The holidays can bring out the best in people - selfless gift giving, donation offerings and volunteering. Unfortunately, this time of year also tends to generate an incredible amount of stress. For instance, stress to include visiting in-laws and extended family, bumper to bumper traffic, congested stores with overly assertive shoppers and magnificently high credit card bills. In addition, it also typically includes overindulging in both food and alcohol.
While those with heart conditions are especially prone to increased risk of illness, holiday stress can even take a serious toll on an otherwise healthy heart. In particular, there are two stress-induced heart conditions you should be aware of: Cardiomyopathy and "Holiday heart."
Stress Induced Cardiomyopathy
American Heart Association reports, “In 85% of cases, takotsubo is triggered by an emotionally or physically stressful event that precedes the onset of symptoms by minutes to hours. Emotional stressors include grief, fear, anger, relationship conflicts and financial problems.”
Medical Xpress notes stress induced cardiomyopathy is more common in women, particularly those in their 50s-70 and occurs when stress hormones weaken the left ventricle, knows as the heart's main pumping chamber.
Given the typical duties of most women during the holidays – gift buying, exorbitant amounts of cooking and baking as well as party hosting, the stress and triggers as noted above are concerning.
Know the symptoms:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- syncope or near-fainting
- tachyarrhythmias or erratic/rapid heartbeats
- low blood pressure
Upon presentation to the emergency room, typical workup includes echocardiogram and treatment of beta blockers or ACE inhibitors. Anticoagulants may also be administered to avoid a stroke caused by a blood clot traveling from the heart to the brain.
NCBI defines holiday heart as the association between alcohol use and rhythm disturbances, particularly supraventricular tachyarrhythmias (erratic or rapid heartbeat) in apparently healthy people. Because supraventricular tachycardia causes the heart to beat inefficiently, an insufficient supply of blood is received by the body.
Coined in 1978 by Philip Ettinger, the syndrome was first described in persons with heavy alcohol consumption, who typically presented to emergent care during or after a holiday. Research shows it's possible the increased risk is related to alcohol heightening epinephrine and norepinephrine levels and sympathetic output or alcohol's effects on electrolytes.
Know the symptoms:
- irregular and often fast heart rate
- a feeling of pounding in the chest racing or skipping heartbeats
- shortness of breath, most especially with exertion
- chest discomfort
- dizziness or feeling faint
Holiday heart can prompt an ER visit and required treatment typically includes IV hydration and monitoring. Symptoms typically resolve within 24 hours.
OnPulse urges you to enjoy your holiday season but to strive for moderation in food and drink and to remember to find time to decompress from the hustle and bustle of general festivities. We love taking care of our clients and ensuring their health and happiness. We provide an empathetic and professional team to diligently care for our clients – while they’re busy taking care of everyone else. If you’re interested in learning more and allowing us the pleasure to care for you - please contact us today!