The Media and I: Holiday Heart Syndrome

In this radio interview, Lars Larson and I discussed overeating and over-imbibing during the holidays, particularly focusing on the phenomenon known as "Holiday Heart Syndrome."

I explained that excessive consumption of rich and high-salt foods and alcohol can lead to symptoms such as dangerous irregular heart rhythms and shortness of breath. Lars wondered whether these habits were becoming more or less prevalent. I noted that the syndrome remains robust, which we can attribute to human nature and the tendency to overindulge during what are considered special occasions.

We touched upon the efforts to gather data on Holiday Heart Syndrome – the federal government has tracked the syndrome since 1978 due to a spike in related admissions during the holidays.

As a physician, I suggested that moderation and mindful consumption are always good practices. You can intersperse alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks during cocktail hours and be cognizant of the amount of food you consume. Lars mentioned the “competitive” aspect of overeating during holidays, noting that adults sometimes engage in a kind of contest of who can consume more.

I raised the issue of excessive salt intake, explaining how it contributes to increased blood pressure, edema, and strain on the heart. Lars mentioned the conflicting information he hears about the seriousness of salt consumption, and I emphasized that salt is known to have adverse effects on cardiovascular health.

Lars shared a personal anecdote about a tragic, fatal accident involving a drunk driver that occurred on New Year's Eve, highlighting the potential for holiday gatherings to take a sad turn due to accidents and health emergencies.

We ended urging caution during the holiday season, a time when emergency rooms are already dealing with surges in respiratory illnesses.

You can listen to my interview with Lars Larson here and read my article on Holiday heart Syndrome here.