COLUMBUS, Ga. — Many people say they cannot go a day without coffee, and it’s an addiction that lasts well beyond the morning. If you find yourself drinking coffee throughout the day, is all that extra caffeine putting your body in serious risk of health problems?
When Linda Aldridge tells you that drinking coffee has been a lifelong habit for her, she’s not kidding. “Yes, I started drinking coffee at three years old,” says Aldridge.
Her grandmother and aunt were drinking it one day in a restaurant and Linda insisted on tasting it, too. It’s a taste that’s only grown on her.
“And three– and here it is you know, I’m pushing 53, and that’s 50 years of drinking coffee, and I just don’t see myself stopping anytime soon,” Aldridge laughs. “Got to have your coffee.” .
And Linda isn’t alone. A 2015 Gallup Poll found an estimated 64 percent of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee per day and the same research reveals coffee shops are the fastest percolating portion of the restaurant industry. With America’s persistent love of java, does this caffeine craze endanger the health of true coffee lovers such as Linda? The short answer: it depends.
“Most people have different limits as to how much caffeine their bodies can tolerate,” says Dr. Jill Moore, of Concierge Family Medicine’s Columbus clinic.
Dr. Moore says caffeine consumers build tolerance to side effects over time. Still, the impacts of the drug are undeniable: Higher blood pressure, nervousness, and in some long-term cases, heart damage. But there’s one impact of caffeine may people probably don’t think about often, if at all, when it comes to physical effects of caffeine.
“It can affect your bones, and cause bone/calcium loss and put people at risk for osteoporosis,” says Dr. Moore.
And perhaps one of the most acknowledged and underrated side effects of too much caffeine is the effect it has on our sleep.
“That’s one of the questions we ask everybody who comes in the door, ‘How’s your sleep?'” says Donna Plummer.
Plummer, counseling center director at the Pastoral Institute of Columbus, says lack of sleep greatly impacts our mental health outlook. People who drink large amounts of coffee may find it difficult to get the restorative sleep they need.
“Caffeine is a stimulant, so you need to treat drugs with care and use it in moderation. Caffeine can be fatal. People don’t usually drink 60 cups of coffee a day, but caffeine also comes in a powder form,” says Plummer.
And that means it comes in food and drink sources we consume, in addition to coffee, piling up the caffeine coursing through our veins.
“They may get some accidental sources that they are not recognizing from drinking tea and soda, along with their coffee, but also chocolate. Other pain relievers may contain caffeine. It acts as an accelerate or to speed up the action of some over-the-counter pain relievers,” says Dr. Moore.
So if you’re concerned about over-consumption. What’s a safe limit? Between 200-400 milligrams per day — simply put: “For most people, two to four cups per day would be appropriate, without significant health effects, depending upon the strength of the coffee, how it was brewed,” says Dr. Moore.
If you’re looking to cut down your consumption, how can you kick, or at least, cut back the coffee habit?
“Carry a water bottle around with me. Because that would be a plus, gives me the same feeling of having something in my hand, I can drink around the same times of the day, so I won’t quiet feel the loss as much if I have something to replace it with,” says Plummer.
But for people like Linda Aldridge, with coffee practically running through her veins, she has no plans to cutback on her coffee — at least not for now.
“No. You know, people say that if they drink too much coffee that they get nervous and shaky and jittery. I don’t,” says Aldridge.
To the contrary, Aldridge says she will get nervous and jittery if something stands between her and her coffee.
“Don’t take my coffee. You do not come between a girl and her coffee. That’s a no-no. Don’t come between me and my coffee,” laughs Aldridge.
Some therapists say they’ve found people who believe they are prone to panic and anxiety attacks who are actually experiencing physical responses to excess caffeine. If at any time, you start experiencing rapid heart beat or excessive nervousness, call your doctor or go to the emergency room.
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