The season’s upon us and for many, it is considered the most wonderful time of the year. Traditions abound including family gatherings, holiday caroling, city attractions like the Christmas Village at Love Park in Philadelphia, the Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall as well as the tree and ice skating at Rockefeller Center in New York City, celebrating the Jewish Festival of Lights, and holiday parties with friends, family, and co-workers alike. But with these holiday traditions comes fried, salty, and fatty foods, an abundance of high sugar desserts, and copious amounts of alcohol which can lead to a phenomenon known as “holiday heart.”
Holiday heart syndrome happens when there is too much alcohol in our bodies that leads to alcohol induced atrial arrhythmia. It causes an irregular heartbeat better known as atrial fibrillation or Afib for short. Afib, is an alarming side effect of overindulging during the holidays or anytime of the year. In the short term, it can be scary and cause stress to loved ones but can resolve on its own. However, in the long term, it can be indicative of more serious heart issues like heart failure and stroke. People with pre-existing heart conditions are more prone to experience holiday heart syndrome, but it can happen to anyone.
Some symptoms of holiday heart syndrome include heart palpitations, a lack of energy, dizziness, chest discomfort, and shortness of breath. The heart palpitations typically subside within a few hours after recovering from a heavy episode of alcohol intake. However, if they do not resolve quickly, become worse and are in conjunction with other symptoms that become worse, one should seek emergent care. If one’s heart feels like it is beating faster or the Afib, irregular heartbeat returns, seeking medical attention from a cardiologist or heart specialist will help determine the cause and can help determine a treatment plan.
While holiday heart syndrome may not be completely avoidable, you can lower your risk by practicing moderation and a balanced life. Some ways to moderate holiday heart syndrome include:
• Limiting alcohol consumption; men should have no more than 2 drinks daily (over 5 drinks at a time is considered binge drinking); women should have no more than 1 drink daily (over 4 drinks at a time is considered binge drinking).
• Remain well hydrated and eat a balanced diet. It’s okay to indulge in holiday favorites, but again, moderation is key. If you are already dehydrated, an IV vitamin therapy from Regenerative Health and Wellness in Voorhees, NJ (856-783-3100) may help bring your body back in balance.
• Avoid stressful situations including intense conversations with family and/or friends; overspending on holiday gifts, etc.
• Give yourself permission to say no to holiday events that do not bring joy.
• Stick to your regular sleep schedule and exercise routine as much as possible.
• Don’t forget to take your medications, especially those for high blood pressure and stroke prevention.
The holiday season is an opportunity to create new memories with loved ones and indulge in family traditions. However, moderation and balance are the key to creating joyful memories in lieu of those in a doctor office or emergency room due to holiday heart syndrome. As the season has officially begun, we wish you and your family one that is filled with new and old traditions, joy and laughter, and above all else, good health.
Written by Kelly Reising who is passionate about nutrition, fitness and health.
Dr. Mc Millan is a Board-Certified orthopedic sports medicine surgeon practicing in the Virtua Health System of south Jersey. For more information please visit www.drseanmcmillan.com or follow us on twitter @sportsdrsean.