Preventing Holiday Heart Syndrome

While many families are still grazing on Thanksgiving leftovers, plans are likely already underway for the next big holiday meal.  And with all the celebrations going on in the month of December, not only do healthy diets take a beating, but added alcohol consumption can lead to Holiday Heart Syndrome.  

Especially for adults with atrial fibrillation (AFib), heavy alcohol consumption during the holiday season can weaken the heart and contribute to heart injury or heart attack.  AFib, an abnormally rapid heart rhythm, can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, stroke and heart failure.  If you have a newer Apple Watch that will give you heart rate notifications, follow this link to learn how to set it up.

Although moderate amounts of alcohol may have protective heart health benefits, consuming more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks for men can cause harm.  And binge drinking during the holidays, which is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as consuming 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more drinks for women in a 2-hour period, can lead to serious heart problems.   

Along with celebrating a little too much with alcohol, overeating heavy, rich and salty foods can also lead to an increased risk for heart attack.  Many adults will put off seeing their doctor over the holidays because of family commitments or inclement weather.   Don’t wait to seek medical attention for any heart-related symptoms during the holiday season.  

Older adults may not process alcohol as they once did and may find the effects are noticeable with smaller amounts.  Medications can also interact with alcohol and impair balance leading to an increased risk for falls.  Hosts should be sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy at gatherings such as sparkling flavored waters, soda or juice along with healthy snacks like fresh veggies and fruit. 

Learn more about the risks of holiday drinking by following this link to a recent review of Holiday Heart Syndrome published in the journal Arquivos Brasileiros de Cardiologia.