JOPLIN, Mo. - "If they're done in high volume in a short period of time--which is what I think happened in this case; he had a lot of caffeine in a short period of time," explained Freeman Cardiologist Dr. Robert Stauffer. "And 16-year-old kids shouldn't need that if they're getting appropriate sleep patterns, appropriate exercise. But a lot of these kids stay up all night on Facebook, they're on social media, they don't exercise like we did probably when we were kids."
Stauffer says it doesn't take much caffeine for a teen to hit dangerous levels. He recommends no more than one cup of coffee or one energy drink a day. Keep drinking and there can be consequences.
"They increase the amount of adrenaline the body pumps out," Stauffer continued. "So then your rate goes up, your blood pressure goes up. The propensity to have an arrhythmia is increased when you're in a high adrenaline state."
And it is the patient's heart that's at risk in extreme cases.
"Cardiac arrest is probably more likely an arrhythmia rather than a heart attack, which is a blockage of the coronary artery," said Stauffer. "So in a teenager, it's presumably normal coronary arteries, which I guess they did an autopsy on him which showed a normal heart. So presumably, that was an arrhythmia that killed him, which is what stimulants cause--cocaine, caffeine, different drugs like that-- can cause different kinds of arrhythmia which can be fatal."
The Freeman Medical Focus was sponsored by Freeman Health System.