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Dr Manny's Notes

Protecting your heart during the holidays

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Holiday season is officially here – just remember, knocking back a few too many cocktails at holiday parties can hurt your heart.

The term for this is “Holiday Heart Syndrome,” and it was coined in 1970s after scientists detected heart rhythm abnormalities in 24 study participants, none of whom had a history of heart disease – but all of whom had drank a few too many drinks.

The scientists observed that the participants’ heart beats were chaotic, irregular and faster than normal.

The scary truth is, December is a peak month for heart attacks, in part due to binge drinking, which can lead to heart attacks and even death, especially among people who already have underlying medical conditions.

When people binge drink, they dehydrate themselves and deplete their bodies of necessary electrolytes. The heart can go into atrial fibrillation, which occurs when the upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of contracting regularly and allow the blood to pool inside the heart.

Then, people sit down for a big meal, and their blood pressure shoots up. In some cases, the heart can’t handle all the strain goes into cardiac arrest.

This can be especially dangerous for people who aren’t necessarily “drinkers,” but choose to imbibe during the holidays, because it can be a shock to their system.

To minimize your risks of a heart attack this season, you should avoid excessive eating and drinking, and try to pre-hydrate the day before a big party. Make sure to get in plenty of sodium and potassium.

Also, be careful with the over-the-counter medications you take. People like to “solve” little ailments with Tylenol or other products that contain acetaminophen and end up taking it like candy.

These medications can build up in the bloodstream and eventually cause liver damage or even failure. The effect is even worse when you take them in combination with alcohol.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season, everyone, and remember – everything in moderation.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's Senior Managing Editor for Health News. Prior to this position, Alvarez was a FNC medical contributor.
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