Holiday Heart Syndrome

Heart attack

Holiday Heart Syndrome, coined in 1978, is a real syndrome in which the heart’s vulnerability to certain arrhythmias is increased by excessive alcohol ingestion (binge drinking) and the onset of a heart rhythm disturbance in people who are otherwise healthy.

The most frequently seen arrhythmia during the holiday season is atrial fibrillation, in which the top chambers of the heart quiver or fibrillate causing the heart to beat irregular and often quite fast.

Excessive alcohol intake in women is defined as consuming seven or more drinks per week or over three doses at one time.  For men, heavy consumption is defined as over 14 drinks per week or over four drinks at one time by the U.S. Department of health and Human Service.

Alcohol alone does not fully explain Holiday Heart Syndrome.  There are other risk factors for atrial fibrillation that are higher around the holidays such as:

  • Overeating
  • Stress
  • High levels of sodium consumption
  • Dehydration

Everyone has some degree of stress in their lives.  Health concerns, family and relationship issues, financial problems can all cause stress which can ultimately affect your health; the idea of “letting go” at a holiday event and consuming more alcohol than usual as a way to forget the present may have a negative effect on your future.

If you have any heart symptoms, it is best to seek medical attention immediately; even if your symptoms appear ON a holiday.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.