The standard cup of joe is a well-established morning ritual – so deeply rooted in our wake-up routines that it has extended into the workday as a quick pick-me-up for never-ending meetings and fast-approaching deadlines.
Do you find yourself habitually reaching for that third or fourth cup to power through your afternoon? You’re not alone.
According to the National Caffeine Association, 62 percent of Americans consider themselves regular coffee drinkers, fueling each day with a little more than three 9-ounce cups, on average.
Persistent java cravings do wonders for short-term mental alertness and cognitive performance, but in the long term, does a coffee “addiction” bear any significant consequences to your health?
The answer to this question depends on your daily dose. Caffeine, the ingredient that gives coffee its zip, has addictive properties that stimulate the brain in a way similar to amphetamines.
The caffeine in coffee has a few different mechanisms. Physiological and behavioral effects include increased mental focus and clarity, but also may result in jitters, anxiety and headaches if you overdo it.
THE CAFFEINE EQUATION
So, how much caffeine is considered too much? This question has many answers that vary in sentiment.
According to the most recent literature on the subject, adults are safe to consume a maximum of 400 milligrams of caffeine – or about three 8-ounce cups of coffee – per day.
However, many working Americans exceed this amount unknowingly with the addition of other caffeinated beverages such as tea and soda.
Regularly exceeding the allotted daily amount of coffee and caffeine has considerably unpleasant side effects.
Serious coffee addicts are more prone to heart issues with prolonged and heavy use – including arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation, which impair your heart’s ability to beat properly.
Excessive consumption also may increase gastric acid secretion, putting you at risk for stomach ulcers and chronic gastritis.
If you’re on a steady regimen of coffee, reducing or eliminating the drink from your diet will involve a period of withdrawal, which may include headaches, anxiety and an abnormal heart rate.
Caffeine withdrawal is a well-documented medical syndrome in heavy coffee drinkers. The most commonly observed symptom for caffeine withdrawal is a headache.
If you are overdoing coffee consumption, the recommendation is to wean yourself off caffeine rather than eliminating it from your daily routine.
Coffee lovers fear not. Your morning routine is not only fine in moderation, but may have noteworthy health benefits.
Recent studies have drawn a correlation between coffee drinking and decreased risks of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and gastrointestinal cancers.
Coffee, both caffeinated and decaffeinated, is also associated with lower risks of type 2 diabetes, but that effect is unfortunately mitigated by added sugars and creams.
To take full advantage of this potential health benefit, skip the add-ins and enjoy your coffee black or with skim milk.
NATURAL ENERGY BOOST
Is there another way to get your morning buzz without reaching for the Keurig?
Most people know the answer to this, but unfortunately it is not a quick fix.
For decades, doctors have established that a healthy diet, regular exercise and adequate amounts of sleep are the recipe for vitality. These imperative lifestyle changes are the first treatment regimens for patients suffering from fatigue and sluggishness, with excellent results.
In the average life of a working American, finding the time to make these changes is a feat in itself, but even taking small steps to invest in your health is better than trying to find shortcuts and quick fixes to underlying issues.
KEEP IT UNDER CONTROL
When we mask our fatigue by downing several cups of coffee throughout the workday, we inevitably pay the penalty of the midday slump.
Coffee shouldn’t be the sole remedy to your workday blues, but it is a safe (and even beneficial) selection to enjoy in moderation.
Dr. David Testa is a family medicine physician with Lehigh Valley Hospital – Pocono (888-402-5846). He is board certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Family Physicians and sees patients of all ages, children through seniors.