Afib and alcohol: Holiday Heart?

Posted by catmom777 @catmom777, Mar 18, 2019

The last time I was at the ER I asked the doctor what causes afib, and she said the #1 cause is alcohol abuse. She said that’s why it’s called the Holiday Heart. Has anyone else been told that? I did not consider myself an alcoholic. I had usually 1.5 glasses of wine after dinner about four nights a week, then I would not have any alcohol for a day or two. I did drink more when I was younger, but found as I got older if I drank more than 1.5 glasses in an evening, I didn’t feel good, so I cut back. I used to drink two glasses a night, and occasionally, maybe once a month, would get carried away, usually when I was with family or friends. Now I’m wondering how much harm I did to my heart without knowing it.

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@danab

Hi, im not sure about afib or alcohol but before my heart transplant i had ventricular tachacardia and at first it was well controlled with a pacemaker and anti arrythmia drugs. Back then i drank probably more than i should and most of my doctor's limited me to 1-2 beers a day. Well 2 problems with that was i would have 2 but very large 2. About 2015 i had a very bad bout with arrythmias my pace maker had to shock me about 8 times over a few hour period befor i got to the hosp and on some stronger drugs to get my Heart back in rythum. Scariest day of my life. Well between my faith in the Lord i gave up drinking. I didn't take the drs serious enough and kept pushing it. Im so glad i did because i truly believe God got my attention and maybe i would not be here. But also i thi k i damaged my heart and 2 years later it finially gave out. Luckily i was eligible for a heart transplant which BTW you can't dri k at all with a transplant. So i figure the Good Lord was preparing me for this period i my life. Im turning 60 next week and i don't think i would be here if for not listening to God and my doctors about alcohol.

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Wow, you are lucky to be alive!! Did you get a heart transplant? I would think it's hard to get one and that there's a long waiting list. If you got you, you are extremely lucky.

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@catmom777

Wow, you are lucky to be alive!! Did you get a heart transplant? I would think it's hard to get one and that there's a long waiting list. If you got you, you are extremely lucky.

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@catmom yes last January 2018. Thanks. My heart condition had gotten to the point iv drugs could not stop the arrythmias. I am thankful for the heart i received life even tho there are rules you have to follow and ill be on anti rejection meds for my who life I still thank God for a new release on life. But also realize im not an expert on afib but i know someone that has it and the problems you deal with are different. I guess there can be issues with cloti g. I mainly want to point out that alcohol is a factor if abused.

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@danab

@catmom yes last January 2018. Thanks. My heart condition had gotten to the point iv drugs could not stop the arrythmias. I am thankful for the heart i received life even tho there are rules you have to follow and ill be on anti rejection meds for my who life I still thank God for a new release on life. But also realize im not an expert on afib but i know someone that has it and the problems you deal with are different. I guess there can be issues with cloti g. I mainly want to point out that alcohol is a factor if abused.

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I don't know if I'll ever know if my alcohol use caused this. The docs and nurses said no, but I'm very small and older, so I think maybe it did. Nobody in my family has afib so I know it's not genetic. I have been under a LOT of stress in my life thanks to picking the wrong men and the jobs I had, but I haven't been under significant stress for a few years. The thing is that I know several people who drink more wine than I did and they do fine–no problems, so unless my size is a factor, maybe I just drew a bad card and wound up with afib. It really sucks though that there is no going back and that I'll probably be on blood thinners the rest of my life. In two weeks I found out I have two irreversible potentially fatal medical conditions when all these years I thought I was so healthy. I have eaten a Mediterranean diet for almost all my life, did a lot of physical work, walked a lot, hiked, biked, was in shape for decades (not so much now though), so it doesn't make any sense. With the osteoporosis at least I know the culprit–not enough vitamin D, and that makes sense. But with this afib, nothing makes any sense. But, at least we're alive, right? We have something to be thankful for. I know a guy who almost bought the farm with a stroke. He lost his vision, hollered to his GF, and that's all he remembered for five days. It took him over a year to recover enough to function OK and I still don't think he can drive because his vision was compromised, but he's alive.

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Hi Catmom, You say, "In two weeks I found out I have two irreversible potentially fatal medical conditions when all these years I thought I was so healthy." Such doom and gloom! Half the population over age 55 has osteoporosis. Not a big deal! You aren't going to die from it. You ARE healthy, cat mom! People would DIE to have your level of health. Nearly no one our age has as healthy a profile as you do. Your BP, pulse, weight, eating habits, past exercise are all AMAZING! I wish I could say the same. And look out there at people around you. They are obese with serious health problems like diabetes and cholesterol, depression and high BP.
Get on a treadmill every day like I did and straighten out your arrhythmia. It took going to the gym every day with 35 minutes on the treadmill to iron out all the wild heart beats. Inside one month I was off the highest does of beta blockers the cardiologist had ever given to a patient. That nasty Eloquis will probably prevent you from exercising however, because of the side effects of weakness. Maybe wait to see the cardiologist to get it sorted out and get permission to exercise. It was the CURE for me and my 21 months of severe atrial fibrillation. Cheer up! You're going to be fine.

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@catmom777

I wound up in the ER again last Saturday morning and asked the doctor then too what the relationship was between alcohol and afib. He said that afib can happen to a person who very much abuses alcohol, but in my case, with 1.5 to two glasses a night, he doubted it. Because I felt so horrible, they admitted me. It turns out my sodium level was 127 when the minimum is 136, so they put me on a saline drip all night to get my sodium level back up and to monitor me. They took my blood every six hours. But, I'm scared straight as they say. I have not touched alcohol since 3/7, the night before my initial afib episode from hell. I had another bad night last night with the pounding heart, but got up a few times and my BP was normal. My heart rate got up to 82, which is fast for me. I don't know what that was about. I only have afib incidents at night. Curiously my heart RATE was steady. It was just a pounding and fast heartbeat. I woke up this morning feeling awful again, but took a few Himalayan salt crystals before I ate breakfast and after lunch felt somewhat normal again. I am beginning to wonder though if I'll ever feel NORMAL again. I have brief moments of feeling decent, but most of the time feel a bit out of it. I hope all this equalizes eventually. I blame the Eliquis, but I might never know for sure because the docs say I will probably be on it the rest of my life.
No matter what though. I am so sorry for whatever I did to put me in this spot. I was also diagnosed with osteoporosis right after being diagnosed with afib, so I'm feeling extremely sorry for myself right now. I'm trying not to get depressed, but it's hard. I live alone and don't have many friends here. I feel so sad. I do appreciate all of you though. It helps to hear other peoples' stories. Some of your stories are way worse than mine. Maybe you can tell me though, am I ever going to feel good again?

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I would get OFF that horrible Eliquis ASAP. So often the cure is worse than the disease.
Do you take any drug or stimulant at night that could be causing the pounding heart? How many minutes of the night do you experience the pounding heart? Is it like the occasional bump or is it continuous? How long do the episodes last?
Btw 82 is a perfect heart rate for any size person, believe me. Is it steady?
I presume you are off the wine.
Speak to your pharmacist about the dose. I'll bet a 220 pound man is given the same dose you are taking. If so, you know you can cut the dose. Talk to the pharmacist about it.

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Hi @catmom777,

You’re quite correct that many health experts believe there is a connection between alcohol or caffeine, and A-fib. However, there are many other possible triggers that may work alone or together to cause A-fib, and it is also difficult to work out how much coffee or alcohol could trigger an episode. This makes it difficult to isolate a specific cause.

There actually is a specific form of A-fib known as holiday heart syndrome (HHS) – as you mentioned. HHS is the sudden appearance of A-fib in individuals who are otherwise healthy, but who recently took part in excessive drinking. Researchers noticed that HHS is more frequent after weekends and holidays linked with increased alcohol use, which is how HHS got its name. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/155050-overview
Studies have also found a connection between A-fib and chronic alcohol use., but no link was found for moderate drinkers. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3998158/

Here’s some information from Mayo Clinic, which I hope will help:

Abnormalities or damage to the heart's structure are the most common cause of atrial fibrillation. Possible causes of atrial fibrillation include:

High blood pressure
Heart attacks
Coronary artery disease
Abnormal heart valves
Heart defects you're born with (congenital)
An overactive thyroid gland or other metabolic imbalance
Exposure to stimulants, such as medications, caffeine, tobacco or alcohol
Sick sinus syndrome — improper functioning of the heart's natural pacemaker
Lung diseases
Previous heart surgery
Viral infections
Stress due to pneumonia, surgery or other illnesses
Sleep apnea
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atrial-fibrillation/symptoms-causes/syc-20350624

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@afrobin

I would get OFF that horrible Eliquis ASAP. So often the cure is worse than the disease.
Do you take any drug or stimulant at night that could be causing the pounding heart? How many minutes of the night do you experience the pounding heart? Is it like the occasional bump or is it continuous? How long do the episodes last?
Btw 82 is a perfect heart rate for any size person, believe me. Is it steady?
I presume you are off the wine.
Speak to your pharmacist about the dose. I'll bet a 220 pound man is given the same dose you are taking. If so, you know you can cut the dose. Talk to the pharmacist about it.

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There are two different doses of Eliquis that I am aware of-2.5 mg and 5 mg. The doctor had me on the 5 but changed it to the 2.5. I weigh 138 and am 5' 1" tall. I don't seem to have any trouble with the Eliquis.

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I think I'm on too high a dose. I will be making an appointment with the cardiologist probably today (it takes 5 weeks min to get in though) and will ask if I can get a lower dose. I hardly ever have afib incidents too. Maybe one a week now.

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@afrobin

Hi Catmom, You say, "In two weeks I found out I have two irreversible potentially fatal medical conditions when all these years I thought I was so healthy." Such doom and gloom! Half the population over age 55 has osteoporosis. Not a big deal! You aren't going to die from it. You ARE healthy, cat mom! People would DIE to have your level of health. Nearly no one our age has as healthy a profile as you do. Your BP, pulse, weight, eating habits, past exercise are all AMAZING! I wish I could say the same. And look out there at people around you. They are obese with serious health problems like diabetes and cholesterol, depression and high BP.
Get on a treadmill every day like I did and straighten out your arrhythmia. It took going to the gym every day with 35 minutes on the treadmill to iron out all the wild heart beats. Inside one month I was off the highest does of beta blockers the cardiologist had ever given to a patient. That nasty Eloquis will probably prevent you from exercising however, because of the side effects of weakness. Maybe wait to see the cardiologist to get it sorted out and get permission to exercise. It was the CURE for me and my 21 months of severe atrial fibrillation. Cheer up! You're going to be fine.

Jump to this post

You are right. I am catastrophizing. Living alone and having no one to talk to about this makes my mind go crazy–like "what if I fall and break my hip AND hit my head and am bleeding but can't get to the phone," etc. Maybe it's time for a med-alert necklace.
I've never been a gym member. My sister has been bugging me to do that for years. I have always been concerned about the cost, but this mess is hella expensive–more expensive than a gym membership would have been. I've also been told to take yoga and learn how to meditate. I know I can do yoga now without a doc's permission, and I have been, plus I've been walking a lot. I did yard work last night and pulled a muscle in my back, but it's getting better already. It feels good to get out and get stuff done. I think as long as I'm careful I don't have to fall and become disabled, right? One of my aunts had osteoporosis and fell several times but was able to walk and get around until the last few months of her life. She had a husband to help her, but she did not have to be put into a facility. I'm sure her osteoporosis was worse than mine also.
As for the afib, time will tell. I want it to go away and get off the blood thinners, so that is my goal.
Thanks though for the reality check. I appreciate your thoughts.

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@kanaazpereira

Hi @catmom777,

You’re quite correct that many health experts believe there is a connection between alcohol or caffeine, and A-fib. However, there are many other possible triggers that may work alone or together to cause A-fib, and it is also difficult to work out how much coffee or alcohol could trigger an episode. This makes it difficult to isolate a specific cause.

There actually is a specific form of A-fib known as holiday heart syndrome (HHS) – as you mentioned. HHS is the sudden appearance of A-fib in individuals who are otherwise healthy, but who recently took part in excessive drinking. Researchers noticed that HHS is more frequent after weekends and holidays linked with increased alcohol use, which is how HHS got its name. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/155050-overview
Studies have also found a connection between A-fib and chronic alcohol use., but no link was found for moderate drinkers. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3998158/

Here’s some information from Mayo Clinic, which I hope will help:

Abnormalities or damage to the heart's structure are the most common cause of atrial fibrillation. Possible causes of atrial fibrillation include:

High blood pressure
Heart attacks
Coronary artery disease
Abnormal heart valves
Heart defects you're born with (congenital)
An overactive thyroid gland or other metabolic imbalance
Exposure to stimulants, such as medications, caffeine, tobacco or alcohol
Sick sinus syndrome — improper functioning of the heart's natural pacemaker
Lung diseases
Previous heart surgery
Viral infections
Stress due to pneumonia, surgery or other illnesses
Sleep apnea
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atrial-fibrillation/symptoms-causes/syc-20350624

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Thanks. That echoes what the docs and nurses told me in the ER.

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@afrobin

I would get OFF that horrible Eliquis ASAP. So often the cure is worse than the disease.
Do you take any drug or stimulant at night that could be causing the pounding heart? How many minutes of the night do you experience the pounding heart? Is it like the occasional bump or is it continuous? How long do the episodes last?
Btw 82 is a perfect heart rate for any size person, believe me. Is it steady?
I presume you are off the wine.
Speak to your pharmacist about the dose. I'll bet a 220 pound man is given the same dose you are taking. If so, you know you can cut the dose. Talk to the pharmacist about it.

Jump to this post

To answer this question. I do not take any stimulating substances at any time during the day anymore. No coffee, no green tea, no alcohol. I even cut way back on the sugar and carbs. There was no explanation for the pounding heart the evening of 3/8. I had not even had a glass of wine. I'd been quilting all day and listening to music. I had eaten dinner while watching the news, probably had a glass of cranberry juice to go with, and all was fine. I didn't even have any upsetting phone calls. Then I went to bed and couldn't sleep. My heart was beating so hard I thought it would stop from exhaustion so I called the police dept who called RMSA who took me to the ER. That night my heart beat hard, fast, and erratically for about two hours, maybe a little longer. They gave me a drug in my IV in the ER to get it back into rhythm, gave me two baby aspirin, kept me for another hour, and sent me home. A couple nights later the same thing happened all over again, but this time by the time the ER tech got me hooked up to the EKG, the racing pounding heart had calmed down. I've had that racing, pounding heart happen maybe five times since then–always at night when I'm in bed. The other night I woke up at 12:30 am with it and it lasted the rest of the night. I did not go to the ER though. But, last night nothing. My heart beat regularly and calmly all night long. There is no rhyme or reason to it. This morning my BP was 103/63 and my pulse was 75. Crazy stuff. Like I have no control over this.

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Sorry to hear you are having such a rough time with your pounding heart. Does it stay in rhythm when it is pounding? This may not be Afib but something else. So, it always happens when you are lying down. Google this. Are you lying on your left side? When I lie on my left side and not my right, my heart beats harder and I am aware of it (but it is not pounding hard) and so I shift my body a bit to unsquish my heart. It doesn't sound very technical or medical. but it works. If you get up in the night once it starts to pound, does it stop or it continues. Does bearing down help?

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