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December 13, 2018

Your booze-rushed ticker might be 'holiday heart syndrome'

It's not as warm and fuzzy as it sounds

Wellness Heart Health
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The holidays are filled with events, foods and activities that you only get to do once a year — that’s why this season is so magical and exciting.

One thing that’s definitely more acceptable during the holidays than any other time of year is drinking more than usual. But celebrants should know an increase in imbibing can bring on the warm and fuzzy-sounding “holiday heart syndrome,” that will likely leave you feeling warm, but definitely not fuzzy.

Holiday heart syndrome is an acute cardiac rhythm disturbance associated with alcohol consumption. If you’ve ever noticed that after a few drinks, your heart started pounding at a noticeable and concerning rate, you were probably experiencing holiday heart.

RELATED READ: Will an aspirin a day keep a heart attack away?

This random heart episode can even happen to people who are completely healthy and bear no previous heart problems — that’s what makes it so scary.

According to Greatist:

Your heart may pound or beat irregularly in a misfiring pattern known as atrial fibrillation, or you may even feel lightheaded, faint, or short of breath. And symptoms are usually quite noticeable, so you’ll know if you’re experiencing it.

Just one drink can set off holiday heart for the very sensitive. Holiday stress and dehydration also appear to increase the risk. For most people, however, binge-drinking is the chief culprit for holiday heart syndrome.

Of course, holiday heart can present itself anytime you drink too much, not just during the holidays. But the facts are that people drink way more than usual during the holiday season — a recent poll found that people admit to drinking twice as much this time of year. In fact, a quarter of annual distilled spirit sales occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to

The good news is that if a thumping heart or an erratic pulse flares up after a few cups of spiked cider, you probably don’t need to freak out. The best thing to do is stop drinking. Most cases of holiday heart syndrome resolve within a few hours or up to a day.

If you experience shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or feeling faint or fainted after alcohol consumption, go to the hospital right away, Dr. Nieca Goldberg, cardiologist and medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, told Greatist.

If you aren’t binge drinking during the rest of the year, you probably don’t have to worry about holiday heart having long-term effects. It’s worth noting, however, that long-term alcohol abuse can cause serious heart issues down the line — namely, alcoholic cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle), according to Healthline.

The CDC defines binge drinking as five or more drinks in about two hours for men and four or more drinks for women. If that describes you, in general or during the holidays, perhaps some mocktails should be put into the mix at holiday parties this year.

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