Know about the dreaded ‘Holiday Heart Syndrome’ and how to handle it

Too much alcohol, salt, and caffeine may lead to a temporary irregular heartbeat, in an otherwise healthy individual. This is called Holiday Heart Syndrome (HHS) and the person goes into an irregular heart rhythm called ‘atrial fibrillation’

Know about the dreaded ‘Holiday Heart Syndrome’ and how to handle it
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The top portion of the heart doesn’t beat in conjunction with the bottom portion of the heart; and the heart beats irregularly.

For some people, the condition is temporary, but others might need to be electrically or with medicine converted back to a normal heart rhythm.

In either case, it is important to be able to recognise atrial fibrillation, because not only can it cause the heart to beat out of rhythm, it can cause a clot to form, which can lead to a stroke.

As the country leads up to new year and the incumbent holidays, Dr Ramakanta Panda, VC-MD of Asian Heart Institute says, “Thanks to inter-connected global workplaces, Indians have observed, in the last decade or so, that their western counterparts don’t work during Thanksgiving and Christmas. This amounts to 7-10 days away from work.”

“Similarly, during Diwali and New year, friends and family meet, there’s binge drinking and excessive eating. This is what is causing this trend to be observed in India. The most common symptom is terrible heart palpitations. People describe this symptom, like their heart is jumping out of their throat and report feeling short of breath,” added Dr Panda.

Technically speaking, cardiologists explain that alcohol has direct depressant effects on the myocardium (heart muscle) both after excessive binge drinking.

Alcoholics without other evidence of heart disease are often seen developing an acute cardiac rhythm disturbance or conduction disturbance associated with heavy ethanol consumption. These symptoms disappear with abstinence.

This could also be more common in those who are more susceptible to heart disease- diabetes, hypertension, family history.

The best thing to do is for the person to take their pulse  using two fingers – on the wrist or on the neck. While there are lots of apps out there,  it is really important to be seen by your doctor’s office or your local care centre or emergency room right away.

“All enjoyment must be in moderation,” adds Dr Panda. “And if something doesn’t feel right, it’s better to be on the safe side and get it checked out right away.”

HHS is known to increase one’s risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications; and is becoming increasingly prevalent in India, thanks to a tendency to follow trends set by Western countries.