-Akanksha Mahajan 

A very happy holiday season to everyone reading this article, right now. It’s time for winter vacation [or maybe we could call it “wacation” ;)] and tonnes of celebrations, after all, it’s about to be Christmas followed by a happy new year. It’s finally that time when we can have several cheat days in a row without any guilt. Otherwise, what’s the fun of having a new year’s resolution to stay fit, eat healthily, and blah blah blah…? However, you must know that there’s a really fine line between celebrating your cheat days and overindulging, i.e., overindulging into binging on loads of junk and of course, alcohol. You will be astonished if I told you about a term known as “HOLIDAY HEART SYNDROME”. When you overindulge in consuming junk and alcohol, you can fall prey to this condition. And I am certainly not making it up. But before you believe me, let’s learn what this condition basically is. 

Holiday heart syndrome (HHS) was first identified in 1978 by Dr. Philip Ettinger. [1] When people overindulge in salty foods and alcohol during the holidays, they might develop heart problems known as holiday heart syndrome. Even though overindulging in food and beverages can happen at any time of year, the holidays, when we’re most likely to indulge, when we overdo it the most, are when it tends to happen the most. This is why the condition is known as holiday heart syndrome.

Your heart may begin to beat erratically due to the salt and alcohol you consumed; this condition is referred to as atrial fibrillation (or AFib). In the short term, it may just be a frightening side effect of a little too much celebration, but in the long run, it can result in significant heart problems, such as heart failure and stroke.[2] Although people with preexisting heart issues are more likely to experience holiday heart syndrome, however, it can also happen to people without any heart issues. It’s not just one meal; rather, it’s a series of meals, libations, and celebrations that are very different from the rest of the year.

Additionally, the constant availability of food contributes to feeding our propensity for excess. During this time, there is frequently a lot of food all around us. As a result, whether you’re at work or at home with your family, you frequently eat items that are extremely different from your regular diet. [3]

So, the various symptoms of this condition can include:

  • Heart palpitations: A sudden feeling of your heart hammering, fluttering, or racing
  • Being too fatigued or lacking energy
  • Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or faint
  • A feeling of pressure, pain, or discomfort in the chest
  • Being unable to breathe easily throughout everyday tasks or even when at rest

While those who already have heart issues are more prone to suffer from holiday heart syndrome, they are by no means the only ones. Even those with healthy hearts could have rapid or skipped heartbeats after consuming too much alcohol. Normally, that doesn’t raise any red flags.

To avoid these symptoms, however, everyone should be aware of the risks and watch what they eat.

So, when should you visit a doctor?

Firstly, make sure you are well aware of your health and if you are someone who’s more susceptible, make sure you are correctly managing any potential cardiac conditions by scheduling routine checkups with your doctor.

The issue should go away on its own if you have a clean bill of health and haven’t previously had that irregular heartbeat. However, you must contact your healthcare practitioner if symptoms, such as breathlessness and dizziness, continue.

So, what can you do? Even if you want to indulge in all the delicious meals and beverages this time of year has to offer, avoiding holiday heart syndrome isn’t that difficult. Planning ahead and practicing moderation are the two most important things to remember.

Planning ahead could mean managing your meals accordingly, which certainly doesn’t mean depriving yourself of the fun that the holiday season has to offer. If you know you are going to have a heavy dinner, maybe, you could try reducing the size of the rest of the meals. Or maybe before going to a party, you could eat something homemade which would prevent you from over-eating over there. It’s absolutely okay to relish a cocktail but how about enjoying it slowly instead of binge-drinking throughout the party? At the same, although holidays sound like quite a lucrative period to be a couch potato but you must keep your body active, maybe by trying to have a simple fitness routine, which could be as simple as going for a walk, perhaps. Last but not least, we often neglect that even the holiday season can be busy and a stressful period too, you must try to not exhaust yourself and make sure to take out some time for your own relaxation and to take care of your mental as well as physical well-being.

I apologise, in case, I freaked you out even before you began your holiday fun. But let’s face it, do we really need to indulge in binging to enjoy? 🙂


1. What is Holiday Heart Syndrome, and how do you prevent it? [Internet]. [cited 2022 Dec 21]. Available from:

2. Brown KN, Yelamanchili VS, Goel A. Holiday Heart Syndrome [Internet]. PubMed. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020. Available from:

3. Heart and Vascular Team. How You Can Avoid Holiday Heart Syndrome [Internet]. Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic; 2019. Available from:

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