Holiday Heart syndrome most commonly refers to association between Alcohol use and heart rhythm disturbances with Atrial fibrillation is most common. Alcohol increases the secretion of Epinephrine and Nor-epinephrine with increase sympathetic output with rise in free fatty acids levels. Direct alcohol toxicity to heart muscle causes a well known entity called alcoholic cardiomyopathy with weakening of the heart muscle resulting in Congestive Heart Failure in addition to atrial and ventricular arrhythmia being more prominent in those with known coronary artery disease with prior heart attack or weakened heart muscle. In these instances, there is an increased risk of sudden cardiac death.
Most common presenting symptom is having palpitations, chest discomfort, passing out, or become short of breath acutely with rapid rate of atrial fibrillation the heart muscle will not have a chance during its resting phase of the cardiac cycle known as ( diastole)and be supplied with oxygen. More deleterious effects observed in elderly folks as they become more dependent on the atrial kick for filling the heart, thus will loose up to 40% of effective pumping function forcing the patient into Congestive Heart Failure and Angina attacks and if untreated atrial fibrillation and will lead to strokes especially those with structural heart disease.
If we add over eating, high salt intake rising blood pressure, smoking weeds, elevation of uric acid causing acute gout attacks with pain adding to excessive alcohol intake ( known as Binges) will increase the chances of having Cardiac arrhythmias even with those without structural heart disease observed in young otherwise healthy individuals.
So, the message here from a caring heart doctor who has seen and managed so many with Holiday Heart Syndrome cases, it is preventable by monitoring your alcohol intake , avoid over eating, limit salt intake, caffeine intake, avoid dehydration and Holiday stress.
Follow this humble advice will save you from spending your Holiday Season in an Emergency Room or lying in a Hospital bed. Have a safe and Happy Holiday season!