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2014-01-09

- Second Opinion - Holiday Heart Syndrome

by Lauren Langford, MD

Having too many merries any time of the year can result in Holiday Heart Syndrome.
This medical problem can occur any holiday or time period that is associated with hard partying, such as spring break, "when there's lots of alcohol involved."
With Holiday Heart Syndrome, patients go the a local emergency room complaining that their heart feels like it is racing out of their chest. On physical examination these patients have a heart rate is greater than 100 beats per minute for more than 30 seconds.
When the heart beats faster than 120 beats per minute, it needs to slow down. Generally the patient needs treatment to slow the heartbeat. The fast, irregular heartbeat is a combination of alcohol and overeating. Patients get so full and so drunk that they start to get palpitations.
Although Holiday Heart Syndrome is mainly attributed to alcohol, add to the mix caffeine, excessive amounts of food and lack of sleep, and you have the perfect recipe for cardiac arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythm.
Treatment with medicine is necessary if the fast heart rate continues. If medicine does not slow the heart rate the patient may need a procedure that can restore a fast or irregular heartbeat to a normal rhythm.
Young patients with no evidence of structural heart disease sometimes can be discharged without further treatment once their abnormal heartbeat has been stabilized. All patients who have experienced Holiday Heart Syndrome must be advised against the excessive use of alcohol in the future.
Rarely, but it does happen, Holiday Heart Syndrome can take a more serious turn when it poses the potential for a stroke. If the episode of atrial fibrillation persists, more blood pools in the heart's upper chambers, increasing the risk of clotting.
And finally, everybody should be reminded to not mix alcohol and energy drinks. The mixture spells heart disaster that can lead to hospitalization and death.