Harvard Heart Letter

Caffeine unlikely to trigger palpitations in healthy people

Drinking caffeinated coffee or tea may help you feel more awake and alert. But for healthy people, it probably won't cause palpitations—a noticeably strong, fast, or irregular heart beat. That's according to a new study of nearly 1,400 older adults in the Jan. 26, 2016, Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers relied on data from food questionnaires and Holter monitors, which recorded each participant's heart rhythm for a 24-hour period. About 60% of the people in the study said they consumed more than one caffeinated product (coffee, tea, or chocolate) a day. People who consumed more of those products were no more likely to have palpitations than those who imbibed less, the authors found.

However, it's important to note that this study only included people without any existing heart rhythm issues. Healthy people who drink a few cups of coffee or tea a day aren't likely to develop palpitations. But for some people with palpitations or other heart rhythm disturbances—including atrial fibrillation—that amount of caffeine may make the problem worse.