Three people put their glasses of wine together for a toast. They appear to be celebrating a holiday.
Binging on alcohol and indulging on holiday treats may lead to heart problems. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

With all the warm cheer of the holidays, are you putting your health on ice?

Jammed calendars mean less sleep, more caffeine and too much of the wrong kinds of food. Holiday parties, too, can quickly add up to too much alcohol.

Add in trips to the in-laws, vacation getaways and air travel—and it’s not hard to see how a blur of seasonal festivities can pile on the stress.

When that tinsel turns to turmoil, it can trigger a condition known as holiday heart syndrome.

It’s a recognized medical condition and it’s anything but merry and bright.

If you’re an otherwise healthy person, it feels like your heart is racing or beating irregularly.

We all think of too much alcohol as toxic to the liver, but it can also be directly toxic to the heart muscle.

Holiday heart arrhythmia most often resolves itself after the body has rid itself of alcohol, or after you’ve received an IV drip to restore hydration.

But in some cases, this condition can increase the risk of stroke.

Holiday heart syndrome can occasionally occur in people who have consumed little or no alcohol—so everyone should be aware of its symptoms.

“One specific recommendation I can make to prevent holiday heart and other potential risks is to avoid vodka drinks mixed with Red Bull or other energy beverages,” Spectrum Health electrophysiologist Darryl Elmouchi, MD, said. “There is a growing consensus that the combination can cause significant negative effects on how you feel—and potentially increase health risks, including risks to the heart.”

The best gift you can give yourself is the gift of moderation, Dr. Elmouchi said.

“Enjoy your time with family and friends and even your favorite indulgences, but do so reasonably,” he said. “You’ll have just as much fun and you’ll feel better all the way through.”