06/12/2017 11:11 GMT | Updated 06/12/2017 11:11 GMT

Don't Drink Yourself To A Heart Attack This December

It's a condition called holiday heart syndrome -- and it's real.

Getty Images

Keep tabs on your drinking this festive season, as overdoing it can literally wreak havoc on your heart. It's a condition called called holiday heart syndrome (HHS).

HHS typically occurs during holidays, when people who don't suffer from heart disease experience irregular heart rhythms because they've had too much to drink in a short space of time.

It can be alarming at first when you experience it.

"It can cause acute cardiovascular effects such as heartbeat irregularities, shortness of breath and chest pain. It can be alarming at first when you experience it," said Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for heart medication company Pharma Dynamics.

Previous studies have proven links between bingeing and its effect on the heart. Heart palpitations, fatigue and shortness of breath, called atrial fibrillation (AF), is the most common, but atrial flutter -- which is a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute –– and ventricular ectopy -- which is when your heart literally skips a beat –– are also common.

The effects are reversible –– if you stop drinking, or greatly reduce the amount of alcohol you consume. "It's best to see a doctor, who will check for a dangerous drop in blood pressure or signs of acute heart failure," advised Jennings.

So, when do I know I've had enough?

The country's Food-Based Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than four standard units of alcohol per day for men, and no more than two units for women -- with at least two alcohol-free days per week, so no bingeing!

  • A standard unit is defined as one 340ml can of beer containing 12g of alcohol a 120ml glass of wine or a 25ml tot of spirits.

Help your heart survive the festive season by doing these three things:

1. Limit your alcohol intake

"Limit your alcohol intake, especially if you have congenital heart disease or an increased risk of heart disease as a result of obesity, smoking, high cholesterol or hypertension," said Jennings.

2. Drink more water

"When at a party, be sure to eat something before taking alcohol –– and remember to drink enough water in between drinks, since alcohol strips water from the body," she explained.

3. Lay low on caffeine

Coffee, energy drinks and fizzy drinks all contain caffeine, which can act as a heart stimulant and cause AF.