Does Coffee Raise Blood Pressure? Time To Clarify The Confusion


[Last updated 6th December, 2017]

Coffee is one of the world’s most popular drinks.

Taste and social value aside, it’s generally considered a health food and is linked to numerous metabolic health benefits.

However, there is a lot of confusion around its impact on blood pressure.

Many foods are shown to be beneficial, but does coffee raise blood pressure? Is there more to consider if you already have high blood pressure?

This article digs through the current research to clarify any confusion.

Caffeine has an immediate, short-term impact on blood pressure

Caffeine has an immediate, short-term impact on blood pressureCoffee is the most popular hot beverage in the Americas, Australia and most of Europe.

As coffee beans contain caffeine, that makes coffee our biggest source of caffeine.

Caffeine is a psychoactive drug that stimulates the release of certain hormones in the brain (1). This is why coffee gives us an energy “kick”.

Caffeine also gives a “kick” to our blood pressure, and is actually a well-documented pressor (substance that elevates blood pressure). Increases tend to be mild, in the range of 5 to 10 mmHg. That’s regardless of how often you drink coffee or your caffeine tolerance, although there are always rare exceptions (2).

Caffeine appears to have a greater pressor effect on those with elevated blood pressure compared to those with normal blood pressure. And those effects are not suppressed by the use of blood pressure lowering medications (3, 4).

Coffee is sounding pretty grim right now, but caffeine only appears to elevate blood pressure for about 3 hours before the effect subsides (5).

So what does this mean for our health in the long run?

Summary: Drinking coffee immediately increases blood pressure, regardless of your caffeine tolerance. The effect typically only lasts for a maximum of 3 hours though.

Observational studies on caffeine and blood pressure

Observational studies on caffeine and blood pressureConsistently high blood pressure is a huge risk factor for heart problems. That’s why we’re concerned about it in the first place.

Major dietary factors linked to high blood pressure and heart disease, such as excessive alcohol intake, typically contribute to stiffness of the blood vessels. This is the mechanism by which they raise the risk of heart disease.

Regular coffee consumption, however, was observed to have no such harmful influence on blood vessels (6).

This is thought to be because its pressor effects are too short-lived (about 3 hours) to do any lasting damage to the walls of our blood vessels.

The majority of large observational studies not only support this theory, but actually find coffee consumption linked to improved cardiovascular (heart) health.

In a review that included over 1.2 million subjects, 3 to 5 coffees per day was associated with significantly lower heart disease risk, while even heavier coffee consumption appeared to be neutral (7).

Other large reviews consistently find the same trend, suggesting coffee might be protective (8, 9).

While these studies cannot prove cause and effect, if the blood pressure raising effect of coffee was harmful, we wouldn’t expect to find coffee drinkers with better cardiovascular health than non-drinkers.

There is one huge caveat to this reasoning though…

Summary: As caffeine only raises blood pressure for 3 hours, it does not appear to do any lasting harm to the blood vessels. In fact, observational studies consistently find that coffee consumption is neutral for cardiovascular health, if not protective.

Your genes play a huge part in your risk

Your genes play a huge part in your caffeine riskBased on those studies alone, it appears you’re in the clear to indulge every day…

But it’s not that straight forward.

Not all the large observational studies found that regular coffee consumption is harmless.  A possible reason for the inconsistent findings is that the population varies in underlying responses to caffeine.

How well we metabolise and tolerate caffeine is determined by our genes.

Individual genetic variations influence how our body reacts to external factors, especially how it reacts to the nutrients we eat. Genetic variations can influence metabolism for loads of nutrients such as alcohol (10), folate and folic acid (best known as an MTHFR mutation), and caffeine too.

Depending on your genes, you may be a “fast” caffeine metaboliser or a “slow” one. This greatly influences how your blood pressure responds to coffee, as well as your heart disease risk (11, 12, 13).

Sadly, I’m a super “slow” caffeine metaboliser, which is why I drink decaf.

Therefore, although caffeine only raises blood pressure short-term, those who are “slow” caffeine metabolisers and consume large amounts of coffee (3 or more per day) are probably at greater risk of negative cardiovascular health consequences.

In other words, if you are sensitive to caffeine and already have high blood pressure, it would be in your best interest to minimise intake or drink decaf where possible.

Summary: How well we metabolise and tolerate caffeine is determined by our genes. It appears “fast” caffeine metabolisers are in the clear, but “slow” metabolisers are at a far greater risk of negative blood pressure changes and associated heart disease.

How much coffee is too much?

How much coffee is too much?

As a guideline for the average healthy adult, 400 mg of caffeine (roughly 3-4 standard coffees per day) is considered safe (14).

Consuming larger quantities in a day can lead to undesirable side-effects such as anxiety, tremors, heart palpitations and insomnia… Especially if you have existing high blood pressure.

However, the severity of these side-effects also depends on your personal caffeine tolerance. Coffee connoisseurs tend to develop a high threshold.

So on an individual level, your true coffee limit actually depends on your genetics, your personal caffeine tolerance, and any existing medical conditions that react with caffeine. Observe how your body responds to caffeine (or take a genetic test to know for sure), including a blood pressure reading after you have a cup.

Also be mindful that coffee can vary considerably in its caffeine content. Instant and home-brewed coffee usually contains 60-80 mg per small cup, while a Starbucks grande can have up to 300 mg.

Summary: As a general guideline, more than 3-4 standard coffees per day may cause unwanted side-effects. But your true limit depends on your genetics, your personal caffeine tolerance, and any existing medical conditions. We must consider these factors and observe how our body reacts.

To sum it up… Does coffee raise blood pressure?

Studies show that coffee increases blood pressure for up to 3 hours (because of the caffeine), after which it returns back down.

As the effects are so short-lived, for the general population regular coffee consumption does not raise your blood pressure long-term, nor does it appear to increase your risk of cardiovascular health problems.

However, there is a large caveat.

Our individual tolerance of caffeine (and coffee) is largely determined by our genes. “Slow” caffeine metabolisers have much greater spikes in blood pressure after a coffee, and are far more at risk for negative cardiovascular consequences as a result.

If you suspect you are a “slow” (poor) caffeine metaboliser, and you have existing high blood pressure, I recommend limiting yourself to one coffee per day. Better yet, switch to decaf.

For the majority though, a few coffees per day will not raise blood pressure in the long-run… just don’t have one before a blood pressure check-up.

Don’t like to read? Watch the video instead…

Does coffee raise blood pressure?

About Joe Leech, Dietitian (MSc Nutrition & Dietetics)

Joe Leech is a university-qualified dietitian from Australia.

He graduated with a Bachelor's degree in exercise science, followed by a Master's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2011.

Learn more about him on the About page

24 responses to “Does Coffee Raise Blood Pressure? Time To Clarify The Confusion”

  1. Hi Joe,

    Great post! Thank you so much for clarifying the confusion. These information you’ve shared here are very useful and helpful. Keep on posting informative articles. Thanks!

  2. Thank you very much. To maintain blood pressure level normal you should take proper medication which is recommended by your doctor.

    • Melissa ~ WRONG. You don’t get high blood pressure because your body lacks Big Pharma’s poison. Bad diet, too much sodium, lack of exercise, being a boozer, being overweight, etc. give you high blood pressure. Drugs only treat the symptoms of a bad lifestyle. The solution is getting your poop together and living a healthy lifestyle. Natural nutritional supplements can do wonders for many ailments, often more so than Big Pharma’s poison, and for far less money.

      • That is not always true. Genitics do play a big part. My parents were not overweight…excirsiced regularly….ate healthy including raising thier own food but my mom like her mom and her brother died of CHF. She lived with high BP all her life it was hard to control. She also had high cholesterol though at 92 had no plaque in her vessels or heart.
        My dad always had low BP low cholesterol but had both carotid arteries cleaned and had open heart surgery for 64% and 100% blockages. Blood pressure is always good cholesterol is always low but still got hurt disease. He also had multiple Strokes. So a simple correlation to Healthy Living isn’t going to control everything as people think. You have a lot of genetics that make differences.

  3. I have to conclude that the bottom line is coffee does elevate your blood pressure. I have high blood pressure so have been wondering the 3 to 4 cups of coffee I drink per day are a contributor. Seems like pretty simple math to me. If the “short term” effect lasts for 3 hours, and I have a cup about every three hours until my cut off time in the early afternoon, the coffee would keep my blood pressure elevated for most of the day.

    • I noticed an immediate drop in BP after drastically reducing caffeinated coffee consumption. Down to 1 half calf plus decaf if I need a fix later in the day.

      I had high BP previously.

  4. I’ve proved many times my consumption of caffeinated coffee does affect my blood pressure, so now I only drink decaf. I’m now able to keep my Systolic below 140 and Diastolic below 80 which is generally accepted by the medical profession as acceptable blood pressure levels.

  5. I have been having a problem with high blood pressure and foud I was taking an anti-inflamatory as soon as I stopped taking it my blood pressure went back to normal 124 over 75. I did not have coffee this morning and it remained low. Around 6 PM I drank 13 oz of coffee and my blood pressure went to 180 over 95. and three hrs. later it is still high. I was shocked although I don’t normally drink that much coffee all at once. I don’t understand why it hasn’t gone down after 3 hrs.

  6. Very good article, judicious.
    It Jump start individuals judgment while offering academic info about coffee, I appreciate it.

  7. An additional consideration thatches to mind is the effect of caffeine on the kidney and salt depletion. From my knowledge, caffeine increases glomerular filtration by opposing vasoconstriction of real arterioles as it competitively inhibits adenosine. It also inhibits sodium resorption at the level of the proximal tubules. It other words, although caffeine may have an indirect vasopressive effect (i.e. at the level of peripheral blood vessels), its effect on blood pressure is very complex. Part of this complexity is that long term caffeine may tend to lower sodium (and therefore water) in a diuretic effect that would be expected to lower blood pressure. Another aspect that is not considered above is the effect of metabolites of caffeine after it has been partially broken down by the P450 system in the liver. One of the metabolites is theobromine (also in chocolate) that can have a diuretic as well as a vasodilatory affect. I don’t profess to have a great handle on the biochemistry and physiology of caffeine. However, I do know enough to know what I don’t know, and it is a heck of lot more complex than the simple model suggested above.

  8. I began to wonder if my blood pressure was a little high so I tested it. Readings of 140/94 or similar, for a week, gave me cause for concern. I changed to decaffeinated coffee (I’m a 5 cups/day man) and saw the readings immediately drop to 115/80. Not sure about the science behind this, but it does suggest coffee can play havoc with blood pressure.

    • Hi David,
      Caffeine will cause an immediate, short-term increase in blood pressure. If you have caffeine regularly through the week then it will be elevated many times through the week.

  9. A person essentially help to make seriously posts I would state. This is the very first time I frequented your web page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to create this particular publish incredible. Wonderful job!

    • Hi Keshab, yes you can, with no added sugar and minimal milk. If you suspect you metabolise coffee poorly, then just drink de-caf, or tea.

  10. Yes, I have coffee before my blood pressure test at the doctor’s office, and that accounts for it being over the limit. 5-10 mmHG is huge for me, puts me over into the needs med area. But my EKG shows no damage from High Blood pressure. Been having this condition for over 40 years. I think that you are right that coffee raises blood pressure but does not harm the arteries.

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