy to work with you individually to ensure that your caffeine habit is working for you, and not against you!