“Consuming too much alcohol is never a good thing. However, few have actually mastered the skill of avoiding overindulgence during festive days and managing their health”
As the holiday season approaches, it is natural for people to over-indulge in alcohol and food that can have serious repercussions on their cardiac health. One of the most common ailments due to increased alcohol and food consumption is atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat. This is also popularly known as Holiday Heart Syndrome. Let us learn more about this from Dr. Bipeenchandra Bhamre, consultant cardiothoracic surgeon in Sir. H.N. Reliance Foundation Hospital.
Dr. Bhamre has over 8yrs of experience in Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery and has gained many accolades and fellowships from many reputable institutions.
Holiday Heart Syndrome was first coined in 1978 as it occurs due to over-indulgence of food and alcohol during holidays. This can lead to irregular heartbeats which in medical terms is called arrhythmias. This can prove to be life-threatening in people who are otherwise absolutely normal and have no history of cardiac ailments.
“Too much food, sweets, fats, salts, and alcohol can do more damage to our body particularly the heart.”
What Triggers Holiday Heart Syndrome
This condition is purely metabolic and is a result of over-consumption of alcohol and food in the company of friends and acquaintances during festivals and holidays.
The main triggers of this syndrome are:
- Excess alcohol or drugs: Even if you are a person who rarely drinks, you would tend to overdo your dose of alcohol consumption when with friends and acquaintances which may cause sudden and acute cardiac rhythm. This condition gets resolved on subsequent self-restraint on alcohol or drugs like marijuana.
- High-Calorie Food: This is again a common trigger for this syndrome during holidays. You would tend to binge-eat and overdose yourself with food of high calorific value without actually meaning to. This is again resolved within 24hrs and is benign.
- High dose of Caffeine, salt, and sugar: This combines with excessive stress or exertion can cause irregular heart rhythm even if you don’t have a history of any cardiac distress in the past.
“The interesting part of this syndrome is that after this episode your heart is as normal as it was if you get timely treatment.”
Symptoms of Holiday Heart Syndrome
- Racy heart and palpitations
- Excessive sweating
- Burning sensation while urinating
- Blood in urine
“If you sense any of the mentioned symptoms you must immediately seek medical help. You must understand what your body is trying to tell you”
How Can You Avoid Overindulging?
To avoid holiday heart syndrome, you must ensure that you abstain yourself from overindulging in food or drinks during festivities. Often, amidst all the crowd and talking, you lose count of how much you have eaten or would binge-eat to keep company. You would also ignore the fact that you have surpassed your daily calorie count and have overindulged in eateries in every possible way. This can even prove fatal if not monitored or is left undiagnosed.
Tips to abstain from overindulging in food and drinks
- Avoid or at least limit sugar, salt, and cream in your food while eating during holidays
- Don’t binge drink alcohol. Monitor your alcohol consumption and keep it in moderation.
- Avoid too much of stress and keep yourself relaxed and rested
- Drink plenty of water and avoid getting dehydrated
- Eat a healthy snack or two before getting into a party. This would help you avoid overindulgence.
“Holiday Heart Syndrome is a metabolic change and can be avoided by taking few precautions.”
How to Manage Your Heart and Health during Holidays.
- Discouraging salty, sugary and high-calorie food – Try to eat healthy and avoid consuming too many sweets and fatty foods that have a potential of causing such symptoms. Too much salty food can increase the level of sodium in your body which in turn would alter your blood pressure level triggering irregular heartbeats.
- Limit alcohol: Limit your alcohol consumption to no more than 5 drinks.
- Follow a healthy food regime – Eat a portion of salads and fruits and drink plenty of water to ensure that you don’t indulge too much in caffeine or alcohol.
- Avoid overnight partying and too much of exertion –During festivities you forget to give your body adequate rest. This might increase your stress levels and might also lead to dehydration. Often, to avoid feeling sleepy, you might also dose yourself with high levels of caffeine and alcohol which are the major triggers for arrhythmia.
- Get immediate medical help in case you feel weird –Your body would definitely give you symptoms of overindulgence or exertion well in advance. Learn to listen to the signs and act as soon as you feel something is not right.
“Quantity is as important as the type of food you eat.”
Holiday Heart Syndrome is a metabolic condition and is mostly benign. Its effects would get reversed within 24hrs. However, it helps to be aware and controlled at all times to avoid serious repercussions or repeated episodes or arrhythmias in the future. Never assume that you will not get this because you don’t have any history of cardiac distress and always seek medical help in case you experience similar symptoms.