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Holiday Heart Syndrome: What is it? Are You at Risk?

Friday, December 13, 2019 9:01 AM

“Holiday Heart” may sound like a Hallmark movie, but it’s actually quite sinister. It is the occurrence of heart arrhythmia, most frequently atrial fibrillation, after bouts of binge drinking, and is known to occur even in healthy individuals.

The syndrome’s name was coined after it first appeared in medical literature in 1978 by doctors who described irregular heartbeat patterns sometimes following excessive alcohol consumption.

Holiday Heart Syndrome

AFib occurs because of faulty electrical signals that make your heart flutter or beat too fast. Blood flow can slow enough to pool and form blood clots and it can raise your chances for a stroke or other heart conditions.

Drinking alcohol every day can raise your chances of getting AFib because it disrupts your heart’s natural electrical signals that keep it beating at the right pace.

So who’s at risk for getting AFib due to drinking? Studies have found a strong link between AFib and drinking one to three drinks per day. Binge drinking or having more than five drinks in a row, also makes AFib more likely.

Mark Metzl, MD, Cardiology, provides the following:

Tips for Limiting Your Alcohol Consumption

  • If you drink, only have one or two.
  • Try and have at least 3 alcohol-free days every week.
  • If you do experience an episode of AFIB within an hour of drinking alcohol, contact your doctor

Are you experiencing AFib?

  • Heart palpitations – feels like a flutter or quiver in your chest when your heart beats.
  • Racing heart – when your heart beats faster than usual. Sometimes your heart will skip a beat.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in your chest
  • Experiencing confusion, dizziness or feeling faint
  • Sweating
  • Feeling very fatigued and weak

There are tests your doctor can do to check your heartbeat and the electrical impulses in your heart. If you are found with an irregular heartbeat, there are options to bring it back to its normal rhythm.