Our last issue of Her Times talked about health, and it was one of the most widely read issues we have ever published.
In it, I discussed that I had cut my caffeine consumption in half. I like coffee, and I often drank whole pots of it myself in my younger years. Last year, when my blood pressure edged into uncharted territory, I knew it was time for some drastic cuts. Caffeine was one of the first to go because I have trimmed it before.
I had Facebook friends and neighbors teasing me this week that they couldn’t believe I had trimmed my caffeine consumption, but I didn’t do it overnight. Here are some tips that worked for me:
I drink one cup of caffeinated coffee as soon as I get up in the morning. And I make the strongest stuff I can find. I go for deep roast, dark blends, five-star intensity. In fact, I’m usually a black coffee drinker, but I’ve found that Peet’s and Gevalia brands for the Keurig need a little cream in them when I make the small cup. And I go full-out half and half — not whitener. This is about taste and giving up caffeine — not deleting a tablespoon of cream from my diet. After the first cup, I go straight to decaf — same brands –strongest flavor I can find. It works for me. I didn’t get beastly headaches or become a basket case, but if this doesn’t work for you, then do it more gradually.
Other caffeine: I knocked off diet pop with caffeine in it years ago, and then I stopped drinking decaf diet pop — gradually — except for a rare diet ginger ale. I did it because a friend of mine had long ago been advised by her physician to stop drinking carbonated beverages — he had determined that joint pain she had might be due to the amount of pop was she drinking. She switched to decaf tea, and voila — pain was gone. Decaf tea is a great beverage – it will never replace coffee in my cup.
I often ordered half caffeine/half decaf coffee at takeout or a restaurant. It’s an easy way to take control.
Chocolate — I cut way back. Waaay back. But don’t get in my way if I want some. Once again, I go for really good, really tasty, strong chocolate — Godiva, Ghirardelli, Dove, some of the rich Hershey’s stuff — it has to be rich chocolate — not just ultra sweet cocoa. And I try to eat some with nuts or caramel in it — nuts have protein. Caramel doesn’t, but it’s soothing. And sweet.
I stopped drinking caffeine after 10 a.m. Debbie DeAngelo wrote an article for Her Times that discussed how long caffeine stays in our systems. She explained that we can be losing sleep — or having trouble getting and staying asleep because of caffeine we drank 10-12 hours earlier. That was an eye opener.
If you have high blood pressure, see a doctor. Make a plan. Cutting caffeine is just one step in a plan for reducing blood pressure that worked for me, but we all need a lot more than that if we want to have healthy hearts. For my family, caffeine has always been a trigger, and cutting back on it worked for everyone in two generations. My blood pressure is back in the normal range for me, and it doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t reduce your caffeine and expect your blood pressure to drop like a stone the next day. For me it took a good month. I also reduced sodium — but I have never been a sodium addict. I’m still working on that, and I’ll share what works for me another day.
Pam Parker is the editor of Lake Erie LifeStyle, Her Times and House to Home at the Erie Times-News in Erie, Pa. She is mom to three, stepmom to three and GramPam to one.