Stimulant blamed in teen's mysterious death - WNEM TV 5

Stimulant blamed in teen's mysterious death

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

A seemingly healthy teenager died from what was described as a caffeine induced cardiac event.

It is causing many to take a hard look at their own consumption habits.

The coroner said too much caffeine caused the South Carolina 16-year-old's death last month. He collapsed after consuming several caffeinated drinks in a short period of time.

In 2013, Michelle Rupert experienced a similar situation.

"I fell. I was dead before I hit the floor," Rupert said.

Her brother performed CPR and medics helped revive her.

She said her lifestyle was a catalyst for the event. To make it through a work day Rupert would drink up to five Monster energy drinks plus several servings of Mountain Dew.

"The event changed my life forever. So I have to watch how much caffeine I take in a day," she said.

The South Carolina teen reportedly drank a large soft drink, a latte and an energy drink within a span of two hours.

"Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others," said Dr. John Collins, cardiologist for St. Mary's.

Collins said some people unknowingly have a predisposition that can be triggered by too much caffeine and everyone metabolizes caffeine differently.

"If you're a regular consumer of caffeine it doesn't affect you as much," Collins said.

Rupert said other variables were at play. She was taking prescription medication and had a poor diet before her cardiac event.

Collins said for many people there are typically too many variables to directly link caffeinated drinks with cardiac arrest.

"Patients who have a predisposition may not know they have a problem until it happens. So certain individuals would be very sensitive to caffeine," Collins said.

For people with a predisposition, caffeine can increase the heart rate and blood pressure - triggering a deadly arrhythmia.

Rupert was 47 when she suffered a heart attack. She said her doctors urged her to lay off energy drinks. She has a message for others.

"Do it in moderation. If not, don't do it at all," Rupert said.

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