Excess alcohol, heavy meals, greater stress… the Christmas period is accompanied by an increase in the number of cardiovascular accidents. Emergency doctor, Dr. Gérald Kierzek gives you all the advice to avoid “holiday heart syndrome”.
During the end-of-year holidays, it is not uncommon to drink more than you should. But this excessive consumption of alcohol, in addition to being harmful to health and risky when driving, can also cause what is known as holiday heart syndrome.
What is holiday heart syndrome?
Holiday heart syndrome happens after heavy drinking, usually the next day. This causes a severe cardiac arrhythmia, called atrial or atrial fibrillation. “We then feel palpitations and faster beating of our heart” confirms Dr. Gérald Kierzek, emergency physician and medical director of TipsForWomens. “Atrial fibrillation also carries a greater risk of stroke, on average one in four strokes is linked to an episode of fibrillation.
A syndrome explained by the inhibition of an enzyme
According to the results of a study carried out in 2020, this is explained by the fact that ethanol inhibits the functioning of an enzyme, protein kinase C, which participates in all kinds of physiological functions of the heart cell. This therefore disrupts cellular exchanges and subsequently, the electrical polarization of heart cells and their beats. “It is an effect that takes place within eight hours after alcohol consumption and disappears within 24 hours” adds the doctor, who warns people prone to atrial fibrillation. “It is better for them to avoid alcohol“.
How to monitor your heart rate?
During an episode of atrial fibrillation, you have an irregular pulse, with a feeling of shortness of breath and general discomfort. “But it is also possible to have completely asymptomatic episodes.” warns the emergency doctor.
To monitor the number of heartbeats, it is then possible to “equip yourself with a connected watch or a Kardia, a sensor which allows you to carry out, via an application, an electrocardiogram (ECG) and therefore measure your heart rate”.
Myocardial infarctions on the rise at the end of the year
At the end of the year, deaths from heart attacks tend to be more numerous. In the United States, the American Heart Association recalls that several studies have confirmed this increase. She invites the general public to take care of their cardiovascular health as the holidays approach.
“Every year, during the colder months, we see an increase of around 10% in the rate of fatal cardiovascular accidents. But around Christmas or New Year, we observe an additional increase of 5%”reports Mich Elkind, chief clinical science officer for the American Heart Association.
Vasoconstriction of the arteries, a phenomenon accentuated by cold
“In winter, the ambient cold tends to cause vasoconstriction of the arteries, particularly the coronary arteries of the heart” indicates Gérald Kierzek. “This phenomenon narrows the diameter of the vessels“.
If we combine this with a richer, saltier diet, greater alcohol consumption and sometimes stress linked to preparations, these are all risk factors which explain the increase in myocardial infarctions at this precise moment in time. the year.
In addition, patients may more often delay the consultation during the holiday period, even in cases of discomfort. In the event of warning signs, do not hesitate to consult any day.
Simple recommendations for a happy holiday
The American Heart Association reminds you of several simple rules to follow during the holidays:
- Know the symptoms and take action in the event of a heart attack in a loved one : remember that men and women do not necessarily have the same symptoms during a heart attack. It is important to recognize them and immediately call 15;
- Celebrate in moderation : the end-of-year celebrations are a time of sharing and conviviality, often punctuated by meals where food and alcohol are served in abundance. Instead, you should eat as healthily as possible during this period, which does not mean depriving yourself, but balancing your plate and drinking in moderation, reminds the AHA;
- Remain zen : if the preparations, especially when entertaining at home, can be a source of stress, we must learn to put things into perspective and avoid getting annoyed at the slightest annoyance;
- Continue to exercise : the recommendations regarding sport remain the same, whether on vacation or not. Ideally, you should achieve 150 minutes of physical activity per week;
- Don’t forget your treatment and monitor your blood pressure : if you have treatment and in particular blood pressure, it is important to monitor it and consult a doctor if it rises too high.