The holidays are all about good times with friends and family, but those good times often can lead to a little overindulgence.
Too much food, sweets, and alcohol can do more damage to your body than wrecking a diet, says cardiologist Leslie Cho, MD. It can lead to holiday heart syndrome.
Holiday heart syndrome is when overeating and overindulging in alcohol leads to an irregular heartbeat.
Holiday heart can happen if you don’t typically drink alcohol, but then have a few at a holiday party or you binge-drink and then develop an irregular heartbeat, called atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation increases your risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure.
For many people, the holidays mean that special foods are suddenly in abundance, such as cookies, candy and rich dishes. And it’s not just one meal, but a round of eating, drinking and making merry that is markedly different from the rest of the year.
“We’re often surrounded by lots of food during this time,” Dr. Cho says. “So whether you’re in the office or whether you’re with your family, you tend to eat foods that are very different than your normal diet.”
To avoid holiday heart complications, Dr. Cho says to be on the lookout for foods that are heavy in cream, sugar or salt. Also, she advises against drinking alcohol in excess.
Overexertion from decorating or shoveling snow also can contribute to heart-related problems, Dr. Cho says.
Dr. Cho does not recommend that you avoid all holiday treats at all costs. But she emphasizes that it’s important to be aware of what you’re eating and how much you’re eating can go a long way toward staying on track.
“Oftentimes people are like, ‘Oh my gosh, you know I can’t have anything,” Dr. Cho says. “No, you can have everything you want — except you must have it in moderation and be mindful of what you’re eating.”
Dr. Cho recommends eating a small meal before heading to gatherings. This way, you can more easily avoid overindulging in food and drinks.
Heart failure treatment guide