SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY — This holiday season is a time for parties and family get-togethers. While that sounds merry, it could result in heart trouble if you overdo it by drinking too much alcohol.

It could lead to something called Holiday Heart Syndrome.

“It sounds a little bit funny maybe, it is a true phenomenon,” said Matthew Stopper, MD, cardiologist/electrophysiologist at Commonwealth Health.

It’s called Holiday Heart Syndrome.

“We see it all the time,” stated Dr. Stopper.

Dr. Stopper expects this holiday season to be no exception.

“A lot of us are off our usual routine around the holidays. Typically, there’s more stress, there’s often more alcohol associated with the parties that we’re going to and we’re generally eating differently and a bit more. And unfortunately, all of those factors individually and certainly taken together make your heart electrically more irritable,” explained Dr. Stopper.

What Holiday Heart Syndrome is, in reality, is a case of Atrial Fibrillation, or AFiB. That means your heart develops some extra beats and goes out of rhythm.

“So, the left atrium specifically we know has these four veins, two sets of veins that go into the back of the left upper chamber of the heart. And for reasons that we still don’t quite understand well, atrial fibrillation often is caused initially by chaotic signals that occur in those veins,” explained Dr. Stopper.

It can trigger discomfort, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

“In the worst case scenario, because the blood is not being propelled through the heart the way it normally would be, a blood clot can form and in that situation, we can see strokes,” described Dr. Stopper.

Dr. Stopper says to keep in mind, holiday heart syndrome can occur even if you have no existing heart problems. And while it is far more likely to happen to older adults, it could also happen to those barely old enough to drink. It’s why this cardiac specialist urges you to keep in mind all of the things associated with good heart health this time of year.

“Do your best to get adequate sleep which is very important. Try to limit the excess stress that sometimes we see over the holidays and most things are always best in moderation,” instructed Dr. Stopper.

Dr. Stopper says most of the time heart palpitations go away on their own. However, if that fluttering feeling persists for a few hours, don’t delay and seek medical attention.