Holidays are a time for fun, food and enjoyment with friends and family. But, can all the festive eating and binge drinking affect your heart health? In this season of celebrations, know all about holiday heart syndrome, a condition induced by binge alcohol consumption.

Holiday heart syndrome causes atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, after excessive alcohol consumption or binge drinking.

It is estimated that 53% of people in the U.S. consume alcohol regularly. One in six U.S. adults engage in binge drinking, a pattern of consumption when five or more standard drinks are taken in a single session. It is most common in young adults below the age of 34.

Binge drinking can lead to negative health outcomes, including motor vehicle crashes, falls, burns, alcohol poisoning, domestic violence and sexual assault.

Anyone, even those seemingly healthy, can suffer from holiday heart syndrome following an episode of binge drinking. People with existing heart conditions are at higher risk of complications, including stroke and heart failure.

Here are the common signs of holiday heart syndrome:

  • Impaired mental status from alcohol intoxication
  • Elevated heart rate or palpitations
  • Precordial pain or pressure (chest pain)
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular pulse
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lack of energy

In some cases, patients may not show any clinical symptoms. This leads to an underestimation of the actual number of incidences.


The type of treatment depends on a person's general heart health. If the patient's heart health indicators are good, doctors will focus on treatments to reduce arrhythmia and recommend quitting alcohol. In patients with unstable heart health, doctors may administer cardioversion, which involves the use of quick, low-energy shocks to reset the heart rhythm.

Tips to prevent holiday heart syndrome:

1. Avoid binge drinking - Even if a person cannot completely stop consuming alcohol, avoiding binge drinking itself can help in heart health. Limiting alcohol intake to less than 80 milligrams per day may lower the risk of holiday heart syndrome.

2. Eat in moderation - People tend to overindulge in food during celebrations. Eating smaller portions and limiting salt intake can help to keep your heart healthy.

3. Stay active - Regular physical exercise is important even when you are on holiday. It not only helps in preventing holiday heart syndrome, but also boosts your long-term health.

4. Remain calm and stress-free - Holidays can sometimes turn stressful. With proper planning and preparations ahead, you can enjoy a stress-free holiday.

5. Watch out for medications - Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to ease symptoms of hangovers can put stress on the heart. Missing regular medications during holidays can also put your health at risk.