Watch out for holiday heart

Too much alcohol is the cause of a medical condition known as “holiday heart.” Heavy binge drinking frequently leads to atrial fibrillation, an abnormal rhythm of the upper chambers of the heart that may cause a rapid heart beat, palpitations and sometimes dizziness and shortness of breath.

Even persons who have consumed only a few drinks can develop a temporary episode of atrial fibrillation, sometimes related to dehydration or electrolyte imbalances as well as the irritation of the heart muscle.

Persistent atrial fibrillation increases the risk of a stroke and should be treated. Brief episodes related to alcohol, however, may require only limiting or avoiding consumption.

[SOURCE: Richard N. Fogoros, M.D., “Holiday heart,” About.com Heart Health Center, updated Dec. 8, 2008]

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Last Updated November 14, 2011