February 25, 2024

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Christmas: what is the syndrome "festive heart"


Christmas and New Year holidays are approaching. “That’s great!”, you say. However, many people experience what doctors call “holiday heart syndrome” during the holidays.

This is a heart condition that involves a short-term interruption of the electrical impulses that normally keep the heart functioning normally. This can lead to an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation). Atrial fibrillation may increase the risk of cardiovascular problems such as stroke and heart failure. A 2022 medical study describes the following factors as possible causes of the disease:

1. Excessive alcohol consumption.
Alcohol affects the force of contraction of the heart muscle, which can lead to conditions such as holiday heart syndrome and atrial fibrillation. Studies have shown that even short-term alcohol intoxication affects heart contractions. A 2020 study notes a link between excessive alcohol consumption and an increased incidence of atrial fibrillation (AF). Alcohol use is estimated to be responsible for 5-35% of new cases of AF. This figure could be as high as 63% if new cases of atrial fibrillation are counted in people under 65 years of age.

2. Stress.
A 2016 study reported an increase in hospitalizations for heart failure during the Christmas season. Researchers have identified “emotional stressors” as one of the possible causes of the disease. Among them:

  • binge eating,
  • reduction in physical exercise
  • delay of treatment/appointment.

3. Dehydration.
A 2019 study found that low hydration levels can be detrimental to heart health. Researchers have linked persistently low fluid intake to an increased risk of future heart problems. They discovered that even short-term dehydration can impair blood vessel function and blood pressure regulation.

4. Junk food.
A 2018 review noted that Western diets high in salt, added sugars and trans fats may contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease. The researchers added that a Mediterranean diet with vegetables, fruits, olive oil and fatty fish helps protect against the disease.

Next factors may increase your risk of developing atrial fibrillation, the main symptom of holiday heart syndrome:

  • pre-existing heart disease,
  • previous heart attack or heart failure,
  • heart surgery,
  • hypertension,
  • lung disease
  • smoking,
  • diabetes,
  • obstructive sleep apnea,
  • use of stimulants such as caffeine,
  • family history of atrial fibrillation.

A 2021 study found that more young people are now suffering from this syndrome due to the rise in strong alcohol consumption among young people.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder associated with this syndrome. Overall possible symptoms the following:

  • arrhythmia,
  • cardiopalmus,
  • dizziness,
  • excessive fatigue
  • labored breathing,
  • chest pain.

Can holiday heart syndrome be reversed? Yes, cutting down or quitting your alcohol intake can reduce your chance of heart problems recurring. If a person receives an early diagnosis and eliminates or significantly reduces alcohol consumption, their heart can be expected to return to its normal function.



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