Heart palpitations after partying? This is a serious matter

Excessive salt and alcohol consumption can trigger unpleasant events. One of these is the little-noticed Holiday Heart Syndrome.

Holiday Heart Syndrome: also known as the holiday syndrome

Holiday Heart Syndrome refers to heart problems caused by overindulgence in salty foods and alcohol. While over-eating and over-drinking can happen at any time of year, the syndrome is called holiday syndrome because we overdo it the most during the holidays - the time of celebration with overindulgence in salty snacks and delicious cocktails.

All that salt and alcohol can lead to passive atrial fibrillation or another tachycardic arrhythmia. In the short term, this may just be an unpleasant side effect of a little too much partying, but in the long term it can lead to serious heart problems such as heart failure and stroke.The clinical picture can be variable. Palpitations and palpitations are the most common symptoms. In addition, angina pectoris and dyspnoea may occur. Less specific symptoms such as restlessness, anxiety, dizziness and malaise have also been described in the literature1.

Alcohol leads to an increase in free fatty acids in the blood

Patients may experience specific and non-specific symptoms. Pathophysiologically, three factors are responsible. Alcohol leads to an increase in free fatty acids in the blood, which have an arrhythmogenic effect. In addition, acetaldehyde is formed after alcohol consumption as a toxic degradation product in the liver from ethanol. This chemical compound also has arrhythmogenic properties and increases myocardial catecholamine release. Finally, the parasympathetic nervous system is increasingly activated by alcohol consumption. This activity has been associated with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation2.

In most cases, atrial fibrillation ends spontaneously. If not, there is the possibility of drug or electrical cardioversion. The simplest measure to prevent the occurrence of Holiday Heart Syndrome is not to overdo it with alcohol consumption.

1. Samokhvalov AV, Irving HM, Rehm J. Alcohol consumption as a risk factor for atrial fibrillation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J CardiovascPrevRehabil.2010;17(6):706-12.
2. Tonelo D, ProvidĂȘncia R, Gonçalves L. Holiday heart syndrome revisited after 34 years. Arq Bras Cardiol. 2013 Aug;101(2):183-9. doi: 10.5935/abc.20130153. PMID: 24030078; PMCID: PMC3998158