Holiday Heart Syndrome

In the merriment of the holidays, the Christmas parties often start by nibbling on some appetizers like olives, grapes, nuts, and maybe sipping a glass of wine.

As the party progresses, there is more excitement, especially as we renew old acquaintances.  Joviality reigns.  Our adrenal glands generate more excitement (stress) hormones that may not be not adequately detoxified by the liver because of the molecules in the appetizers, molecules like resveratrol (wine, grapes), quercetin (wine, citrus), tyrosol (olives), interfere.

Then comes the time for celebration and a champagne toast to the season.  A modest amount of alcohol never hurt anyone.  Numerous studies show modest wine drinkers outlive tee-totalers.

There might be hi-ball or a martini thrown in there.  But now maybe the alcohol is not being excreted fast enough.

This is particularly true for females who may be drinking alcohol when their estrogen levels are high (and why alcohol is often used to ply a woman).  Compared to men, women don’t make as much alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol.  So, blood-alcohol levels are higher in women than men, especially when estrogen levels are high.  Low-alcohol wines are produced to help keep a glass of wine from sending women under the table.  Doctor Yourself: Natur... Andrew W. Saul Best Price: $15.00 Buy New $18.21 (as of 10:15 EST - Details)

Then comes dessert, chocolates, sugar, topped off with some eggnog and rum.  And finally, a cup of coffee or tea to negate the effects of the alcohol.  Innocently, unwittingly, these food combinations can sometimes lead to a phenomenon known as Holiday Heart Syndrome and a sudden drop-dead heart attack.

The primary underlying cause?  The detoxification enzymes in our liver are negated by the molecules in coffee, tea, olives, grapes, nuts.  Alcohol then becomes more powerful and depletes magnesium, a key electrolyte mineral that is essential for proper heart rhythm.

Estimates are 50% of Americans are magnesium deficient walking into holiday parties like this.  A shortage of potassium doesn’t help either.  The heart muscle cells, deprived of magnesium, begin to fibrillate, that is, quiver or contract irregularly, what is called atrial fibrillation in the top chambers of the heart.

Magnesium is the primary antidote for these irregular heart rhythms.  (I carry a bottle of magnesium pills in my car at all times.)  Vitamin D aids magnesium utilization and provides additive protection.

Caffeine in coffee and tea doesn’t help either.  Overeating, lack of sleep, marijuana, anger, sexual activity may add to this unforeseen risk.  A sudden-death heart attack.  This is when the bottom chambers of the heart (the ventricles) mis-fire and the heart is not pumping adequately, usually evidence by sudden chest pain (angina).

Since Dr. Philip Ettinger and colleagues first described holiday heart syndrome in 1978, biologists have had occasion to study why more people die on 12/25, 12/26 and 1/1 than any other days on the calendar.  In 2010 researchers reported there were 43,325 excess deaths in America during a two-week period when the holiday celebrations begin.

Studies have been published where investigators observed what happened to the heart when alcoholic spirits (vodka, whisky, etc.) were over-consumed.  These studies confirm alcohol is the centerpiece for this potentially mortal syndrome.

Be aware, if you have been regularly drinking alcohol before a party, you are probably already somewhat depleted of magnesium.

Often there is emotional stress during the holidays.  Nostalgic remembrances of Christmas’ gone by.  Memories of lost loved ones.  Family bitterness.  Emotional stress adds to the risk.

Increased risk for heart failure (weakened ability to pump oxygenated blood) is also reported after Christmas and New Year’s.  Your ankles might swell because the weakened heart can’t pump blood back to the heart efficiently.

For some party-goers, binge drinking is something they may trade for a terrible hangover in the morning, that is if they wake-up the next morning.

There is a way to slam a hangover out of existence.  Researchers at UCLA found a natural molecule from the Asian raisin tree, myricetin, completely blocks hangover symptoms.  Taken over time, it will quell the desire to drink alcohol altogether.  Myricetin is sold as a dietary supplement in health shops. Gift Card i... Buy New $25.00 (as of 06:10 EST - Details)

Long term, for binge drinkers or chronic every-day drinkers, the liver is being destroyed.  Alcohol depletes vitamin B1 (thiamine – can end up causing chronic loose stool); zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C.  Alcohol can end up inducing iron overload in the liver.  Rice bran IP6, sold at health shops, protects the liver from iron-induced damage and chelates (removes) excess iron.  Alcohol drinkers beware, they are inducing depletion of essential nutrients required to maintain health.

Disease investigators now agree it is the molecules (resveratrol, quercetin, catechin, tyrosol, gallic acid, etc.) in wine that prevents heart attacks by breaking up blood clots (like aspirin does), widening (dilating) blood vessels, and protect the heart from damage by activation of endogenous enzymatic antioxidants before and after a heart attack.  This benefit, which has been demonstrated in laboratory animals many times, is optimally achieved when 3-5 glasses of dark aged red wine is consumed (of course, that is the point of inebriation); or alternately (given that a 5-ounce glass of red wine provides ~60 milligrams of these molecules), 180-300 milligrams of the above-mentioned molecules without the alcohol.  As noted at the top of this report, excessive amounts of red wine molecules may be counterproductive, allowing stress hormones to predominate.  It is the wine solids and not the alcohol that affords protection for the heart.

Be aware off the Holiday Heart Syndrome.  Nurse you glass of wine.  Supplement your diet with nutrients, particularly magnesium, if you want to mount up greater defense against Holiday Heart Syndrome. Don’t over-imbibe and enjoy the party!