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Holiday Heart Hazards

Featuring: Cardiologist Joseph Guarino, MD

Welcome to the season of excess! Just when you’ve finished the leftover Halloween candy, along comes Thanksgiving: rich appetizers, gravy-laden side dishes, all those pies, pies, pies. Not to mention, the beers to watch the football with.

Similar food- and alcohol-laden gatherings tempt us right through the New Year, and while it can add up to extra weight around our middles and bump up blood pressure and cholesterol levels, concentrated over-indulgence can have an immediate effect on the cardiovascular system.

Holiday Heart Syndrome is the name for heart arrhythmias – frequently atrial fibrillation – that are triggered by heavy drinking over a short time. The rest of the year, it might be called “binge drinking.”

The symptoms mirror those of AFib:

  • Fatigue or a lack of energy
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing

Deborah cardiologist Joseph Guarino, MD, says the alarming reactions can arise in people with no known cardiac risk factors and can often subside or be treated with no lasting effects.

“Cumulative effects of alcohol are different,” he says, “they may affect the heart muscle directly if someone drinks excessively all the time. But Holiday Heart is more of an acute process: the direct toxic effect of the alcohol, or changes in electrolytes. Fluid status in the body might be affected as well.”

The bigger concern is when someone with heart issues parties too hard. Raising a gallon instead of just a glass is a bad idea, “but how much are you eating?” Dr. Guarino asks. “You’re overindulging, now you’re making your heart work harder because it has to digest all that food. Plus there’s an extra load of salt, more than likely. All of that is a setup for trouble to develop if someone has underlying heart problems.”

KYW’s Rasa Kaye talks with Dr. Guarino about how to let your hair down without letting your heart down, any time of year.

Could you have AFib? Evaluate your risk.

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