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During the holidays most people worry about putting on a couple of pounds, but in addition they should be concerned about what they’re doing to their hearts. Every year during the holidays, emergency rooms like those at UCSD Medical Center see patients with symptoms of palpitations and light-headedness. Further evaluation usually confirms the patient has an abnormal heart rhythm, often atrial fibrillation, says Ajit Raisinghani, M.D., Director of the UCSD Non-Invasive Cardiac Lab. This condition, called “Holiday Heart”, is a result from over-indulgence of alcohol.
“Alcohol consumption can cause significant cardiac toxicity,” says Dr. Raisinghani. “Usually the patient experiences palpitations accompanied with a sensation of light- headedness. When these patients come into the ER we learn they’ve usually spent the weekend drinking. Most often they’re college kids who are otherwise healthy.”
Fortunately the condition resolves itself within 24 hours. But if not, the doctor will admit the patient to the hospital, administer medication to slow down the heart rate and keep watch until the heart rate returns to a normal sinus rhythm. It’s a heck of a way to spend the holidays.
Raisinghani has a number of suggestions for people who want to care for their hearts, and limiting alcohol to a reasonable amount is just one of them. Here are a few other suggestions Raisinghani offers to keep the heart in good condition this holiday season:
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