MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With cookies, parties, heavy foods and alcohol, this time of year can have a big impact on our bodies. Throw in stress and little sleep and it can become more than some hearts can handle.

So, what is Holiday Heart? And, what signs should we watch out for during the holiday season? Good Question.

“Also, during the holiday, we tend to put off getting help,” says Dr. Mosi Bennett, a cardiologist at Allina Health’s Minneapolis Heart Institute. “So we might ignore signs or symptoms.”

Dr. Bennett says there are a few red flags to recognize. One is a condition called “Holiday Heart Syndrome.” It was coined by cardiologist Phillip Ettinger back 40 years ago.

Holiday Heart Syndrome is atrial fibrillation, or a fast, irregular heartbeat.

“It is linked to increased alcohol use,” says Dr. Bennett. “It occurs when someone is usually healthy after increased alcohol intake.”

If a person experiences those symptoms, Dr. Bennett says to see a doctor immediately.

Heart attacks are a different condition, but their rates jump during the holidays as well. According to one 2018 Swedish study, the rate of heart attacks can peak by a third on Christmas Eve.

Dr. Bennett says signs of a heart attack can include, but don’t always, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, chest pains or pressure, fatigue and even reflux. If a person is experiencing those symptoms and hasn’t in the past, Dr. Bennett says they should head straight to the emergency room.

“My advice would be everything in moderation,” he says.

That means getting sleep, managing stress, taking medications, eating healthy foods and trying to stick to a normal routine.

Heather Brown

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