Avoid Holiday Heart Syndrome

The holidays are just around the corner and thousands of us will be heading to warmer climes for a relaxing break – but don’t become a victim of Holiday Heart Syndrome.

This is the serious heart condition brought on by too much ‘holiday mood’ including binge drinking and exposure to excessive heat. It is thought to affect around 500,000 Britons and results in erratic electric signals throwing off the normal timing of the heart’s rhythm.

Alcohol is a cardio-toxin and heavy drinking can eventually damage the heart muscle leading to heart failure.

Alcohol is a cardio-toxin and heavy drinking can eventually damage the heart muscle, leading to heart failure.

However, even light drinkers can find themselves suffering from unpleasant temporary atrial fibrillation known as Holiday Heart Syndrome after indulging for a few days while on holiday.

While the exact mechanism is unclear, it looks like alcohol causes short circuits in the heart’s electrical rhythms and may also have an effect on electrolytes, particularly salt, which play a key role in regulating the heart. ‘In some people who don’t normally drink, even one tipple can cause the effect, exacerbated by dehydration and lack of sleep,’ says Professor Cowie, a consultant cardiologist based at Imperial College, London.

Higher temperatures that cause you to perspire and pant also elevate your heart rate, according to Professor Cowie.

Higher temperatures that cause you to perspire and pant also elevate your heart rate, according to Professor Cowie.

‘High temperatures acts as a stressor which can push up heart rate,’ he says. ‘This is because it takes a lot of energy to keep the body cool, pushing the blood to the skin, panting and stimulating the production of sweat.’

And saunas have the same effect. A study published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics in 1990 found that children and young people exposed to the equivalent of a Finnish sauna bath for just 10 minutes all had elevated heart rates when they emerged.

Drink moderately, ensuring that you stay hydrated on your hols and avoid the midday sun if you’re planning a beach break.

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