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Holiday Heart Alert!

What is Holiday Heart?

In a nutshell: People, who are otherwise healthy for the most part and don't have any underlying health troubles they are aware of, celebrate a holiday - usually Christmas.  They are under a little Holiday stress and have a few "or more" drinks.  What happens next is the alcohol stimulates the heart to go into an abnormal heart rhythm. The most common is Atrial Fibrillation.  

Most people worry about putting on a couple of pounds over the Holidays, but in addition they should be concerned about what they’re doing to their hearts - Holiday Heart cases spike every Christmas  and New Years, emergency rooms see patients with symptoms of palpitations and light-headedness. Further evaluation usually confirms the patient has an abnormal heart rhythm, often Atrial Fibrillation.  Alcohol consumption can cause significant cardiac toxicity and they’ve usually have spent the weekend drinking.  Most often they’re college kids who are otherwise healthy. As you rush from one holiday party to the next, it's easy to overindulge in food and booze. (yes that includes beer and wine)

Fortunately Holiday Heart Atrial fibrillation usually resolves itself within about 24 hours. But if not, the doctor will admit you to the hospital, give you medication to slow down the heart rate and keep watch over you until your heart returns to a normal sinus rhythm. In some cases an electric SHOCK is required to jolt your heart back into the proper rhythm. What a fun and relaxing way to spend the holidays.

Holiday Heart Syndrome can also occur in people who drink little or no alcohol, but then have an alcohol binge or drink in excess during the holidays.  Holiday Heart studies indicate death rates from heart attacks and stroke spike during the holiday season.  Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia in holiday heart syndrome and believe me it is a real harrowing and NOT FUN experience. Research has suggested that as many as 65% of all Arrhythmias found in individuals under age 65 are a variation of Holiday Heart Syndrome.

Cardiologists are warning party goers that Holiday Heart Syndrome sufferers often feel palpitations or extra heart beats, like your heart is beating funny or kind of flopping in your chest.  Most cases of Holiday Heart start as "Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation," that is, Atrial Fibrillation that starts suddenly, and after a time, stops suddenly.

Watch your alcohol intake during the holidays, it's just not worth it!  Doctors have found people experiencing the Holiday Heart Syndrome most often appear at the emergency room during the holiday party season and at graduation time.  And with holiday tension, stress and sadness, your heart is already working overtime.

The holiday season can be heart-warming, it can also can be heart dangerous!  Binge drinking at holiday parties is a bad idea - period.  Anything that can cause disruption of the heart’s normal rhythm "IS TO BE AVOIDED!!" It is estimated that as a many as 35% of cases with heart problems in the emergency room are attributed to Holiday Heart Syndrome.

Holiday Heart Syndrome is seldom life-threatening, but it IS very scary and I do mean scary - like - "I think I am DYING Scary!"

Who is most at risk?

Men more than women. It's pretty hard to predict who will have an abnormal heart rhythm, but we know alcohol itself can stimulate the heart by reacting with or inflaming nerve pathways to cause all kinds of flip-flops and irregular beats.

When should you seek treatment?

Most cases of Holiday Heart caused atrial fibrillation start suddenly, and after a time, stop on their own.  Alcohol is a known trigger that produces Atrial Fibrillation if ingested in large quantities, even in "normal" individuals. Up to 60% of patients who engage in heavy binge drinking will develop episodes of atrial fibrillation.  In some individuals sensitive to alcohol, two or three drinks, and sometimes a single drink - can trigger episodes of atrial fibrillation.

What I tell people is, If your heart starts racing, running wildly for more than just minutes, certainly up to hours and it doesn't go away, and if you recognize that you might have been drinking more alcohol than usual and you're short of breath, have it checked out by going to your regular doctor or get to the emergency room.

How can you prevent it?

Moderation, using judgment, and certainly recognizing if you've had a couple of drinks of alcohol, that we say from a heart standpoint, you really don't have a lot to gain by drinking more and maybe a lot to lose.

Not-so-Happy Holidays    

Holiday heart

Yes you can party like a mad man/woman and get away with no ill effects other than a headache - But - If you have a bought of Holiday Heart (Atrial Fibrillation) it WILL get your attention and there is the possibility the "Afib" will NOT resolve itself... Have a Happy Holiday and a Merry Christmas and do your heart a favor and don't drink to excess.

I can tell you - IT AIN'T WORTH IT!




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