Avoid holiday heart syndrome

DALLAS – December 2016 – The Grinch may not be the only one who has a problem with his heart during the holidays.

There’s a notable December bump in the number of patients who show up during in emergency rooms with what’s known unofficially as holiday heart syndrome – heart rhythm problems caused by overindulging, says cardiologist Dr. Sharon Reimold of UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“It’s common for people to go to multiple parties during this time of year. You go to one party and have a drink or two, go to the next party and have a couple more. It’s the cumulative effect of alcohol that can put you at risk, sending your heart into atrial fibrillation,” says Dr. Reimold, Professor of Internal Medicine.

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is an irregular and rapid contraction of the upper chambers of the heart. Shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and a feeling that the heart is beating much faster than normal are the primary symptoms of AFib, which is associated with an increased risk of stroke.

Excessive eating and, especially, excessive salt intake, also can cause the problem. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 mg. of sodium a day.

Her advice: While drinking in the holiday spirit, take it easy on the holiday spirits and pay attention to how much you’re eating and drinking.

Dr. Reimold is Professor of Internal Medicine who holds the Gail Griffiths Hill Chair in Cardiology.

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