A sudden shock caused by cortisol causes a rise in blood pressure, a heart to beat faster and a level of energy to soar, which undoubtedly allowed some of the first humans to escape from a hungry lion. Today, few of us must fear becoming a prey to a wild beast. Yet many live in a state of almost constant biochemical stress, with their body's alarm system activated all day long.

The constant effusion of excess cortisol can lead to many health problems, including anxiety. depression, problems with memory and concentration, sleep disturbances, weight gain and – yes, dear brother – heart disease

Although the responses of cortisol to caffeine are reduced in people who consume all days, they are not eliminated, a trial controlled by a multidisciplinary research team has demonstrated. In a report published in 2005 in Psychosomatic Medicine, the team, led by William R. Lovallo, a stress specialist at the University of Oklahoma's Health Sciences Center, concluded that "chronic elevations of secretion cortisol could have health consequences. "

Possible adverse effects listed include impaired immune system and central nervous system responses, memory deficits, and changes in frontal lobe function of the brain and limbic system involved in critical factors like the problem solving, judgment, motivation, attention, memory, learning, emotions and empathy.

For people at risk for heart disease, the most serious side effect of excessive caffeine consumption may be its ability to increase blood pressure. As reported by Dr. Lovallo's team, "daily caffeine intake does not abolish the blood pressure response to caffeine," even among young men and women in good health .

Other studies have shown that in people with hypertension or at risk of developing it. , the responses of cortisol to caffeine are exaggerated. In a previous study, Dr. Lovallo and his colleagues found that "borderline hypertensives and those with a positive family history have a faster, longer-lasting response of cortisol to caffeine than people who are at low risk."

My brother has long been treated for hypertension and is now very conscientious about staying on a low sodium diet. But it might be even more useful if he also reduces the amount of caffeine he regularly consumes, by replacing some of this caffeinated coffee with decaffeinated coffee, a suggestion he flatly rejected when I I offered it.