Drinking a daily cup of coffee can reduce the risk of arrhythmias, study finds

This Morning: Dr Chris discusses heart disease

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Each daily cup of coffee can reduce the risk of developing an arrhythmia by three percent, a new study has found. The heart normally beats at a regular rhythm to supply the body’s heart, lungs and other tissues with a predictable supple of blood and oxygen. An arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, usually means the heart is beating too fast, too slow, or irregularly. A study, undertaken by the University of California, set out to assess the association between consumption of common caffeinated products and the risk of arrhythmia.

Dr Eun-jeong Kim, Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellow at the University of California, and his team analysed health data, genetics and coffee consumption habits of 386,258 participants over five years.

Over the course of the study, 16,979 participants were found to develop an incident arrhythmia.

After adjusting co-founding factors such as demographic characteristics, co-morbid conditions and lifestyle habits, the findings confirmed that each regular cup of coffee lowered the risk of incident arrhythmia by three percent.

A further Mendelian randomisation study did not reveal evidence that caffeine consumption increases the risk of incident arrhythmias.

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This means neither habitual coffee consumption nor genetically mediated differences in caffeine metabolism was associated with a heightened risk of cardiac arrhythmias.

Dr Kim said: “In this prospective cohort study, increasing amounts of habitual coffee intake were associated with a lower risk of arrhythmia.

“This was the case, particularly for atrial fibrillation and supraventricular tachycardia, with no evidence that genetically determined differences in caffeine metabolism modified these associations.

“Common prohibitions against caffeine to reduce arrhythmias’ risk are likely unwarranted.”

What’s an arrhythmia?

An arrhythmia is an abnormality of the heart’s rhythm, which can range from a minor inconvenience or discomfort to a fatal problem.

It occurs when the electrical impulses that co-ordinate the heartbeats don’t work properly, causing the heart to beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly.

Symptoms include palpitations, feeling dizzy, fainting and being short of breath, although having these symptoms doesn’t always point to a heart rhythm problem.

Most people with an abnormal heart rhythm can lead a normal life if it is properly diagnosed.

Some common treatments used for arrhythmia, pointed out by the NHS, include:

Medication – to stop or prevent an arrhythmia or control the rate of the heart.

Cardioversion – a treatment that uses electricity to shock the heart back into normal rhythm.

Catheter ablation – a keyhole treatment under local or general anaesthetic that carefully destroys the disease tissue in the heart that causes the arrhythmia.

Pacemaker – a small device containing its a battery that is implanted under the chest. It produces electrical signals to do the work of the natural pacemaker in your to heart to help it beat at a normal rate.

Because troublesome heart arrhythmias are made worse by a weak or damaged heart, it is advised to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle to reduce arrhythmia risk.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and being overweight can both increase the likelihood of developing arrhythmias.

An abnormal heart rhythm can also cause sudden cardiac death for people with severe heart conditions.

This kills around 100,000 people in the UK every year, but some of these deaths could be avoided if the arrhythmias were diagnosed earlier.

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