While you should eat, drink and be merry on Thanksgiving, doctors are warning not to overdo it. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to what’s known as “holiday heart syndrome.”
The term was coined back in the 1970s when researchers detected heart rhythm abnormalities in 24 study participants, none of whom had a history of heart disease — but all of whom had too much to drink over the holidays.
Dr. Marc Gillinov, a heart surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and author of ‘Heart 411′ describes it as “a heartbeat that’s usually chaotic, irregular and faster than your normal heartbeat.” In a healthy person, the fibrillation is usually fleeting. But if it persists, it can lead to congestive heart failure or a stroke.
“Heavy alcohol use can lead to dehydration,” said Dr. Malissa Wood, co-director of the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center. “It can also deplete electrolytes like potassium and magnesium. And it may also affect the way the heart responds to adrenaline in your own body.”
What should you do if you experience holiday heart syndrome? “Try to cough or drink some cold water,” she said. “That can actually reset the heart rhythm.”
But the best idea is to avoid overindulging in the first place.
“Enjoy the holidays, but make sure you enjoy them in moderation,” said Dr. Gillinov. “Think of your heart. Do some special things, just not too much of any one special thing.”