I used to drink an energy drink on a regular basis prior to going to the gym. It gave me motivation and stamina, so I could get a good workout. One morning I was really tired, so I drank a 24-ounce can of “Rockstar” on my way to work. After a couple of hours, my heart started racing and pounding like it was going to beat out of my chest. I have had “panic attacks” before, so I thought if I could calm down I would be ok. After fifteen minutes of non-stop heart pounding, I went to the emergency room.
Upon arrival, my pulse was 210 bpm. The doctor performed a “cardioversion”. There are two types of cardioversion. One type is done utilizing electric shock to the heart, and the other type is called a chemical cardioversion using medication. I’m glad the er doctor chose the chemical approach to stopping and restarting my heart. I don’t know which was scarier my pulse at 210 bpm or completely stopping. Afterwards, I was referred to an electrophysiologist cardiologist which is a heart doctor who specializes in the electroconductivity of the heart. Apparently, I had superventricular tachycardia or svt which means I had an electrical pathway that was overriding my heart’s natural pacemaker. The cardiologist told me large doses of caffeine can trigger svt’s.
Energy drinks not only contain caffeine, but they also contain other stimulants. Monster energy drink, for instance, contains a 2500 mg energy blend of caffeine, L-Carnitine, guarana, inositol and glucuronoloactone. Guarana is a stimulant which is two and half times stronger than caffeine found in coffee. The energy blend is not broken down into the exact dosage of each stimulant. An average cup of coffee contains 85 to 100 mg of caffeine. An energy drink, depending on the size, could contain as much as 240 mg of caffeine and that is not including the “energy blend.” Drinking more than 4 cups of coffee a day or 500 mg of caffeine may cause heart problems. Caffeine sensitivity varies from person to person.
My cardiologist said I was very sensitive to caffeine. I was given two choices to either stay of medication the rest of my life or have a procedure called a radiofrequency ablation. I opted for the ablation. While I was under anesthia, the cardiologist found 3 pathways overriding the av node also called the pacemaker. He ablated two of the three pathways, and I have not had any more problems. Even though I had heart palpitations for years, it went undiagnosed. Svt’s can only be detected when they are either active or recorded on a heart monitor.
Now I regulate my caffeine intake. I still have the occasional cup of coffee or a soda but no energy drinks. I also have to be careful with medications containing caffeine or ephedra.