As I sit here in front of my computer, coronavirus-free while composing this week’s column, I am reminded that I’ve seen better days, but I’ve also seen worse. I don’t have everything I want, but I have everything I need. I woke up with some aches and pains, but I woke up. My life is not perfect, but I am definitely blessed and thankful.

I usually start my day by checking my email, even before my first cup of coffee, but I must have that cup of Joe before I proceed. If you’re among the 59 percent of Americans who drink coffee like I do, that java buzz is probably familiar to you. But you may not be aware of the extent to which coffee can affect your entire body within minutes of post-sip.

Here’s what happens immediately after you down that first cup of Joe. Your blood pressure will rise up to 10 to 15 percent on average, after about 15 minutes. Your pupils will dilate slightly – and you may actually be able to see better. You’ll feel more mentally alert after about 20 minutes, thanks to the caffeine. Gastric secretions in your stomach will increase 10 to 15 percent – meaning you’ll digest food faster. Your bowels and bladder will be stimulated.

The caffeine is a stimulant, and according to Dr. Marc Leavey, a primary care specialist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, some evidence shows that it can increase mental functioning and strengthen your ability to concentrate.

In a nutshell, the brain works by sending out chemicals called neurotransmitters through synapses. That’s how we are able to think. Caffeine is a psychoactive compound that modulates these neurotransmitters, allowing them to operate more efficiently. As a result, the brain is able to better process chemical messengers, according to Leavey. When used in moderation, coffee gives you an edge. You’ll begin to feel more mentally alert after about 30 minutes, but the effects do wear off in a few hours.

The key word, of course, is moderation. Too much caffeine can overwhelm your system and sabotage your concentration, so instead you’re anxious and jittery.

Caffeine also triggers your sympathetic nervous system (which regulates your body’s unconscious activity), it stimulates the receptors in your brain that tell your body to rev up and produce more adrenaline.

Leavey reminds us though, that a hit of java is also cardiovascular. Consequently, about 15 minutes after drinking a cup, the caffeine begins to elevate your pulse and blood pressure by an average of 10 to 15 percent. The exact amount varies depending on a bunch of factors – including how much you’ve drunk, whether you’re a regular coffee-drinker, how much food you’ve eaten, your weight, and of course, medications. According to Dr. Leavey, consuming two six-ounce cups a day is not hazardous for most people, but a greater intake can be problematic, especially if you have underlying issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure or a faster than-normal heart rate.

Then there is cholesterol; you probably don’t think of coffee as problematic in terms of cholesterol. But studies suggest otherwise. Coffee beans contain oils shown to increase cholesterol. However, these oils are sifted out if you drink filtered coffee.

Anyway, when I need to buckle down and push through a tight deadline, a cup of Joe becomes my best friend, but just maybe I should lighten up some.

Reference: “Your Body Within an Hour of Drinking a Cup of Coffee,” by Molly Triffin, at

To reach Ted W. W. Stillwell send an e-mail to or call him at 816-896-3592.