Well: Irregular Heartbeats? Coffee May Not Be So Bad for You

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Credit Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

People with irregular heartbeats are often advised to give up caffeine, but a new study suggests they may not have to forgo their coffee.

Researchers had 1,388 people record their intake of coffee, tea and chocolate over a one-year period, and used Holter monitors to get 24-hour electrocardiograms.

More than 60 percent of the participants reported consuming one or more caffeine-containing foods daily. But the electrocardiograms revealed no differences in premature beats or episodes of accelerated heart rate between caffeine users and abstainers. The study is in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“There’s no clear evidence that drinking more caffeine increases the risk for early beats,” said the senior author, Dr. Gregory M. Marcus, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. In fact, evidence from other studies suggests caffeine may even be linked to decreased rates of cardiovascular problems.

“I tell patients that it is very likely that for some people, caffeine is an important trigger” of irregular heartbeats, Dr. Marcus said. “I generally tell them that it’s fine for them to experiment and weigh the pros and cons of caffeine to see how it influences their quality of life. The majority of arrhythmias are not life threatening.”

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