How Much Coffee Is Too Much For The Elderly? (There Is A Limit)

While coffee has been shown to have several benefits for older adults, there is too much of a good thing. But, how much coffee is too much?

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Too Much Coffee For The Elderly
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Coffee is a delightful brew that revives the mind and body at the start of each day, and no one appreciates this more than the senior community.

While drinking coffee has been associated with many positive health benefits, no one will deny that this percolated potion is potent. The truth is, there is a right to be concerned about elderly loved ones drinking too much.

Generally speaking, your elderly friends and relatives are in no danger from enjoying their morning cup of coffee, provided they have a safe and easy to use coffee maker.

Nevertheless, managing consumption and balancing the strain of coffee consumption on the body can lead to a healthier life and avoid the negative side effects.

So, let’s begin with a deeper look at what coffee can do to the body, how we can take full advantage of the benefits, and what we can do to avoid the risk.

The Upside of Coffee

Most people will enjoy a cup of coffee to benefit from the alertness that it provides to a sluggish mind and body.

But there is a wide array of other health benefits available for elderly consumers.

Here are some of the best reasons why seniors should be drinking moderate amounts of coffee each day.

Reduces Risk of Diabetes

According to the research, between 3 and 4 cups of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee a day can be linked to reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 25%.1

This is true for both men and women, but only true for those who drink their coffee black — no sugar, no cream/milk.

Prevents Parkinson’s Disease

Clinical science has also found that a regular cup of coffee can act to prevent the onset of Parkinson’s disease. This is because of natural components that counteract the degenerative damage caused by Parkinson’s disease.

Reduces Risks of Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Many studies have been made on the effects of coffee drinking and the risks of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other degenerative cognitive conditions.

It has been noted that those that drink between 3-5 cups of dark roasted brew can reduce their risks of developing these conditions by as much as 65%. Studies have also observed that the benefits are due to the dark roast itself, not the caffeine content.2

too much coffee for the elderly heart disease
Coffee drinkers are less likely to die of heart disease.

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

Protecting the ticker is another good reason for elderly folks to partake in a daily cup of coffee. Statistics show that coffee drinkers — between 1 and 4 cups of coffee a day— are 19% less likely to die of heart disease.

Potential Risks of Coffee Drinking

As you can see, coffee is a tonic for health if enjoyed in proper amounts. But there are some side effects to drinking coffee that should be considered to ensure balanced health.

Stimulated Nervous System

Coffee stimulates the nervous system making it sharp and ready for action, even at 3 am.

But for those drinking more than a balanced dose, the nervous system can become overstimulated, resulting in jitters, anxieties, heart palpitations, restlessness, and insomnia.

Reduced Metabolic Clearance

Another study noted that as you age, the metabolic clearance of caffeine is slower. In other words, it can take older adults as much as 33% longer for the effects of caffeine on the nervous system to be fully dissipated.3

This means that if your elderly relative drank a cup of coffee after 4 pm, there is a good chance that this cup of coffee will stay in their body until after 10 pm.

Elderly folks already have difficulty sleeping properly, so this can be especially bad for those suffering from insomnia.

Increased Blood Pressure and Dehydration

Caffeine narrows the blood vessels and increases blood pressure throughout the body. As a diuretic, coffee can also dehydrate the body. These two effects can be especially bad in combination.

Seniors are especially susceptible to the effects of high blood pressure, and dehydration is one of the most common causes of hospitalization in seniors.

Digestive Issues

Coffee is an irritant and can upset the sensitive lining of the stomach. Because ulcers, gastritis, and other digestive issues are common ailments in elderly people, it is important to keep this risk in close check.

too much coffee for the elderly interference medications
Coffee may interfere with the medication that the senior is currently taking.

Interference with Other Medications

Coffee can also interact with other medications seniors may be taking at the time.

For example, coffee taken with thyroid medications reduces the efficacy of the medication by 55%. In other cases, coffee can increase the potency or adverse side effects of your medication.

Balancing Coffee Intake for Best Health Results

The best way to enjoy all the benefits that coffee has to offer while avoiding the risks is with balance and planning. Here are some things to consider.

Other Food with Caffeine

The recommended 2 to 4 cups of coffee is an important rule of thumb, but it should also be noted that other foods contain caffeine that should also be factored into the equation.

Some of the most common foods that contain caffeine include:

  • Tea
  • Chocolate
  • Pudding
  • Energy water
  • Ice cream and frozen yogurt
  • Hot cocoa
  • Soda
  • Protein bars

Modest Amounts

The recommended amount of caffeine recommended by the CDC is set at 400mg a day. This is an important point to keep in mind.

But it is far more important to be closely attuned to the effects the coffee is having on the senior in question.

If they are well within their daily intake limit, but having trouble sleeping, suffering from an upset stomach, or feeling jittery, something in the intake plan should be adjusted.

Other Factors

You can avoid many of the adverse effects of caffeine intake by making sure your aging relative is eating, sleeping, and exercising properly.

If the diet and exercise are balanced, rest habits follow suit. A healthy lifestyle is a perfect foundation for enjoying the benefits of coffee and avoiding the risks.

Final Notes on Coffee For Seniors

Coffee for seniors can be a tough topic as it is one of the special joys they still have. But, generally, elderly people should be able to safely drink coffee – in moderation of course. It’s not a bad idea to substitute an occasional decaf coffee as well.

Don’t be afraid to discuss alternatives to coffee for those who are exceeding what could be considered a “healthy” amount.

Many other energizing beverages do not have such damaging stimulants.

References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-caffeine#heart-disease-diabetes
  2. https://www.coffeeandhealth.org/topic-info/neurodegenerative-disorders-coffee-and-parkinsons-disease
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10914439/

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Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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