Holiday heart syndrome: What to know before you overindulge in eating, drinking this holiday season

Posted at 1:03 PM, Dec 19, 2019

Overindulging in holiday food and drink can mean trouble for your health — especially for those with heart problems.

According to Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Leslie Cho, "holiday heart syndrome" is common this time of year — and easily avoided if folks are mindful about what they eat.

“One of the things we always tell our patients is that you can have whatever you want, but it has to be in moderation,” she said.

Holiday heart syndrome is heart trouble experienced after too much salty food or alcohol. Sometimes even healthy people may notice a rapid heartbeat or skipped beats after drinking too much alcohol, which typically isn’t cause for concern.

However, Cho said alcohol and salty foods increase blood pressure, which can worsen the risk for heart failure in people who already have heart problems. She recommends planning ahead when attending a party. If you know you’re going to have a big dinner in the evening, have a smaller breakfast and lunch, or eat before you go so you’re not tempted to overdo it. And if you’d like to have dessert, take a smaller portion.

When it comes to alcohol, Cho said it’s OK to have a cocktail, but enjoy it slowly throughout the evening instead of binge drinking. She said it’s important to be mindful after a night of holiday indulgence too because anti-inflammatory medications commonly taken to relieve hangover symptoms can put even more stress on the heart.

“They tend to increase your blood pressure too,” Cho said. “So, if they increase your blood pressure, some people end up having heart failure because it’s like a vicious cycle. So it’s really important just to watch what you’re eating and doing.”

For those who already have heart failure, Cho recommends keeping a close eye on weight and blood pressure during the holidays. If symptoms or numbers are concerning, she said it’s best to contact a medical professional.

This story was originally published on WXYZ.