Effects of caffeine on heart health

How much is safe?

A cup of joe may be good for you, but don’t fall for the bull. The Red Bull, that is.

About half of U.S. adults age 20 or older are coffee drinkers. Coffee is the principal source of caffeine in this country, in addition to tea and soft drinks. Because it is a stimulant, the effects of caffeine on heart health are constantly being studied.

Benefits of your morning brewCaffeine image 320x320

Overall, the findings have shown that moderate coffee drinking of 1-2 cups per day is likely not harmful. Some studies have even shown beneficial effects of having up to 4 cups of coffee or tea, including reduced risk of heart failure, arrhythmias, stroke and type 2 diabetes; improvements in blood pressure; and reductions in all-cause mortality. However, the extent to which caffeine plays a role in these protective effects is still unclear. Coffee and tea are known to have high levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients, which protect the body’s cells and tissue like blood vessels and heart muscle. Therefore, more studies are needed to distinguish the benefits of the antioxidants from the effects of the caffeine. Continue reading

Imagining a better pacemaker

Multiple surgeries to replace batteries and leads could become a thing of the past for children with pacemakers

leadless pacemakerPacemakers have made a huge difference for children with congenital heart defects.  Here at the Congenital Heart Center we generally implant pacemaker devices in children each week, for conditions ranging from slow heart rates they were born with to abnormal rhythms arising after complicated heart operations.

Pacemakers are often needed for children with a type of arrhythmia in which heart rhythms are too slow. The device follows the child’s heart beat and keeps it from falling below a certain rate.

While these life saving devices have made a positive difference for countless children since initially developed in 1958, they are not without disadvantages.  One major weakness in our current pacemaker models is the need for battery replacement.  Although a pacemaker uses only microwatts of power, the batteries currently have a lifespan of 6-12 years.  This means that a person with a pacemaker implanted during childhood could require as many as 10 surgeries in their lifetime just because of depleted batteries.

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