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What Are the Dangers of Caffeine for Mitral Valve Prolapse?

by
author image Vita Ruvolo-Wilkes
Vita Ruvolo-Wilkes was first published in 1977. She worked as a certified aerobics and exercise instructor. Upon graduating from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, she worked for the VA Medical Center. As a physician assistant, Ruvolo-Wilkes designed specialized diets for her patients' conditions and has written a monthly health column in the "Montford Newsletter."
What Are the Dangers of Caffeine for Mitral Valve Prolapse?
Coffee contains the most caffeine but be aware of tea, soft drinks and energy drinks. Photo Credit ValentynVolkov/iStock/Getty Images

Mitral valve prolapse, also known as MVP, occurs in up to 5 percent of the general population and in 10 percent of young women, according to “Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment.” It affects the valve that helps the blood flow in the left side of the heart. Prolapse means the valve fails to close properly; sometimes allowing blood to flow backward into the chamber. Because it is sometimes asymptomatic, MVP can go undiagnosed for many years. Typically, any type of stimulant exacerbates mitral valve prolapse because the more excited the valve becomes, the greater its degree of dysfunction, according to Albemarle Pulmonary Medicine Associates.

Central Nervous System Stimulation

The central nervous system innervates the brain, heart and other organs. When stimulated, it brings the body to life. If you want to lift your arm, your intention goes to your brain. Your brain then relays a signal to the nerves and muscles of your arm and makes it possible for you to carry out the movement. Your visceral organs, the one you don’t control mindfully, carry out their duties automatically without your input. However, the things that you do, eat, drink or breathe in can affect your organs via this autonomic branch of the nervous system.

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Caffeine’s Stimulant Properties

Although caffeine is used worldwide, it is a drug. “Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary" defines a drug as any substance that affects the processes of the mind or body. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, then you experience an adrenaline-type surge of energy from it. This happens due to a complex process of blood vessel dilation and flooding of blood to your limbs and organs. The more caffeine you ingest, the more obvious its effects -- rapid heartbeat, flushing or jittery feeling. Even though your energy level rises, you become less coordinated due to hand and arm tremors. Some people experience a sensation of panic.

Effects on Mitral Valve

Like the other organs, your heart feels the effects of caffeine. It beats faster and harder, causing a defective mitral valve to work harder and less efficiently. The mitral valve controls the blood flow between the chambers on the left side of your heart. Instead of closing tightly, the flaps that seal and open the mitral valve prolapse back into the upper chamber, or atrium. Because a tight seal cannot form, blood from the lower chamber, or ventricle, can leak back into the atrium. This splashing back of blood is called regurgitation. Over time, this causes the wall of the ventricle to thicken in resistance. The thickened muscle wall causes a weaker, less effective beat.

Complications

The left ventricle is your heart's main pumping chamber. It gets oxygenated blood from your lungs and pumps it throughout your body. While other forces help to move it along, the ventricular contraction needs to be strong and efficient. When this force is impaired, you would experience pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, fatigue and cough. Thickened ventricle walls lose elasticity and must work harder to pump blood to your body.

Recommendations

Mitral valve prolapse tends to run in families. If anyone in your immediate family has it, you need to speak to your physician about detecting the condition in your own heart. Only a small number of people with MVP go on to have serious complications, but knowing you have it affords you the opportunity to avoid substances such as caffeine that may aggravate the situation.

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