Sunday, March 20, 2011

Caffeine, Stress and Your Health

Caffeine increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure, and can contribute to the development of heart disease. Both decaf and regular coffee increase your cholesterol and homocysteine, the biochemical that science has linked to increased risk for heart attack. Caffeine is also linked to coronary vasospasms, the cause for 20% of all fatal heart attacks which kill otherwise perfectly healthy people.

Caffeine stimulates the excretion of stress hormones which can produce increased levels of anxiety, irritability, muscular tension and pain, indigestion, insomnia, and decreased immunity. Increased levels of stress from caffeine can keep you from being able to make healthy responses to the normal daily stress everyone is subjected to in their lives.

Because caffeine and stress can both elevate cortisol levels, high amounts of caffeine (or stress) can lead to the negative health effects associated with prolonged elevated levels of cortisol. If you ingest high levels of caffeine, you may feel your mood soar and plummet, leaving you craving more caffeine to make it soar again, causing you to lose sleep, suffer health consequences and, of course, feel more stress. However, small to moderate amounts of caffeine can lift your mood and give you a boost.

Drinking coffee in excess of 4 cups daily may increase your cholesterol and blood pressure, which increase your risk for heart disease. According to a 2007 study in the journal "Molecular Endocrinology," two chemicals found in coffee, cafestol and kahweol, have been found to increase low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, levels, which is the "bad" cholesterol.

Another negative effect of coffee on health stems from the actual addiction to caffeine. The addiction involves mental and physical side effects as your body begins to rely on the caffeine. Tolerance to caffeine's effects builds quickly over a period of one to three weeks. Along with a quick tolerance comes quick withdrawal symptoms, which may occur on the first day without coffee and may last a few days. Withdrawal symptoms might include headaches, irritability, inability to concentrate, sleepiness, insomnia and achy joints, according to the 2004 "Psychopharmacology" journal.

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