“As we are approaching the holidays, we need to think about a common condition that is seen not just around holidays, but is called the Holiday Heart Syndrome. This is essentially an episode of atrial fibrillation, which is a rhythm abnormality of the heart that happens where the atrium, instead of contracting, starts to fibrillate. And that is atrial fibrillation. And the patient feels like a sudden surge of their heart rate, where the heart feels like it’s jumping out of the chest, and if they take their pulse, it feels rapid and irregular. And then they show up in the emergency department and we find AFIB. Now that could be in anybody if the person’s in their eighties, that could happen at any time, because age is a common risk factor for developing atrial fibrillation. But Holiday Heart tends to happen in any age category, but particularly the young, without any risk factors, who come into the emergency room within 48 hours of a major holiday, where they’ve had an alcoholic binge, which could be as little as two drinks, and develop AFIB.
And we find no other risk factors. We essentially reassure the patient, we recommend that they take certain medicines to come out of it, if they haven’t spontaneously broken through to normal rhythm. And then we ask them to avoid future episodes of binge drinking. And this is important now because the holidays are coming, and a lot of people, as part of the holiday celebration, tend to enjoy a cocktail or two. And I just want people to be aware of the condition and to know what it is and to seek attention if they do feel the palpitation or the rapid heart rate.”