Filipinos love the holidays. For most, the season of celebrations starts as soon as the “ber” months roll in.
But while it’s that special time of the year when people allow themselves to indulge—with a second serving of lechon or another bottle of beer—Filipinos should not forget that health during the holidays can carry over into the New Year.
It may not sound like a real medical issue, but Holiday Heart Syndrome is very much a reality for a lot of people. Noel Rosas, MD, cardiologist and Chairman of the MakatiMed Department of Medicine shared to The Manila Times that the hectic, indulgent nature of the holidays brings in a lot of patients concerned about their heart health.
“Holiday Heart Syndrome is the irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia that occur in typically healthy people without heart disease, after heavy drinking and eating. It’s usually observed in people who don’t typically drink alcohol, but who knock back a few drinks or even binge-drink during a party,” Dr. Rosas explained.
It got its name because it occurs often during the holiday season, when celebrations often included excessive amounts of alcohol and fatty food.
The arrhythmia observed in holiday heart-sufferers after excessive drinking and eating is called Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation (AF), characterized by rapid and irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, anxiety, fatigue, dizziness, and sweating. This can sometimes also be accompanied by chest pain, which should be treated as a medical emergency. Paroxysmal AF means the heart returns to a normal rhythm on its own, or with intervention, hours or days from onset of symptoms.
“It’s still best to watch what you eat and drink during the holidays, and to consult a cardiologist to make sure your arrhythmia is not a symptom of another disease,” the cardiologist advised.
Women are recommended to consume no more than one drink a day, while men are advised to consume no more than two drinks a day. According to Dr. Rosas, the American Heart Association defines a “drink” as equivalent to one 12-ounce of beer, 4-ounce of wine, 1.5-ounce of 80-proof spirit, or an ounce of 100-proof spirit. “Proof” is twice the percentage of the alcohol content by volume, which means an 80-proof whiskey, for example, is 40 percent alcohol by volume.
Of course, if one plans to drive, take medications that can interact with alcohol, has a medical condition which alcohol can aggravate, or are pregnant or trying to be pregnant, he or she should avoid drinking alcohol completely.
“Given the risks involved, a caution to everyone is to not start drinking if you do not already drink alcohol,” Dr. Rosas noted.
With food, it’s best to avoid too much salt, sugar and trans fat, which can cause blood pressure to rise, putting a strain on the heart and the whole cardiovascular system. To avoid overindulging, eat a small, healthy meal before going to a party.