Energy drinks drastically raise blood pressure, might cause life-threatening arrhythmias.

When it’s been a long day at work and toothpicks cannot keep those eyes open, downing an energy drink may sound like a great idea. However, if you have high blood pressure, beware!

Researchers have found that energy drinks can drastically increase blood pressure and disturb the heart’s natural rhythm. By using data published in several different studies, the researchers were able to determine the effects energy drink consumption has on cardiovascular health.

The researchers, from California’s University of the Pacific and David Grant Medical Center, Travis Air Force Base (AFB), said that the problem with energy drinks is that they have very high levels of caffeine and taurine. Both ingredients can greatly elevate blood pressure and contribute to increased cardiovascular disease risk.

The investigators measured the QT interval of 93 people after consuming one to three cans of energy drinks. Those who drank more energy drinks had a longer QT interval ― for each can of energy drink they participants drank, their QT interval increased by 10 milliseconds. Their systolic blood pressure also increased by an average of 3.5 points.

The QT interval is a measure of the time in the heart’s electrical cycle, revealing the heart’s rhythm. A long QT interval is an indication of an irregular, if not life-threatening. Generally, a 30 milliseconds increase in a patient’s QT interval from baseline, rings alarm bells, explained lead study author, Sachin A. Shah, Pharm.D, Associate Professor at Travis AFB.

According to Shah “the correlation between energy drinks and increased systolic blood pressure is convincing and concerning, and more studies are needed to assess the impact on the heart rhythm. Patients with high blood pressures or long QT syndrome should use caution and judgment before consuming an energy drink. Since energy drinks also contain caffeine, people who do not normally drink much caffeine might have an exaggerated increase in blood pressure.”

He concluded that patients who are older or have pre-existing health concerns are more likely to experience health-related side effects from energy drinks.

The researchers presented their findings at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions.

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