Caffeine and the elderly: Good or bad?

caffeine and elderlyStudies have found caffeine helps muscles produce more force for adults in their prime. But does the same thing apply to the elderly, whose muscles naturally become weaker due to age?

According to Science Daily, the answer is a soft yes. Sports scientists from Coventry University looked at whether age-related changes in muscle altered the effect of caffeine. By studying the performance in two different muscles from mice, they found that caffeine continued to enhance performances, but was less effective in older muscles.

“Despite a reduced effect in the elderly, caffeine may still provide performance-enhancing benefits,” Jason Tallis, the study’s primary author, told Science Daily.

With muscle decline in the elderly a major contributing factor in injuries, maintaining muscle tone is key. And those who do remain physically active likely will receive the most benefits from consuming caffeine, Tallis notes.

Other studies have found that caffeine can reduce the risk of heart disease in elderly people with normal blood pressure levels.

Can caffeine be dangerous?

Like other substances, caffeine is best in moderation. Excessive caffeine intake can lead to a number of health problems, writes LiveStrong.com, including:

  • Reduced bone strength. Too much caffeine can expel calcium from the body. Elderly women are especially at risk for caffeine-related bone problems, according to a 2009 study by the Journal of Bones and Mineral Research, as a lack calcium in a woman’s diet paired with high levels of caffeine intake lead to an increased chance of osteoporosis and bone fractures.
  • Increased blood pressure. The Mayo Clinic found that the amount of caffeine in two to three cups of coffee can raise a person’s blood pressure to levels that may be dangerous for people with high blood pressure or heart-related diseases.
  • Addiction. As most of us know who’ve gone a morning without our coffee, caffeine can lead to a physical dependence. Roland Griffiths, of John Hopkins School of Medicine, says the basic mechanisms that lead to people becoming dependent upon caffeine are similar to classic drug addiction. Caffeine withdrawal can have rather severe symptoms as well, including headache, lethargy, foggy thinking, depression, nausea and/or vomiting. Naturally, those who consume high amounts of caffeine are at the greatest risk for addiction.

If you’re curious or concerned about the effect caffeine is having on your elderly loved, it’s best to consult with a doctor.

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