Emergency Physicians Warn: Beware of “Holiday Heart”

December 17, 2012 at 7:59am

HARRISBURG PA — The holiday season is supposed to be joyous, fun and happy.  But it can also be stressful. The commonwealth’s emergency physicians want to remind all Pennsylvanians to keep your stress in check. 

 

“For many, including emergency physicians, the holidays come with a daunting pile of obligations,” said Dr. Ralph Riviello, president of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “Don’t overdo it, because you can damage your health and possibly wind up spending the holidays in the emergency department.”

 

One particular concern is known as “holiday heart” syndrome.  It is an irregular heartbeat that occurs in people who are otherwise healthy.  It can be the result of stress, lack of sleep, excessive alcohol or caffeine ingestion, and/or dehydration.  Emergency physicians say this is more common during the holiday season because of holiday parties and other events.  Best advice is to moderate alcohol use and drink plenty of water.   If an irregular heartbeat lasts for longer than a few hours, you should seek medical attention or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.  

 

A long to-do list of decorating, buying presents and hosting parties can be overwhelming.  It is important to pace yourself, whether it’s eating and drinking or shopping. Here are some tips to help you get through the season with the least amount of stress possible.

  • Get exercise:  This is extremely important.  Go to the gym, take regular walks or run.  Make sure you stay active to help reduce the stress level.
  • Watch your diet:  People tend to eat more quantities of rich foods during the holidays.  It’s okay to indulge occasionally, but do it responsibly and in moderation.
  • Get a checkup: If you haven’t had one recently, the holidays might be a good time to visit the doctor and have a routine physical.
  • Be organized:  Have a plan, make a schedule and do it one step at a time. Do not wait until the last minute to do everything.
  • Be cost effective:  Given the current economic crisis, no one can blame you for spending less this year.  Keep it simple.
  • Ask for help:  You can’t be expected to do everything yourself.  Ask for help when it comes to shopping and decorating, as well as other tasks.
  • Get enough sleep:  You shouldn’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep, as well as daily down time.  Take a nap, take time for yourself, re-energize and relax.  Your body will thank you for it.

If you feel chest pain or think you are having a heart attack, call 911 or seek emergency care right away,” said Dr. Riviello.  “Don’t postpone treatment because you don’t want to spoil the holidays. In the meantime, take care of yourself now, and reduce that stress.”

 

The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians (PaACEP) is a medical society representing more than 1,500 Pennsylvania physicians who specialize in emergency medicine. PaACEP is committed to improving the quality of emergency care through continuing medical education, research, and public education.