Understanding the link between caffeine consumption and overall health can be challenging for seniors. Although there's a prevailing belief that drinking caffeine is an unhealthy habit, there is now evidence to suggest that moderate consumption could provide certain benefits. Below, you can find out the advantages and drawbacks of caffeine for older adults.
Coffee is one of the most common dietary sources of caffeine among older adults. There's some evidence that moderate coffee consumption could help prevent Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease in later life; however, a literature review in 2016 was unable to conclude decisively whether coffee significantly reduced the risk. The review did conclude that drinking coffee in older age doesn't pose any significant health risks.
A 2017 study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine discovered that older adults tend to experience higher levels of systemic inflammation than the rest of the population. This inflammation increases the chance of developing certain age-related health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, and the overall risk of mortality. Interestingly, it also discovered that study participants who consumed caffeinated beverages had lower inflammation levels, suggesting that caffeine consumption could have a protective effect against some diseases common in older age.
It's unclear whether caffeine consumption affects heart health in older adults. There's some evidence that drinking caffeinated coffee could reduce the risk of heart failure. However, the American Heart Association cautions that the results aren't conclusive enough to make a clear recommendation for coffee consumption for heart health.
There's some evidence to suggest that older adults may take longer to metabolize caffeine than younger individuals. Therefore, you may find that you feel the stimulating effects of caffeine for far longer than you did as a younger adult. While this could be an advantage if you want to feel more alert, it could cause issues when it's time to hit the hay. Caffeine is a natural stimulant, and consuming it can make it more difficult to fall asleep if you have it too close to bedtime.
Caffeine is also a diuretic, which means that it can cause more frequent urination. According to the Mayo Clinic, increased urination following caffeine consumption shouldn't significantly increase your risk of dehydration. However, it could make it harder to cope with urinary incontinence and make it difficult to get a good night's sleep if you need to make frequent visits to the bathroom.
Finally, caffeine can increase acidity in the stomach, which could cause pain, heartburn or reflux. It can also overstimulate the digestive system, leading to loose stools. Therefore, you may wish to consider limiting your caffeine intake if you have a gastrointestinal condition such as GERD or a stomach ulcer.
Although moderate caffeine consumption is generally safe for older adults, there are risks associated with having too much. Too much caffeine can cause the following side effects:
Some people also find that they become dependent on caffeine to function normally and experience headaches and other unpleasant symptoms when they don't consume it. Generally, it's recommended that older adults consume a maximum of between 50 and 100mg of caffeine daily. An 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains around 96mg, and a cup of instant coffee of the same size contains around 62mg.
Therefore, most older adults can enjoy a cup or two of their favorite caffeinated beverage in their Grand Villa assisted living apartment or their favorite Grand Junction cafe without any adverse effects. There may even be some health benefits of doing so. However, it's important to pay attention to how you feel when you consume caffeine and reduce your intake if you notice any unwanted side effects. You may also wish to limit your intake to the morning if you find it difficult to sleep after an afternoon cup of joe.
A final point to think about when considering your caffeine intake as an older adult is how you're consuming it. Black coffee and tea don't contain fat or sugar, but many people add extras like sugary syrups or cream. Sodas and chocolate are high in caffeine, but they're also high in sugar. A high-sugar diet can increase your risk of certain health problems such as diabetes, so it's important to be mindful of how much sugar you're consuming in your favorite caffeine hit.
The Harvard School of Public Health cautions people of any age against consuming too many energy drinks. These products are largely unregulated and often contain extra herbal ingredients purported to give you an energy boost.
There is significant evidence to suggest that energy drinks could be bad for your health. In particular, energy drinks have been linked to increased stress, high blood pressure and stomach irritation. Furthermore, they can often contain as much caffeine as two regular cups of coffee and as many as 41 grams of sugar per serving.