kadisha b. rapp

Dr. Kadisha B. Rapp

*Now that we are in the throes of Awards season, Dr. Rapp must warn you of Holiday Heart Syndrome.

It is brought on by drinking excessive alcohol, and consuming too much sodium, as can be found in the many hors d’oeuvre we will partake of at the awards parties.

You say you don’t have heart disease?  It matters not.  You can still get it.

What is it?
Holiday Heart Syndrome is not just stress.  It is a real condition in which the heart is more vulnerable to disturbances of the heart’s normal rhythm.  It is a rapid, irregular rhythm your heart can enter when you drink too much alcohol.  Most commonly the heart goes into Atrial Fibrillation, a rhythm characterized by the quivering of the upper chambers of the heart, called the atria.  This causes inefficient passage of blood into the lower chambers of the heart and the rest of the body.  The blood that sits in the atria can thicken, causing the formation of clots which cause stroke in the brain, heart attacks in the heart, and the loss of fingers and toes when they lodge in blood vessels of those areas.  Other rhythm disturbances include atrial flutter and premature beats.

 What causes Holiday Heart Syndrome?
The cause is not clear, but it tends to happen when a person has consumed too much alcohol, is stressed and /or is dehydrated.  Theories say that it is caused by a rise in one’s adrenaline levels.  This stress hormone increases our heart rate.

Who is at risk for Holiday Heart Syndrome?
Usually people who have no history of heart disease experience it.

What are the symptoms of Holiday Heart Syndrome?
The symptoms are caused by the heart entering a rapid and irregular rhythm.  This can cause the sensation of fluttering in the chest or a sensation of the heart racing, pounding, or skipping beats. One may also feel chest tightness, shortness of breath, anxiety, dizziness, or a person may feel faint.

 How is Holiday Heart Syndrome treated?
Go to your nearest emergency room.  You may need intravenous fluids, monitoring of your heart’s rhythm, or medication to slow your heart rate.  Usually the symptoms resolve when the offending agent is no longer in your system.

Bring a list of your medications.  Know your personal and family history.  Be honest when telling of any drugs or alcohol consumed.  If you have no heart disease, the symptoms usually resolve within 24 hours and you will be cleared to go home.  If there is concern for undiagnosed heart disease, you might be admitted to the hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

Wishing you much safety and success this awards season! – K.B. Rapp, M.D.

For MORE from Dr. Kadisha B. Rapp, visit: www.drkbrapp.com