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.

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.

Liked by nene22, catmom777

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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.

Liked by catmom777

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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.

REPLY
@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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@afrobin

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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Also besides bearing down hard caughing can help stop an arrythimia. I also seemed to have most of my attacks towards the end right around midnight while laying down. But the pounding heart i still get even with my new heart wen on a certain side sometimes. I that that part is just that now we who have heart issues are hyper sensitive to what's happing on in our bodies.

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The first episode that landed me in the ER, my heart was not in rhythm. I've checked since then when it's pounding, and it is, plus I hook up to my blood pressure monitor and it doesn't show any afib. Bearing down did not help, although splashing very cold water on my face several times seemed to help. But, last night no pounding heart, so my hopes are up. I came to dread going to bed, even though I was so tired. It was such a battle for me–trying to sleep or waking up with a pounding heart and then trying to get back to sleep. But, just saw the doc. She said my thyroid meds could be contributing to this so she's taking me off them for now and sending me in for a blood test in two months to see if my thyroid levels are too low again. She said the generic thyroid meds aren't consistent in their dosage and can put too much of the chemical into the system which can put my heart in afib. I'll try whatever might work.
I just picked up cod liver oil capsules for vitamin D. She said she'd never heard of that to help with osteoporosis but didn't shoot it down. I'll go for a long walk later, after I feel better, and check in with a gym to see how much it will cost to get on a regimen.
One day at a time. I hope I feel better one of these days. It sucks to feel like this. Yesterday I woke up feeling awful, but as the day wore on I felt better and could get some things done. The doctor has no idea why I am feeling like this.

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@danab

Also besides bearing down hard caughing can help stop an arrythimia. I also seemed to have most of my attacks towards the end right around midnight while laying down. But the pounding heart i still get even with my new heart wen on a certain side sometimes. I that that part is just that now we who have heart issues are hyper sensitive to what's happing on in our bodies.

Jump to this post

I have not been successful with that technique, but splashing very cold water on my face several times helps calm my heart down so it doesn't pound so hard. And yes, ALL of my attacks are at night. My sister thinks I have sleep apnea. Hopefully I will get an appointment with a cardiologist soon and maybe he will have me do a sleep study. Maybe the reason I feel so rotten most of the time is because I can't get enough sleep.

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THYROID!!!! I kept asking you for a good reason, cat mom if you are any other drugs. You are on thyroid meds!!! The very first test EVERY cardiologist does when one presents with a heart arrhythmia is,…A THYROID BLOOD TEST. So you have your answer. As we age, medications are often stronger and need adjustment. See your GP and ask for an adjustment and you will be back to your old self again. I'm glad for you that the mystery is now solved.
The reason one must know one's conditions, medications, side effects etc…is exactly this. If you had known that a side effect of your thyroid meds or condition can be palpitations, you could have avoided all this; pounding heart, feeling anxious, going to the hospital, seeing a variety of doctors and taking a drug that is making you sick etc.. I am really surprised that no doctor figured this out. And no nurse or pharmacist either. When I had Afib, every single medical person I saw immediately asked, "Are you being treated for a thyroid condition." It's the number one cause of heart palpitations, arrhythmias etc.. So you had a rough week. Now you can rest easy and get on with your life. Good luck, cat mom!!!

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@afrobin

THYROID!!!! I kept asking you for a good reason, cat mom if you are any other drugs. You are on thyroid meds!!! The very first test EVERY cardiologist does when one presents with a heart arrhythmia is,…A THYROID BLOOD TEST. So you have your answer. As we age, medications are often stronger and need adjustment. See your GP and ask for an adjustment and you will be back to your old self again. I'm glad for you that the mystery is now solved.
The reason one must know one's conditions, medications, side effects etc…is exactly this. If you had known that a side effect of your thyroid meds or condition can be palpitations, you could have avoided all this; pounding heart, feeling anxious, going to the hospital, seeing a variety of doctors and taking a drug that is making you sick etc.. I am really surprised that no doctor figured this out. And no nurse or pharmacist either. When I had Afib, every single medical person I saw immediately asked, "Are you being treated for a thyroid condition." It's the number one cause of heart palpitations, arrhythmias etc.. So you had a rough week. Now you can rest easy and get on with your life. Good luck, cat mom!!!

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Yes, but I had a low thyroid. My hair was falling out and I was tired all the time, and the test showed a low thyroid. My test results now, while on a low dose of levothyroxine, is within the normal range. But, she says quit it anyway. Last night though I was watching TV in my recliner and dozed off. I was awakened suddenly choking because I could not breathe. This has happened before. I think I have sleep apnea. It all makes sense–tired all day (I wake up tired most mornings–it's a rare day when I don't), pounding heart in the middle of the night or just after falling asleep (like my heart isn't getting enough oxygen), sometimes have morning headaches, coughing a lot despite not having a cold in a year. I finally got an appointment with a cardiologist, but it's not until May 3rd, and that's only the beginning of figuring out why, so this could go on a while before I get an answer. In the meantime, I have to stay on Eliquis to prevent a stroke I guess. Long journey. Thanks for all your ideas on what is going on. It could be all the above, that everything is intertwined.

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@catmom777

Yes, but I had a low thyroid. My hair was falling out and I was tired all the time, and the test showed a low thyroid. My test results now, while on a low dose of levothyroxine, is within the normal range. But, she says quit it anyway. Last night though I was watching TV in my recliner and dozed off. I was awakened suddenly choking because I could not breathe. This has happened before. I think I have sleep apnea. It all makes sense–tired all day (I wake up tired most mornings–it's a rare day when I don't), pounding heart in the middle of the night or just after falling asleep (like my heart isn't getting enough oxygen), sometimes have morning headaches, coughing a lot despite not having a cold in a year. I finally got an appointment with a cardiologist, but it's not until May 3rd, and that's only the beginning of figuring out why, so this could go on a while before I get an answer. In the meantime, I have to stay on Eliquis to prevent a stroke I guess. Long journey. Thanks for all your ideas on what is going on. It could be all the above, that everything is intertwined.

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@catmom777 yes sleep apnea can contribute also i have it and the cpap works great. Maybe see a sleep specialist and do a sleep study definitely worth it. My Ear Nose and Throat doctor handled mine. Good news on the good night last night

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