Mark Horsman, from Brighton in England, had a serious caffeine habit. The construction manager and 52-year-old family man was drinking an average of eight cups of coffee and three cans of Red Bull energy drink every single day, just to stay alert and effective.
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Horsman was not the only one. According to The Mirror, figures from the British Soft Drinks Association revealed that the volume of energy drinks consumed in the United Kingdom increased from 463 million liters (approx. 122,311,660 gallons) in 2010 to a quite literally heart-stopping 679 million liters (approx. 179,372,824 gallons) in 2017.
For three years, Horsman’s habit exemplified a country-wide crisis. He thought nothing of it, until one day something alarming happened. After drinking two energy drinks, one after the other, Horsman heard what he described as a “booming sound” coming from his own chest. Quite understandably, the middle-aged man was terrified.
“It was absolutely terrifying,” Horsman told the Daily Mail. “My heart was beating very fast, then would miss a beat and then it would ‘boom.'” Horsman luckily received some illuminating answers from his physician. The expert explained that Horsman had experienced an “ectopic heartbeat” as a direct result of his excessive caffeine consumption.
The risks are huge, but not everybody is equally susceptible. For many people, a genetic predisposition makes them more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others, and the medical industry is catching on. Heart problems constitute one of the United Kingdom’s primary causes of death; experts are pleading for their patients’ attention.
Even a single energy drink per day could trigger an abnormal heart rhythm, or “arrhythmia,” in some. One of the most devastating knock-on effects of arrhythmia is that it increases the risk of stroke five-fold. “You wouldn’t necessarily have to have a faulty heart to suffer from arrhythmia,” advised Trudie Lobban, founder and CEO of The Arrhythmia Alliance.
“Stimulants containing caffeine can trigger it,” she clarified. “Six or seven coffees a day could do it, but these energy drinks carry a really high risk.” Caffeine reaches the heart and brain via the bloodstream as soon as the energy drink is consumed, which is what constitutes the “caffeine hit” that some people rave about (and rely on).
Professor Nicholas Linker of the British Society of Cardiologists told The Sun that approximately 20 percent of the population is “considered sensitive to caffeine,” so just one drink could be enough to put their hearts under stress.
Allegedly, excessive caffeine consumption causes a surge in the amount of calcium released within the heart’s cells, disrupting its electrical rhythm. “This can cause arrhythmias,” explained Professor Milou-Daniel Drici, a cardiology researcher from Nice University Hospital, “but also has effects on the heart’s abilities to contract and to use oxygen.”
Why Are Energy Drinks Bad For You?
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After his sobering wake-up call, Horsman went completely cold turkey on energy drinks. “I feel so much better,” he admitted to the Daily Mail. “I didn’t realize what it was doing to me, and to my health, until I stopped. I don’t touch caffeine at all any more.”
Horsman added that he thinks energy drinks should be banned. Especially since they are so open to misuse.
Prof. Linker added weight to this argument by adding that “young people who combine energy drinks with alcohol and smoking may be more at risk of ‘stimulant-linked’ arrhythmia, as opposed to the heart-rhythm problems that occur with ageing.”
The caffeine levels associated with this recreational drink are disturbing; a 250-milliter (approx. 8-ounce) serving of a typical energy drink contains 80 milligrams of caffeine per liter. That’s twice as much as a cola drink and the same as a 60-milliliter (approx. 2-ounce) espresso. Those brightly colored, innocent-looking energy drinks are possibly more nefarious than they appear.
Anyone who feels a "pounding or fluttering" after consuming caffeine should stop.
Some medical professionals have come forward with helpful advice for consumers, as there are certainly some indicative symptoms to look out for. Julie Ward, senior cardiac nurse for the British Heart Foundation, advised: “If you feel pounding or fluttering after caffeine in coffee or energy drinks, that’s a sign you’re having too much.”
What will you reach for the next time you need a boost, an energy drink? Or perhaps a power nap, instead?