Overindulging could lead to ‘holiday heart’

Lending new meaning to the phrase “party hearty,” doctors caution that overindulging at seasonal bashes could lead to a syndrome known as “holiday heart.”

The condition is basically an irregular heartbeat that occurs in people who are otherwise healthy. It’s common during the holidays for a variety of reasons, but the prime culprit is a spike an alcohol consumption during office parties and the like, said Dr. Steven Kunkes, Bridgeport Hospital medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and wellness. “Many people who are not used to drinking will go to a party and consume, in the course of a night, five or six drinks,” Kunkes said.

He said doctors tend to get a lot of traffic following long holiday weekends and holiday heart is a major reason. Alcohol isn’t the only things that can cause hearts to get out of sync this time of year. Stress, excessive caffeine ingestion and “anything that serves to stimulate the heart” can cause you some trouble, Kunkes said.

Fortunately, there are ways to keep your ticker under control. For one thing, if you’re a moderate drinker, don’t suddenly turn into Bluto from “Animal House” once your neighbor’s Christmas party rolls around. “Don’t drink a lot at one sitting,” Kunkes said.

Here are some more helpful hints, from the American College of Emergency Physicians:

  • Get exercise: Go to the gym, take regular walks or do something else to stay active. This can reduce your stress level.
    Watch your diet: People tend to eat larger quantities of rich foods during the holidays. If you’re going to indulge, do it in moderation.
    Get a checkup: If you haven’t had one recently, the holidays might be a good time to visit the doctor and have routine physical.
    Get enough sleep: You should underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep, as well as daily down time. Take a nap, take time for yourself, re-energize and relax.
    Don’t ignore symptoms: If an irregular heartbeat lasts for longer than a few hours, you should seek medical attention or go to the nearest emergency room. If you feel chest pain or think you’re having a heart attack, call 911 or seek emergency care right away.
  • Amanda Cuda