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'Holiday Heart Syndrome' Can Dampen Festivities

For many, the holiday season is an extended period of overindulgence, from eggnog-laced aperitifs to rich meals topped with caloric desserts.

But overdrinking — alcohol, that is — can do more than give you a headache. It can perhaps signal a more dangerous, or at least scary, cardiac event. Cardiologists at the Cleveland Clinic warn that even those with no history of heart disease are at risk for "holiday heart syndrome" after just one night of heavy drinking.

If you overdo it on occasion and then have an episode of atrial flutter or atrial fibrillation — "a rapid heart-beating that originates from the upper chambers of the heart" — you might be experiencing "holiday heart syndrome."

What do you do if you get this feeling? If you've never experienced it before and it lasts longer than five minutes, you should see a doctor. (Make sure someone else takes the wheel in case what you're experiencing is more serious.) But if you have experienced this feeling before and you know it gradually dissipates, you might be safe to wait it out.

What can you do to avoid holiday heart syndrome?

  • Limit alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per night for men, one for women.
  • Keep consumption of high-fat and high-sodium foods to a minimum.
  • Maintain your usual exercise routine as much as possible.

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