Caffeine boosts energy, but does it raise blood pressure?

If you find yourself reaching for a cup of coffee every morning or swigging an energy drink each afternoon, you’re not alone. Caffeine is the world’s most-consumed drug—found in the leaves and fruits of some plants, and a key ingredient in caffeinated beverages like coffee, energy drinks, soft drinks, and black or green tea. It’s also found in energy snacks and some non-prescription drugs.

You know that caffeine gives you a boost, and it’s those same energizing properties that can raise blood pressure, even in people with no history of high blood pressure (hypertension). Should you avoid caffeine if you have high blood pressure, or is it safe to consume? Read on to learn more.

How does caffeine affect blood pressure?

Caffeine is a stimulant that causes a short-term increase in blood pressure. “It can cause your heart rate and the force of your blood flow to increase temporarily,” says Flora Sadri-Azarbayejani, DO, MPH, the medical director at Psyclarity Health and former family physician. This increase in blood flow may lead to an immediate elevation in blood pressure, which usually lasts a few hours.

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“The impacts on blood pressure are real,” says Danielle Kelvas, MD, the chief medical adviser at Sleepline. “When I worked in the ER, I had several cases of teenagers who came in with arrhythmias [also known as irregular heartbeat] from too many energy drinks.” 

How each individual responds to caffeine is unique. Someone who drinks one cup of coffee daily has likely built a tolerance to it, where their body has become used to it and more caffeine is needed to feel an effect. If you’ve developed a caffeine tolerance, it’s likely you won’t notice any difference in blood pressure. On the other hand, a person who consumes caffeine infrequently or has a sensitivity to it might feel it more side effects. 

How long does caffeine raise blood pressure? 

Caffeine works quickly and can cause a temporary spike in blood pressure levels as soon as 30 minutes after consumption. The elevation typically lasts between one to four hours, says Dr. Sadri-Azarbayejani. The effects of caffeine can last longer depending on how much and what type was consumed. For instance, a 10-ounce cup of regular coffee is digested more quickly than a caffeine pill, which can have effects for three to seven hours.

Everyone’s response to caffeine is different, but for those prone to high blood pressure, or chronic hypertension, caffeine’s effects may be more serious and longer-lasting. This is particularly true if someone is drinking more than the recommended daily amount, says Dr. Sadri-Azarbayejani, as it increases the risk of arrhythmia and increases blood pressure for a longer period during the day. 

Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning that it narrows blood vessels. This makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood through them. When you consume caffeine throughout the day, it can increase your blood pressure chronically, because your heart is working harder to get blood through the constricted vessels. 

People with hypertension should be cautious when consuming caffeine and should reduce their caffeine intake to 400 mg or less to prevent long-term blood pressure elevation. And if you notice that you experience signs of elevated blood pressure after caffeine consumption, let your healthcare provider know; you might have an increased sensitivity to caffeine.

Can people with high blood pressure drink coffee?

For most people, a cup of coffee is fine and won’t have any long-lasting impacts on blood pressure. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends no more than 400 mg of caffeine daily for healthy adults, which is about four 10-ounce cups of coffee. If you have hypertension, it’s likely that you can enjoy a cup of coffee safely, but it’s important to seek medical advice from your healthcare team first; their recommendation will likely depend on how serious your hypertension is and how much coffee you’ve been drinking. 

If you have caffeine, like a cup of coffee, it might be best in the morning, when you naturally have lower blood pressure after being at rest overnight. It tends to be the highest midday after moving and running around, says Dr. Kelvas.

“If your blood pressure is wildly out of control, or above 140/90 mmHg, avoid caffeine,” Dr. Kelvas says. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Having chronically high blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack and stroke, which largely outweighs the benefits of consuming caffeine,” Dr. Kelvas says. “It’s always a risk versus benefit analysis.”

Other factors can play a role in whether you should cut back on caffeine or eliminate it entirely, including whether or not you have other cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Kelvas recommends that patients on anti-arrhythmia medication steer clear of caffeine. Blood pressure medication like beta blockers can be affected by caffeine, so check with your provider, she says. If your high blood pressure is not too severe, a cup of coffee (with no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day) is likely safe. 

RELATED: What causes hypertension?

Does coffee have heart health benefits?

High blood pressure can be a risk factor for health events like heart attacks and strokes, and often doesn’t have visible symptoms. But if you’re a coffee connoisseur and your blood pressure is under control, good news: Coffee consumption can be good for your heart. This is important because, over time, untreated hypertension can narrow your arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes. 

One review found that, in healthy people, drinking three to five cups of coffee (remember to keep it under 400 mg of caffeine a day) reduced the risk of heart disease by 15%. The same review found that compared to not drinking coffee at all, between one to five cups daily is associated with a lower risk of death. 

An analysis of the data from three large, well-known studies also found that a higher coffee intake was associated with a reduced risk of heart failure. And one large meta-analysis showed that having moderate amounts of coffee didn’t have a negative long-term effect on cardiovascular health.

“However, these benefits are best enjoyed when caffeine is consumed in moderation, as any excessive intake [over the recommended 400 mg daily] can lead to long-term elevations in blood pressure,” says Dr. Sadri-Azarbayejani. So, coffee drinkers should enjoy a standard cup of coffee or two but skip the supersize lattes. 

How to lower your blood pressure 

If you have chronic hypertension, reducing or eliminating caffeine can help, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. There are other lifestyle changes you can make to keep your blood pressure in check if it’s high or reduce your risk of hypertension if it’s not.

  • Quit smoking. Interestingly, there is no conclusive evidence that smokers have higher blood pressure than non-smokers. But we do know that nicotine temporarily raises blood pressure and is an independent risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. One study also found that quitting smoking significantly reduced blood pressure in a group of people with hypertension. It’s also one of the best things you can do for your health.
  • Add exercise to your routine. “Regular physical activity helps bring down blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mmHg by making your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood,” Dr. Sadri-Azarbayejani says. The stronger your heart is, the more blood it can pump with less effort, which reduces the pressure in your arteries.
  • Reduce sodium intake. Cutting back on salt and foods with lots of sodium, like processed and packaged foods, can help lower your blood pressure. Reducing high-sodium foods means your body won’t hold on to as much water and will bring down blood pressure readings.
  • Work with your provider on a weight loss plan. If you’re obese or overweight (more than 73% of the U.S. population is), losing weight can help lower your blood pressure. Being overweight or obese also puts you at risk for other cardiovascular diseases and comorbidities such as Type 2 diabetes. 
  • Try the DASH diet. Adjusting how you eat is a great way to manage hypertension and is an important factor in weight loss. The DASH diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, can help with high blood pressure and reduce the risk of other chronic diseases.
  • Limit alcohol. Although one drink likely won’t raise your blood pressure, binge drinking will increase it temporarily. In women, binge drinking is four or more drinks in one session; for men, it’s five or more. And if you drink often, you’re at a higher risk of developing chronic high blood pressure.
  • Check for other causes. If you’re seeing your healthcare professional about high blood pressure, don’t forget to mention anything else that’s going on, either physically or mentally. “Sometimes high blood pressure is a symptom of another problem,” says Dr. Kelvas. For example, someone with chronic pain will have higher-than-normal blood pressure or they may be dealing with anxiety. High blood pressure can also be indicative of kidney or thyroid disease.

It’s important for high blood pressure be diagnosed. You can check your blood pressure at home or at the pharmacy. If it is over 140/90, you should see your healthcare provider for treatment. Take high blood pressure seriously because it can cause cardiovascular diseases. But if you love your coffee and consult with your healthcare provider, it’s likely that you can still enjoy it while working toward a heart-healthy future. 



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