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What Is Holiday Heart Syndrome?

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, it may be tempting to throw caution to the wind, momentarily ditch your healthy lifestyle, and overindulge. What could go wrong by having a few extra glasses of wine or adding another slice of that delectable pumpkin pie to your plate? Unfortunately, a little overindulgence could mean you find your good cheer interrupted by a condition known as holiday heart syndrome — the occurrence of heart arrhythmia, most frequently atrial fibrillation, after bouts of binge drinking and overeating.


In this brief article, we discuss the causes and symptoms of holiday heart syndrome and what you can do to safeguard your heart health. If you’re concerned with the effect that overindulgence may be having on your health, schedule an appointment with Jesal V. Popat, M.D., the best cardiologist in the Tampa Bay Area.


Related: Everything You Need to Know About Arrhythmia


Holiday heart syndrome can be attributed to a number of factors, including excessive alcohol consumption, overeating, elevated stress levels, insomnia, and dehydration. Plenty of holiday-centered activities can lead to increased stress, whether it’s buying the perfect gift, hosting family members, or trying to cram in the right amount of work before your days off. It’s also incredibly easy for your regular sleeping and exercising routine to be thrown off by an upcoming party or trip to visit family members. 


Apart from overeating foods too high in salt, like Christmas ham and canned vegetables, the most common culprit behind holiday heart syndrome is alcohol consumption. From those who drink regularly to those who seldom raise a glass, alcohol combined with increased levels of adrenaline can easily lead to some pretty concerning effects on your heart.


To get a better understanding of the symptoms of holiday heart syndrome, it may help to know that this condition is also referred to as alcohol-induced atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid cardiac arrhythmia (heartbeat) caused by chaotic electrical impulses in the upper chambers of your heart. The type of atrial fibrillation that occurs with holiday heart syndrome is considered paroxysmal, meaning that the arrhythmia begins suddenly and ends after a short period. Some of the most common symptoms of holiday heart include the following: 


  • Palpitations (a rapid, irregular heart rate)

  • Shortness of breath

  • Lightheadedness

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Chest discomfort


If you experience any of the symptoms described above and your heart does not return to its normal rhythm within a few minutes or your symptoms continue to worsen, seek immediate medical attention. Heart arrhythmias are frequently associated with serious complications, such as stroke and heart failure, both of which can result in death if not treated properly.


Related: Heart Palpitations


Below, we’ve outlined some tips from the best cardiologist in Tampa to help you prevent holiday heart syndrome this holiday season:


  • Avoid Overindulgence: The average American tends to gain 5-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. To avoid this unhealthy weight gain and reduce your chance of holiday heart syndrome, try to monitor your portion sizes, limit your intake of salty or sugary foods, and resist going back for seconds or thirds.


  • Drink in Moderation: While enjoying a glass or two to toast in the holiday season with friends and family is perfectly fine, binge drinking is always dangerous. You should also limit your intake of caffeine, as it has the chance to trigger insomnia and an abnormal heart rhythm as well.


  • Ease the Stress: High levels of stress is the best way to increase your heart rate and blood pressure, which is why it’s so crucial to set aside even just a few minutes out of your day to relax and maybe do some breathing exercises. 


If you have any questions about your heart health or what you can do to prevent holiday heart syndrome this holiday season, don’t hesitate to contact Jesal V. Popat, M.D.

To consult Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC, the best cardiologist in the Tampa Bay Area, please call (813) 344-0934 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are for general educational purposes only. All content and media on the Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC website does not constitute professional medical advice nor is the information intended to replace the services of Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC or other qualified medical professionals. If you believe you are having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately. 


The content, views, and opinions communicated on this website do not represent the views of Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk. Although this website contains links to other medical websites, this is strictly for informational purposes. Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC is not responsible nor does the medical practice approve of the content featured on any third party linked websites referenced on this website.

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