How to reduce cardio effects of caffeine?
January 27, 2011 1:07 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to help reduce my heart rate after it gets all ramped up from drinking caffeine? Lately I've noticed that whenever I drink even a small cup of black tea my heart starts to beat rapidly a few hours later and I feel a lot of pressure in my chest, like my heart is trying to beat faster but there's a rubber band around it. The sensation is similar to panic or running, but I don't feel panicky in my head. Aside from obviously avoiding caffeine, will doing something like drinking tons of water help calm me down faster than just waiting it out?
posted by ShadePlant to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have found, when I get this feeling, that eating something helps to reduce it. I don't know if this is a physiological or a psychological effect, though. Just drinking straight water does not, in my experience, do anything.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:17 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Chamomile tea sometimes helps me when I get an over-the-top reaction to a stimulant.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:21 PM on January 27, 2011

If this is a regular occurrence, I'd go see a doc about it. There's probably nothing wrong with you generally, but you may have a sensitivity that's better avoided than mitigated. Your heart's not an organ you want to tempt fate with, ya know?
posted by mkultra at 1:23 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Correct, you need to buffer it - slow down the absorption of caffeine. Water won't help, you need solid foods. So drink the tea slowly during or after a meal - don't take it on an empty stomach.

(What's the best/quickest way to get something into your bloodstream? Hot liquid. Yep, you're mainlining caffeine and your body is now sensitized and reacting to it.)

Once the effect has started, my guess is exercise would exorcise it the quickest by metabolizing the caffeine. Go run around the block ;)
posted by jpeacock at 1:26 PM on January 27, 2011

Ok, am now doing herbal tea and eating a snack and will ask a doctor about it. Normally I avoid caffeine and make my own decaf chai lattes but some mornings when I am in a rush I'll get coffee-shop chai, which is usually never decaf. That's what happened today.
posted by ShadePlant at 1:28 PM on January 27, 2011

Your heart rate speeds up when you inhale; it slows down when you exhale. This is why many meditative techniques focus on prolonged exhalation.* I make a practice of taking ten deliberate breaths with long exhalations.

You can also try taking your pulse at your carotid artery. That VERY LIGHT pressure can slow your heart. I'm almost reluctant to suggest it, because it can also make you lightheaded and faint. So only do it when you're seated or lying down, somewhere safe (not driving.)

source: Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Robert Sapolsky
posted by endless_forms at 1:31 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Exercise? Ugh. jpeacock I am disappoint! :)

ok ok I know I should.
posted by ShadePlant at 1:31 PM on January 27, 2011

Bread is great to counterbalance the stomach acidity. The quickest way to deliver a drug directly to your bloodstream is to inhale it or inject it, but neither of these strategies work well with liquified caffeine.

Moderate exercise will even out the jitters.
posted by effluvia at 1:34 PM on January 27, 2011

I have found, when I get this feeling, that eating something helps to reduce it. I don't know if this is a physiological or a psychological effect, though. Just drinking straight water does not, in my experience, do anything.

You can slow the rate of absorption of some substances, like alcohol, by eating proteins and fats. That will slow the rate of absorption while your body works to eliminate it. Anytime your rate of absorption is higher than the rate of elimination, you're likely to feel the effects. So, in addition to eating foods those fatty proteins (seriously, go for the cheeseburger or mozzarella sticks), pace yourself. Obviously, if you're trying to slow the rate of absorption, you need to have the food in your stomach around the same time as the caffeine-laden substances.

Also, avoid things that tend to speed absorption, like carbonated beverages.
posted by Hylas at 1:39 PM on January 27, 2011

"So in addition to eating foods those fatty proteins...
posted by Hylas at 1:40 PM on January 27, 2011

if it's a dehydration thing, water might help. possibly medical solutions like beta blockers or valium.
posted by J. Wilson at 1:45 PM on January 27, 2011

Before I became decaffeinated I had a similar problem, which was diagnosed as Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVC). My symptom was mostly irregular heartbeat, both in frequency and amplitude. Doctor said we can give you something to treat the symptom but the cause is stimulants, eliminate them from your diet and the problem will go away. And he was right! Even though now I drink a big cup of decaf every day, augmented some days with a cup of real tea, no more PVC (but when I was getting that it was at least two real espressos, every day).
posted by Rash at 1:58 PM on January 27, 2011

How long is "a few hours"? Caffeine doesn't usually take so long to have an effect - most people experience peak plasma after an hour or less.
posted by turkeyphant at 2:44 PM on January 27, 2011

I'll drink tea at about 10 AM then get the chest tightness at around 3 PM. It seems to be unreleated to any other stressor (Today, for example, work is slow) and it only happens on days I have caffeinated tea.
posted by ShadePlant at 2:46 PM on January 27, 2011

I am not a doc. A nerd, yes. A doc, no.

If all you want to do is slow down your heart rate you could try stimulating the vagus nerve as that's it's job. If you Google "vagus nerve stimulation" you'll see things about carotid sinus massage but please avoid that as it can drop heart rates dramatically. Like, to the 30's. Fainting or dislodging an atherosclerotic plaque is not the goal. See Endless_Form's comments.

However, coughing or having someone slowly longitudinally stroke your back will also stimulate the vagus nerve. Or putting your head down (like in between your knees). The pooling of blood in the neck causes local pressure receptors to lower the heart rate. I've also heard of eye pressing and having a really large bowel movement but I'd try the others first...

Endless_Forms is correct as heart rate tends to vary with respiration in younger people. This reflex does not permanently lower the heart rate, it just causes a difference in rate during inspiration and expiration. The varying pressure in the thorax affects the amount of blood filling of the heart which affects rate. However, if you're old enough to drink coffee this reflex may well have disappeared. If deep breathing itself is calming that might lower your heart rate.
posted by ticketmaster10 at 10:47 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

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