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Energy Drinks Could Tank Your Heart Health

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It may be time to rethink your mid-afternoon pick-me-up. According to new research from the American Heart Association, energy drinks do more than just give you the jitters for a few hours. Researchers found that consuming even just one energy drink can increase your risk of heart issues like arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) or ischemia (not enough blood supply to your heart). Yikes. (Want to go the natural route instead? Breathing exercises can boost your energy too.)

Researchers measured how people's bodies responded to either a can of Rockstar or a placebo drink—which contained similar levels of sugar but didn't have caffeine.

The results were pretty crazy. Drinking the energy drink caused a spike in blood pressure and doubled participants' norepinephrine levels. Norepinephrine is your body's stress hormone, which dictates your "fight or flight" response. Why that matters: When your fight or flight response is triggered, your blood pressure shoots up. This increases your heart's ability to contract and modulate your heart rate and breathing in response to the perceived stress. That's a good thing when you really are in a threatening situation, but it's a lot for your heart to handle on a regular basis. And each time your heart is stressed like this, it can up your risk of a serious cardiac issue down the road.

The main issue when it comes to energy drinks is likely the combo of caffeine and sugar, according to Anna Svatikova, M.D., Ph.D., and lead author on the study. According to Svatikova, the study didn't test the caffeine or sugar separately, so it's not clear if you might see the same effects with coffee or soda.

The bottom line? Ditch the energy drinks and reach for a more natural energy remedy like green tea. (Try these 20 genius ways to use matcha!)

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