Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much?

By Ashley Hinson, Anchor/Reporter

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Whether it be coffee, tea, or an energy drink, many of you probably rely on caffeine to wake you up, and keep you up. But how much of the stuff is too much for your body, and your heart?

“Caffeine is a stimulant. That’s why we drink it,” says Cardiologist Dr. Cam Campbell. “It’s the ‘get up in the morning and get going.’” The average person consumes between 200 and 300 milligrams of the stimulant a day. That’s between two and four cups of brewed coffee.

We caught up with a few coffee drinkers at Brewed Awakenings in Cedar Rapids. “I love it. I mean I could drink coffee all day long,” says Lori Pike. “I have to stop myself because I love coffee.”

“Makes me feel good, keeping it to 1, 1 ½ cups a day ... it feels pretty good,” says Louis Collins, who stops in most weekdays to get his Java fix.

But when you get into drinking more than just a few cups of coffee a day, it’s impact can be felt on your body ... and your heart.
“You can get heart rhythm problems related to caffeine,” says Dr. Campbell.

“It does make my heart race ... and I’ve dealt with anxiety in the past ... so one of the things they say is that you need to limit your caffeine intake,” says Collins.

And Collins is right. Too much caffeine can be bad for your body. It can cause your heart to beat too fast, or not how it’s supposed to. It can give you fast or irregular heartbeat, insomnia/nervousness, restlessness and irritability, nausea, muscle tremors, headaches, and anxiety.

Doctor Campbell says the real risk comes from not being able to come down from the caffeine buzz. “It’s the sleep deprivation that may occur as a result of too much caffeine. We’re not catching up to the sleep we need in order to repair our bodies to go on to the next day.”

And not being able to repair your body puts extra stress on your heart. While it’s easy to drink enough to keep you up at night, the good news here is it’s really tough to drink so much caffeine that it would kill you. “A lot more than just a pot of coffee,” says Dr. Campbell.
In fact, in order to have enough caffeine where it would shut down your heart, you’d likely have to consume between 80 and 100 cups of coffee in one sitting. That’s more than 5 gallons of coffee. Doctors preach keeping your cool with caffeine consumption is still the way to go.

“A little bit is OK. Moderation is OK … but too much as a stimulant, we can get jittery. We can get anxious,” says Dr. Campbell.

While the quantity needed to really hurt you surprised our coffee drinkers, it won’t deter them from drinking up their daily cup of joe.

“I love my coffee … especially like the Sumatras and stuff like that, so just try to keep it in moderation,” says Collins.

And depending on your age, body mass, and even gender ... Caffeine may affect you differently. Also, people who don’t regularly consume caffeine tend to be more sensitive to its negative effects. Some things to keep in mind if you’re trying to avoid hidden caffeine? It also appears in chocolate, and some over-the-counter pain relievers.
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