Does Caffeine Raise Blood Pressure?

Caffeine infographic

The effects of caffeine that raise blood pressure can be hazardous to your health, according to some resources while others suggest that the stimulant has no long-term effects on blood pressure.

Effects of Caffeine that Raise Blood Pressure

Caffeinated foods and supplements containing the stimulant can cause blood pressure (BP) to spike in some cases. The problem is complex because there is conflicting information about the relationship between caffeine and hypertension.

Part of the issue arises out of the fact that no one really knows how the stimulant affects blood pressure, but it helps to explore the effects of caffeine on the body to decide whether cutting down on caffeinated substances is a good idea.

Caffeine and the Circulatory System

The main concern is the effect caffeinated substances have on the circulatory system. The stimulant affects the brain and nervous system but it also appears to have an influence on circulation as well. Some things to consider include:

  • Increases heart rate
  • May cause vascular stiffness
  • May constrict blood vessels
  • May cause an exaggerated rise in BP when the person experiences stress
  • Can increase levels of epinephrine, a hormone responsible for the "fight of flight" response
  • Can block adenosine, a component that widens blood vessels
  • May raise adrenaline levels
  • May raise cortisol levels

Anyone who has experienced an increase in adrenaline, cortisol, or epinephrine can relate to the physical responses the body has during the "fight or fight" response. The response is a fundamental component in fear, a naturally protective emotion that causes the body to heighten awareness and functioning, leading to physical reactions that are literally heart pounding.

Habits and Health

The intake of caffeine is a consideration to make, especially if you have any health problems related to hypertension. Those who do not drink caffeinated beverages or other products containing the stimulant may experience a significant spike in blood pressure when they do consume it. This is because the body isn't used to the substance.

Those who consume caffeinated products on a regular basis may develop a tolerance for the stimulant, making the effects less pronounced. Some studies suggest that people who drink coffee regularly tend to have higher blood pressure than those who do not. Others suggest that the stimulant has no long-term effect. Studies about the relationship between hypertension and caffeine are available on the American Heart Association website.

Dr. Sheldon Sheps, a professor of medicine who served on the Mayo Clinic Department of Medicine's Hypertension Division, discusses the conflicting studies regarding the relationship between caffeine and high blood pressure in his article, Caffeine: How Does It Affect Blood Pressure. Some studies found a connection between caffeine and hypertension, but some studies found a decrease in BP in people who drank coffee regularly.

Dr. Sheps suggests having a blood pressure test before consuming a caffeinated substance, followed by another test after. It is important to choose a substance you commonly use to avoid experiencing a spike in pressure that can skew the results.

Is Caffeine Right for You?

The first step is to figure out how much of the stimulant you have on a regular basis. If you experience withdrawals from caffeine when you quit taking it abruptly, you may have a physical dependence on it. It helps to know what foods, beverages and medications contain the stimulant.

Each person is unique and it is important to make sure to discuss the topic of the effects of caffeine that raise blood pressure with your doctor. A short session with a physician can help you determine if you should continue including caffeinated foods or beverages in your diet. Your physician knows your medical history and will best be able to help you determine how much of the stimulant is safe for you to take on a daily basis.

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Does Caffeine Raise Blood Pressure?