Energy drinks 'increase your risk of stroke by 500 per cent' – fuelling a rise in irregular heartbeats

Mark Horsman relied on energy drinks to get him through his day, juggling a busy job and family.

The 52-year-old construction manager from Brighton drank eight cups of coffee and three cans of Red Bull every day for three years.

He thought nothing of his caffeine habit until one day, after downing two cans of energy drink in a row, he felt a terrifying "booming" sound coming from his heart.

Mark thought he was going to die.

"It was absolutely terrifying. My heart was beating very fast, then would miss a beat and then it would 'boom'," he told the Mail.

His GP diagnosed him with an extra, or ectopic, heartbeat caused by his excessive caffeine habit.

He is thought to be one of many people in the world whose genetics make him more susceptible to the effects of caffeine, putting his heart at risk.

Experts are warning that our addiction to energy drinks is fuelling a rise in diagnoses of irregular heartbeats – one of the biggest killers in Britain.

Just one energy drink is enough to trigger arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm which increases the risk of stroke five-fold.

The number of people diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common cause of irregular heartbeat, has soared almost five per cent in a year, according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

In 2017/18 there were  1,324,067 people diagnosed with the condition, nearly 60,000 more than the previous year.

At least half a million people may have the "silent killer" condition but be unaware of it.

For some even the recommended four to five coffees a day may be too much, experts warn.

New research from the University of Texas found that just one energy drink is enough to cause heart problems by narrowing your blood vessels.

Narrowing arteries increases the risk of blockages – which cause heart attacks and strokes.


A stroke is a life-threatening brain attack, which occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off – without blood, the cells in your brain can be killed or suffer damage.

The FAST method – which stands for Face, Arms, Speech, Time – is the easiest way to remember the most common symptoms of stroke:

If you recognise any of these signs, and believe somebody is having a stroke, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance immediately.

Other symptoms include:

  • sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • difficulty finding words
  • sudden blurred vision or loss of sight
  • sudden confusion, dizziness or unsteadiness
  • a sudden and severe headache
  • difficulty understanding what others are saying
  • difficulty swallowing

You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms.

The new findings echo past studies, which have warned young people to steer clear of the drinks.

Scientists led by Dr John Higgins at the University of Texas in Houston said: "As energy drinks are becoming more and more popular, it is important to study the effects of these drinks on those who frequently drink them and better determine what, if any, is a safe consumption pattern."

They singled out caffeine, taurine, sugar and other herbal ingredients – warning they damage the lining of arteries and veins.

Other research has found energy drinks can trigger nasty side effects like headaches and seizures, as well as rapid heartbeat.

Prof David Hammond, from the University of Waterloo in Canada, warned: "Most risk assessments to date have used coffee as a reference for estimating the health effects of energy drinks.

"However, it's clear these products pose a greater health risk.

"The health effects from energy could be due to the different ingredients than coffee, or the ways in which they are consumed, including with alcohol or during physical activity."

But more and more people are drinking caffeinated drinks.

At least 600 million litres are drunk every year, that's 200 million more than a decade ago.

"Six or seven coffees a day could do it, but these energy drinks carry a really high risk."


A HEART attack – or myocardial infarction – occurs when one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked.

The heart muscle is then robbed of vital oxygenated blood which, if left untreated, can cause the heart muscle to begin to die, but what are the symptoms?

Heart attack symptoms can be difficult to spot for sure, because they can vary from person to person.

The most common signs include:

  • chest pain, tightness, heaviness, pain or a burning feeling in your chest
  • pain in the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach
  • for some people the pain and tightness will be severe, while for others it will just feel uncomfortable
  • sweating
  • feeling light-headed
  • becoming short of breath
  • feeling nauseous or vomiting

Excessive caffeine consumption increases the amount of calcium released in the hearts cells, which can disrupt the electrical rhythm.

If the hearts electrical rhythm is disrupted it can cause problems with it's ability to contract and use oxygen.

Other triggers may include alcohol, tobacco, exercise and both prescription and illegal drugs.

Professor Nicholas Linker, of the British Society of Cardiologists, said about 20 per cent of the population is considered sensitive to caffeine, so just one drink could be enough to put their heart at risk.

"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," he said.

"If you feel pounding or fluttering after caffeine in coffee or energy drinks, that’s a sign you’re having too much."


Source: Read Full Article