What is Holiday Heart Syndrome?

The holiday season is a beautiful time, but it can also be a very stressful season. Running from place to place, and eating and drinking excessively can set a person up for a serious condition known as "holiday heart syndrome".

Posted: Dec 15, 2017 1:31 AM

The holiday season is a beautiful time, but it can also be a very stressful season.

According to Leslie Cho, M.D., a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, when running from place to place, and eating and drinking – sometimes excessively – it can set a person up for a serious condition known as 'holiday heart syndrome.'

"Holiday heart syndrome is when you drink too much alcohol and then you go into an irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation," said Dr. Cho. "Atrial fibrillation is when the top part of the heart doesn't beat in conjunction with the bottom part of the heart."

Dr. Cho said it's important to be able to recognize atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, because not only can it cause the heart to beat out of rhythm, it can cause a clot to form, which can lead to a stroke.

She said that for some people, the condition is temporary, but others might need to be chemically or electrically converted back to a normal heart rhythm.

Dr. Cho said A-fib is usually brought on from excessive binge drinking.

The most common symptom is terrible heart palpitations. People with A-fib often say they feel like their heart is jumping out of their throat and report feeling short of breath.

Dr. Cho said if a person feels like their heart is beating very fast for a lengthy period of time, they should take their pulse – using two fingers - on the wrist or on the neck.

"If you're in A-fib, your heart is going pretty fast and being in that fast rhythm for a long time can cause clot formation," said Dr. Cho. "Therefore, it's really important to be seen by your doctor's office or your local urgent care center or emergency room right away."

Dr. Cho said it's a good reminder for everyone to be mindful during the holiday season and to do everything in moderation. And if something doesn't feel right, it's better to be on the safe side and get it checked out right away.

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