Holiday Heart Syndrome: What You Need to Know


Holidays are a time to indulge in excess.

There are many opportunities to test your resolve when it comes to food and alcohol, whether you’re at parties or just visiting family. Although it is fine to indulge, excessive alcohol can be detrimental to your health.

Holiday heart syndrome is a condition that causes heart arrhythmia in people who are healthy. It’s most commonly atrial fibrillation.

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Holiday heart syndrome: What you need to know

In 1978, holiday heart syndrome was first described in medical literature. Doctors described the high prevalence of cardiac rhythm disorders due to binge drinking, which was common during holidays.

The study authors noted that episodes often followed holiday or weekend sprees and resulted in hospitalization between Tuesday and Tuesday, or near the year-end holidays. This relationship is not seen in other alcohol-associated diseases.

Another study just this month found that the risk of heart attack spiked by 15% during the Christmas/New Year holiday. After New Year’s Eve, and other midsummer holidays, the risk of heart attack increased.

Alcohol and heart health

Although holiday heart syndrome has been recognized for over 40 years, it is still not clear what the reason behind alcohol’s effect on the heart.

It is well-known that alcohol can affect the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, as well as many other functions of the body that could lead to cardiac arrhythmia.

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Skipitaris stated that “anytime the muscle of a heart is affected, the electric system of the Heart which is built into muscle cells of a heart can also be affected.”

The holidays can affect your heart on many levels, in addition to alcohol consumption. During holidays, stress can be increased by spending money, purchasing gifts, or hosting family. With sweets, leftovers and other rich foods around the house, diet can take a bad turn.

Holiday parties or visits to family can also make it easy for your routine for exercising and sleeping to be thrown out of whack.

It may not surprise then that heart attacks tend to spike around Christmas.

Holiday heart syndrome is not necessarily dangerous. It’s possible to feel disconcerting to see a rapid heart beat or skipbeat, but it won’t be accompanied by any other symptoms or history of heart disease.

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“People can experience extra beats or palpitations when they are feeling okay. Hopefully, this will improve within 24 hours. Skipitaris stated that the most important thing is to stop doing what you are doing if it’s not working for you.

There are some cases where alcohol-related arrhythmias of the heart should be considered serious. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should immediately seek medical attention:

  • dizziness
  • Trouble breathing
  • chest pain
  • Loss of consciousness

Heart arrhythmias can lead to more serious complications, such as stroke and heart failure. These complications can cause death.

Arrhythmia is a sign of holiday heart syndrome. But, so is heart failure. Skipitaris said that holiday heart can also be caused by poor pumping function. This can lead to heart failure, which can cause blood not to flow properly through the body. You can even become short of breath.

These are the most severe cases of holiday heart syndrome. The vast majority of cases can be resolved by abstinence from alcohol. However, it is important to pay attention to your feelings and keep your medical history and health in mind.

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Skipitaris said that if there’s an abrupt change in your feelings or if you feel concerned, it’s better to have a professional look at you. It might be better not to have that fifth glass of spiked eggsnog.