What is Holiday Heart Syndrome?
Holiday Heart Syndrome is quite a serious medical condition usually observed during the holiday season of Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year. This condition develops when people indulge in consuming huge amounts of food, alcohol, salt, and caffeine. The main clinical presentation of Holiday Heart Syndrome is abnormality in the rate and rhythm of the heart ad well as at times atrial fibrillation. With atrial fibrillation, one means that the heart starts beating extremely fast and the heartbeat becomes irregular. If left untreated, this can result in potentially serious complications like stroke or a heart attack. Holiday Heart Syndrome can also cause significant damage to the heart and result in another serious condition called cardiomyopathy in which there is enlargement of the heart muscles.
What Causes Holiday Heart Syndrome?
As stated, majority of the cases of Holiday Heart Syndrome are caused due to eating lots of food, consuming excess alcohol and caffeine. Studies have pointed out a strange fact that most of the cases of emergency room visits due to cardiac symptoms take place during the holiday season, mostly Christmas and New Year. Stress is also a factor in causing Holiday Heart Syndrome.
What are the Symptoms of Holiday Heart Syndrome?
Some of the symptoms of Holiday Heart Syndrome are:
In some cases the heart rate increases so much that the individual may even have a syncopal event.
When can one get Holiday Heart Syndrome?
Holiday Heart Syndrome Caused due to Overeating: When an individual eats a large amount of meal, it results in the stomach to expand so as to accommodate the large amount of food. This results in a stretching reflex which stimulates the nervous system resulting in increased heart rate and rhythm like atrial fibrillation.
Holiday Heart Syndrome Caused due to Excess Salt Consumption: When salt is consumed in excess amount it results in the blood pressure to increase. If an individual has a history of hypertension, heart valve problems, or heart failure this increase in the blood pressure and increased amount of fluid in the body can trigger atrial fibrillation. Individuals with a prior history of congestive heart failure are at particular risk for having a heart failure if they consume too much salt.
Holiday Heart Syndrome Caused due to Excessive Drinking: Some studies have shown that red wine if consumed in moderation is good for the heart but excess consumption may trigger an atrial fibrillation as excess consumption of alcohol makes the alcohol cardiotoxic and makes the heart weak. When there is weakness of the heart muscles, it makes it much more hard for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body and as a result atrial fibrillation occurs. Also, heavy intake of alcohol can cause increased adrenaline and other stress hormones which may also trigger heart rhythm abnormalities or atrial fibrillation. This is especially true for individual with already a cardiac history.
Hence it is recommended that holidays are there to enjoy and make merry but this should be done in moderation and with minimal stress so as to avoid something like Holiday Heart Syndrome.
How is Holiday Heart Syndrome Treated?
Usually, if an individual has symptoms suggestive of Holiday Heart Syndrome then he or she should be taken to the emergency room immediately. Once the patient gets to the emergency room then routine ECG monitoring will be done to check the status of the heart rate. In some cases treatment with beta blockers may be given for controlling the heart rate in case if the atrial fibrillation lasts for more than 24 hours. In situations where beta blockers or other medications to control the heart rate cannot be given then cardioversion may be considered. In majority of cases of Holiday heart Syndrome, the patient is admitted for at least 24 hours for observation and to bring the heart rate down. Patients who are young and do not have any underlying heart abnormalities and are perfectly healthy otherwise can be discharged once their heart rate comes down
What is the Overall Prognosis or How Serious is Holiday Heart Syndrome?
The prognosis for Holiday Heart Syndrome is quite good even though it is a serious condition. People with a prior history of heart failure or other cardiac conditions are more at risk for serious complications up to including death but people who are perfectly healthy do not need to worry as their symptoms will stabilize with treatment.
The best way to keep Holiday Heart Syndrome at bay is to drink and eat in moderation and be stress free in the holiday season.