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.
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.
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.
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.
- Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment; Stephen J. McPhee, M.D. and Maxine A. Papadakis, M.D.
- Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 31st. ed.; Saunders Elsevier
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: What Is Mitral Valve Prolapse?
- The University of Chicago Medical Center: Anatomy and Function of the Heart Valves