Too much overindulgence can lead to holiday heart syndrome

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Tasty temptations are everywhere during the holidays. But too much food, sweets, and alcohol can do more than wreck your diet.

It can also lead to holiday heart syndrome.

Family genetics handed Dan Orr his share of heart disease.

Over 20 years, he's had an irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation, needed multiple stents for blockages, and last year, just before Thanksgiving, had a heart attack.

Because of that, he's diligent about medication and a healthy lifestyle.

I work out 4 or 5 days a week, and I watch my diet," said Dan.

However, this time of year is tough.

"With all the homemade cookies, and cakes, and all the alcohol, it's, you know, it is a challenge," he said.

Dr. Brett Victor of Cardiology Consultants of Philadelphia says too much overindulgence can lead to a syndrome dubbed holiday heart in the 1970's.

"A doctor who noticed that after the holidays, more patients would end up in the ER," he said.

Alcohol, especially in big amounts, or if you don't normally drink - is usually the trigger.

"The more they drink, the more likely it is they'll have a recurrence of atrial fibrillation or other heart rhythm problem," said Dr. Victor.

But the stress of busy schedules, or days of extra-rich foods can contribute.

Dan says he doesn't pass up every treat, but he's selective - and savors those special moments.

"As they say, it's one day, not every day," he said.

And keep moving, whether it's home or away, says Dr. Victor. Don't completely abandon your exercise and medication regimens.

"Don't get totally derailed. We don't want them to have to spend 3 months making up for a couple of days of overindulgence," he said.

Dr. Victor reminds patients who are traveling to make sure they take enough medication with them, to stick to the schedule, and again, work exercise into the day.
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