Can energy drinks put your heart health at risk?

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(CLEVELAND CLINIC) – Working long hours or studying for exams might make it tempting to reach for an energy drink to get through the day. But according to one recent study, frequent energy drink consumption can be setting our hearts up for problems.

The study compared people who drank a 32 ounce energy drink and people who did not drink energy drinks.

Researchers performed electrocardiograms on the participants and discovered those who drank the energy drinks had elevated blood pressure and other changes which could lead to heart rhythm disturbances.

Steven Nissen, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the study, but said when it comes to energy drinks, we’re rolling the dice with our health.

“These energy drinks – one of the biggest problems – is that we haven’t the faintest idea what’s in them,” he said. “The manufacturers of these drinks are not required, by law, to disclose the contents. Those who have performed independent analysis on them have learned, at least a few of the drinks, are just loaded with huge amounts of caffeine.”

Dr. Nissen points out that an average cup of coffee has about 25-50 milligrams of caffeine.

In comparison, research has shown some energy drinks can have anywhere from 200-250 milligrams of caffeine – that’s like having five or ten cups of coffee in one sitting.

And while caffeine is generally considered safe, Dr. Nissen said loading up on that much of it at once, especially for people who might have a heart condition, isn’t wise.

He said those who find themselves reaching for energy drinks should look into getting more sleep instead.

“People need to work on their sleep habits, so that they are getting a good night’s sleep,” said Dr. Nissen. “Seven to eight hours of sleep is normal for adults, and even more for children. Don’t use an energy drink as a substitute for good sleep habits.”

For those who are eating right and getting enough sleep, but are still feeling fatigued, Dr. Nissen recommends reaching for the phone and calling a doctor, instead of reaching for an energy drink.

“If you’re really tired all the time, rather than going and buying an energy drink – particularly if you’re getting enough sleep – you may have an underactive thyroid or another medical condition that’s causing you to be tired,” he said. “Don’t try to fix the problem by buying something for which you have no idea what the contents are. You have no idea what’s in those energy drinks, and that’s not safe.”

Complete results of the study can be found in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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