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Over drinking can lead to heart trouble, especially this time of year

Cardiologist Dr. Matthew "Casey" Becker
Memorial Health
Cardiologist Dr. Matthew "Casey" Becker

A Memorial Health cardiologist says the potential for increased alcohol consumption over the holidays can lead to atrial fibrillation.

That's irregular heart rhythms, such as a faster or irregular beat, which can result in shortness of breath, dizziness or passing out.

"Holiday heart is sort of a nomenclature that people will jokingly use to refer to people who have drank too much alcohol, and it precipitates this atrial fibrillation arrhythmia, which is already common,” Dr. Matthew "Casey" Becker said.

He said 5% of people over 60 are affected and about double that for those over 75.

“Truly what I think is that if you already have a predilection to atrial fibrillation, if you already have it, or if you're inclined to get it because of the circuitry of your heart, sometimes a little something extra can tip you into it like alcohol, or stress, or lack of sleep," he said.

"So Holiday Heart Syndrome, is generally referred to in someone who's experienced in arrhythmia probably due to increased alcohol intake."

According to Memorial Health, the symptoms of atrial fibrillation should not be ignored. They can also be indicators that an individual is experiencing a stroke or heart attack.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.