Is Coffee OK if You Have High Blood Pressure?

Coffee is one of those things - you either love it or hate it.

You know if you like the taste or not (or if it’s just a reason to drink sugar and cream).

You know how it makes you feel (i.e. your gut, your mind, etc.).

Not to mention the crazy headlines that say coffee is great, and the next day you should avoid it!

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There is actual science behind why different people react differently to it.

It's a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you're used to drinking.

NOTE: Coffee does not equal caffeine.

Coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup.

Coffee is one of the most popular ways to consume this stimulant.

But… a cup of coffee contains a lot of things over and above the caffeine.

Not just water, but antioxidants, and hundreds of other compounds.

These are the reasons drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill.

And decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine; but, it still contains some.

Let's look at caffeine metabolism, its effects on the mind and body, and whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease.

Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is for you or not.

Caffeine metabolism

Not all people metabolize caffeine at the same speed.

How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine.

In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others.

About half of us are “slow” metabolizers of caffeine.

We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel "wired" for up to 9 hours after having a coffee.

The other half is "fast" metabolizers of caffeine.

They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.

This is part of the reason those headlines contradict each other so much - because we’re all different!

The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body

NOTE: Most studies look at caffeinated coffee, not decaf.

The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body also differ between people; this is partly from the metabolism I mentioned.

But it also has to do with your body’s amazing ability to adapt (read: become more tolerant) to long-term caffeine use.

Many people who start drinking coffee feel the effects a lot more than people who have coffee every day.

Here’s a list of these effects (that usually decrease with long-term use):

  • Stimulates the brain

  • Boosts metabolism

  • Boosts energy and exercise performance

  • Increases your stress hormone cortisol

  • Dehydrates

So, while some of these effects are good and some aren’t, you need to see how they affect you and decide if it’s worth it or not.

Coffee and health risks

There are a ton of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.

Here’s a quick summary of what coffee can lead to:

  • Caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. a headache, fatigue, irritability)

  • Increased sleep disruption

  • Lower risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's

  • Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes

  • Lower risk of certain liver diseases

  • Lower risk of death (“all cause mortality")

  • Mixed reviews on whether it lowers risks of cancer and heart disease

Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee (except the caffeine addiction and sleep issues).

NOTE: What’s super-important to note here is that coffee intake is just one of many, many factors that can affect your risks for these diseases.

Please never think regular coffee intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks.

You are health-conscious and know that eating a nutrient-rich whole foods diet, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise are all critical things to consider for your disease risk. It’s not just about the coffee.

Coffee and high blood pressure

Caffeine can cause a short, but dramatic increase in your blood pressure, even if you don't have high blood pressure.

It's unclear what causes this spike in blood pressure.

Some researchers believe that caffeine could block a hormone that helps keep your arteries widened.

Others think that caffeine causes your adrenal glands to release more adrenaline, which causes your blood pressure to increase.

Some people who regularly drink caffeinated beverages have a higher average blood pressure than do those who drink none.

Others who regularly drink caffeinated beverages develop a tolerance to caffeine.

As a result, caffeine doesn't have a long-term effect on their blood pressure.

If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor whether you should limit or stop drinking caffeinated beverages.

If you're concerned about caffeine's effect on your blood pressure, try limiting the amount of caffeine you drink to 200 milligrams a day — about the same amount as is generally in two 8-ounce (237-milliliter) cups of brewed coffee.

Keep in mind that the amount of caffeine in coffee and other beverages varies by brand and method of preparation.

Also, if you have high blood pressure, avoid caffeine right before activities that naturally increase your blood pressure, such as exercise, weightlifting or hard physical labor.

To see if caffeine might be raising your blood pressure, check your blood pressure before drinking a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage and again 30 to 120 minutes afterward.

If your blood pressure increases by about five to 10 points, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine.

If you plan to cut back on caffeine, do so gradually over several days to a week to avoid withdrawal headaches.

Should you drink coffee or not?

There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee.

No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.

Caffeinated coffee is NOT recommended for:

  • People with arrhythmias (e.g. irregular heartbeat)

  • People who often feel anxious

  • People who have trouble sleeping

  • People who are pregnant

  • Children and teens

If none of these apply, then monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee. Does it:

  • Increase your blood pressure?

  • Give you the jitters?

  • Increase anxious feelings?

  • Affect your sleep?

  • Give you heart palpitations?

  • Affect your digestion (e.g. heartburn, etc.)?

  • Give you a reason to drink a lot of sugar and cream?

Depending on how your body reacts, decide whether these reactions are worth it to you.

If you’re not sure, I recommend eliminating it (gradually) for a while and see the difference.

Tell me about your experience with coffee in the comments below.

Recipe (Latte): Pumpkin Spice Latte

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Serves 1

3 tbsp coconut milk
1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp pumpkin puree

½ tsp maple syrup (optional)
1 cup coffee (decaf if preferred)

Instructions

Add all ingredients to blender and blend until creamy.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use tea instead of milk if you prefer.