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All You Need To Know About Holiday Heart Syndrome!

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

”Consuming too much alcohol is never a good thing. One can actually master the skill of avoiding overindulgence during festive days and managing their health.” 

As the holiday season approaches, it is common for people to over-indulge in alcohol and junk food, which can have serious repercussions on their cardiac health. One of the most common ailments due to increased alcohol and unhealthy 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 in food and alcohol during holidays. This can lead to irregular heartbeats, which in medical terms are 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 the 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 changes in cardiac rhythm. The use of alcohol, tobacco and other illegal drugs is extremely harmful to your health. 
  • 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. 
  • High dose of caffeine, salt and sugar: This, combined 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
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Weakness/Dullness

Keep your HEART in good health, click here

“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 from overindulging in unhealthy 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 if 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 stress and keep yourself relaxed and rested
  • Drink plenty of water and avoid getting dehydrated. Follow every glass of alcoholic beverage with a glass of water.
  • Eat a healthy snack or two before getting into a party. This would help you avoid overindulgence.
  • Do not miss out on fresh fruits and vegetable salads.


”Holiday Heart Syndrome is a metabolic change and can be avoided by taking a few precautions.”

How to Manage Your Heart and Health during Holidays.

  1. Discouraging salty, sugary and high-calorie food – Try to have a heart-healthy diet and avoid consuming too many sweets and fatty foods that have the potential to cause 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.
  2. Limit alcohol: Limit your alcohol consumption to no more than five drinks. Quitting is always a better option.
  3. 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.
  4. Avoid overnight partying and too much 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 adequate sleep.
  5. Get immediate medical help in case you feel weird –Your body will 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.
  6. Be regular with your medicines- Do not miss your ongoing medications and health monitoring during holidays. Carry your glucometer and B.P. apparatus along with you if you are a person with diabetes and/or high blood pressure. 
  7. Getting a routine health check-up before the holiday season can be a great idea. 

”Quantity is as important as the type of food you eat.” 

Must Read: 20 Essential Healthy Heart Tips


Holiday Heart Syndrome is a metabolic condition and is mostly benign. It may happen to people with pre-existing heart issues and also to a person with an otherwise healthy heart. Keep a tab on your diet and drinks during the holiday season for the sake of your health. Do not ignore any unusual symptoms like chest discomfort, breathing difficulty, palpitations etc. and consult the nearest hospital immediately. Spike in B.P. and severe arrhythmias can lead to fatal complications. Be mindful of your food and drinks and enjoy your holidays healthily and happily.


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