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Caffeine: What Seniors Should know.

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Caffeine: What Seniors Should know.

Whether you're enjoying coffee with friends in Collinwood common areas or brewing a cup of hot tea in your own assisted living apartment, do you default to decaf?

Depending on your health concerns, lifestyle and preferences, you may not always need to avoid caffeine, according to some recent studies on the stimulant.

Caffeine May Be Beneficial in Limited Amounts

Some research indicates that caffeine may be a protective factor when it comes to the development of Alzheimer's or dementia. One study, for example, showed that moderate coffee drinking during midlife led to a 65 percent reduction in dementia risk in late life.

But Caffeine Does Have Side Effects

Medical studies aside, caffeine might not be right for everyone. It can cause issues for individuals with certain types of heart issues, for example. And copious amounts of caffeine probably aren't a great idea for anyone, regardless of age. Other studies have shown that consuming more than four cups a day long-term can lead to potential health concerns.

Here are just a few side effects of excessive caffeine consumption. "Excessive" varies by individual — some seniors may be able to handle a few cups of coffee a day while others can experience side effects after drinking just one.

Anxiety

Tummy problems

Increases in blood pressure or heart rate

Being more tired than normal (after the stimulant effect wears off)

A breakdown of muscle tissue

Problems falling asleep or staying asleep

Increased urgency or frequency of urination

Plus, caffeine can be addictive, so if you're drinking it regularly and need to cut back, you can experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings and fatigue.

Not All Caffeine Is Created Equal

Caffeine comes in a variety of forms, including chocolate. But most people get large portions in beverage format. If you are going to indulge in this stimulant from time to time, the best source is likely coffee or tea, especially if you can take either straight up without sugar and cream.

Other popular forms of liquid caffeine are sodas and energy drinks, but these come with a lot of sugar. More than just the teaspoon you might need to sweeten a hot cup of coffee. An average 12-ounce can of soda, for example, comes with the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar. Some seniors might opt for diet sodas, which swap the sugar for nonsugar additives. This can be a smart choice if you're diabetic or need to cut down on calorie consumption, but consuming too much "fake sugar" can also lead to side effects, such as digestive issues.

Ultimately, the bottom line with caffeine is moderation. Check with your health care provider to ensure there's no reason for specific restrictions on any type of food or beverage, and then indulge in caffeine in small doses such as a single cup of coffee in the morning or a soda when you go out to eat occasionally.

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