Many people like to indulge over the holiday season, but drinking too much could cause holiday heart syndrome, heart problems that cause a heartbeat abnormally. This condition, known as atrial fibrillation (AF), is often experienced as fluttering in the chest. Although it may not seem like much, if it continues for an extended period and is left untreated, it could lead to a heart attack.
The term holiday heart syndrome was first introduced in 1978 and is mainly used by doctors in the US. Outside of the US, the term goes by the name alcohol-induced atrial arrhythmia. Scientists are still unsure of how common the condition is, mainly because people who experience this abnormal heartbeat after drinking do not always seek medical attention.
The condition is rare in people under 30, and it is mainly seen in younger people during endurance exercise, recreational drug use, and obesity. However, the most common cause is binge drinking.
Research from the Copenhagen City Heart Study identified over 1,000 cases of AF among 16,500 men and women. The results showed that heavy alcohol use was responsible for 5% of atrial fibrillation cases in men. They also concluded that the risk of developing AF was 1.5 times higher in binge drinkers than those who drank moderate amounts of alcohol or no alcohol at all.
More research is needed to determine why drinking alcohol is related to arrhythmia development. Scientists believe alcohol may have a direct toxic effect on the heart muscle cells or indirect toxic effects from breakdown products on the heart. These metabolites could also be on other organs, such as the endocrine adrenal glands, located on the top of each kidney.
Researchers believe several mechanisms may explain the connection between abnormal heart rhythm and binge drinking. First, alcohol can increase the release of adrenaline from either the adrenal glands or the heart tissue, which can change the heartbeat.
Second, alcohol interferes with nerve conduction in the heart, which can alter the rate of nerve signal transmission across the muscle. Third, fatty acids in the blood increase when alcohol is consumed and are thought to be associated with the development of atrial fibrillation.
Researchers are still unsure if holiday heart syndrome is different in long-term drinkers compared with nondrinkers. For example, chronic alcohol use is associated with particular heart problems such as alcoholic cardiomyopathy.
This condition is where the heart walls become stretched, thickened, or stiff, changing the heart’s ability to pump enough blood around the body. Researchers question whether there could be an added risk of holiday heart syndrome if daily alcohol users binge drink.
Previous research has investigated alcohol and its effect on the heart, focusing on moderate alcohol intake and its ability to protect the heart. Since holiday heart syndrome was first introduced over 40 years ago, doctors must be aware of the toxic effects of alcohol in the heart, especially in those who don’t show signs of classical heart disease.
Heart health is an important issue throughout life, but many lifestyle changes can help protect it. Reducing alcohol consumption, consuming a healthy diet, and getting plenty of exercise can help to protect against common heart problems.
Making sure you get the essential vitamins and nutrients is also vital to ensure the heart is working correctly.
Heart Resue is designed to support and promote cardiovascular health using various ingredients. Omega-3 fatty acids, CoQ10, magnesium, and hawthorn extract will help keep the heart pumping and blood flowing throughout the body.