Docs warn of ‘holiday heart syndrome’
GO EASY on “sinful” food.
Two cardiologists have reminded merrymakers to eat and drink in moderation to avoid the so-called “holiday heart syndrome.”
This condition is a general term for a range of cardiac anomalies brought about by the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, fatty and salty foods and caffeine, especially during the holiday season.
Dr. Mariano Lopez, president of the Philippine College of Physicians, Wednesday said excessive intake of alcoholic beverage and guilty pleasures that pack very high sodium and calories burdens the heart, causing it to malfunction.
“It usually occurs during the Christmas season or any fiesta when people eat and drink a lot,” Lopez told the Inquirer in an interview. “And when that happens, they can experience severe palpitations and irregular heartbeat, which can transform into ventricular fibrillation and cause sudden cardiac death.”
Ventricular fibrillation, a cause of cardiac arrest, is the fatal irregularity of the heartbeat.
Lopez said the “holiday heart syndrome” can be life-threatening to revelers who have an underlying heart condition but do not eat right or do not exercise self-control.
For healthy people, the condition can be reversible after treatment for about two to three days, he said.
Symptoms of the condition include palpitation, shortness of breath or dyspnea, chest pain and swelling of the ankles and feet.
“Usually, those who experience these symptoms, we send them to the hospital and give them drugs to make the heart slow down,” said Lopez.
Spike during Christmas
Dr. Willie Ong, a fellow of the Philippine Heart Association and a former consultant of the Department of Health, also warned against the spike of holiday heart syndrome cases during the Christmas season.
On his Facebook account, he enumerated seven food items commonly found on the noche buena table of Filipino households, which should be consumed with restraint to avoid the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
These are: fried food, doughnuts and pastries, candies, chocolates and other sweets, soda and fruit drinks, potato chips, bacon, hotdogs and sausages, and hamburgers. He noted that all these were either rich in fat, sugar and preservatives.
An informal survey in Metro Manila hospitals from 2004 to 2008 has shown a tripling of emergencies and admissions during the Christmas season.
According to the unofficial study, there were 153 cases of heart attack and stroke reported in December 2004; 163 during the same month the following year; 172 in 2006, 170 each in 2007 and 2008.
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