Holiday Heart Syndrome Signs You Should Keep An Eye Out For This Season

The holiday season is often those several days (or weeks) each year when you toss out many of your restrictions. You say "yes" to an extra piece of chocolate, "yes" to another serving of turkey, and "yes" to a second or third drink. After all, you know you'll do a major reset come January 1. However, if you plan to indulge a little more during the holidays, you'll want to be aware of holiday heart syndrome.

While holiday heart syndrome sounds like another lonely heart Hallmark Christmas movie, it's your heart's reaction when you drink too much. According to StatPearls, the term came from a researcher who noticed an influx of patients sent to emergency rooms for atrial fibrillation after binge drinking one weekend. Atrial fibrillation occurs when the chambers of your heart become out of sync. The most common sign of holiday heart syndrome is heart palpitations, but you also might feel fatigue, weakness, or shortness of breath. More serious signs include chest pains, sweating, or anxiety (per Baystate Health).

How alcohol affects the heart

According to a 2017 article in Alcohol Research, alcohol weakens your heart's ability to contract, which can result in irregular or fast heartbeats. When you consume five or more drinks in a single sitting, you're at an increased risk for atrial fibrillation. Binge drinking and heavy daily drinking are both associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Although holiday heart syndrome is mostly associated with binge drinking, it can occur in people who rarely drink alcohol.

Holiday heart syndrome can occur in people with no previous heart conditions, according to a 2013 article in Arquivos Brasileiros de Cardiologia. Irregular heartbeats due to holiday heart syndrome can put you at a higher risk for stroke or death. Alcohol increases the levels of fatty acids in your blood, which can contribute to problems with your heart's rhythms. When your body breaks down alcohol into acetaldehyde, this might trigger substances in your heart that cause an irregular heartbeat.

Holiday heart syndrome doesn't necessarily just occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Any occasion where you combine alcohol, stress, caffeine, and high-sodium and fatty meals could increase your risk of holiday heart syndrome (per Baystate Health).