Wednesday, September 14, 2005
  "Holiday Heart" makes national news headlines
Heavy Drinking Linked to Heart Rhythm Problem in Men from Yahoo! News.

Ever heard of "Holiday Heart?" The story goes something like this: A young man, typically college age (18-24) comes in to the Emergency department or his PCPs office (more likely the ED though) after a night of heavy drinking because his "heart is beating irregularly" or is "beating out of his chest." He has no significant cardiovascular history or other medical problems.

When the patient is placed on the cardiac monitor, he is noticed to be in atrial fibrillation and everyone freaks out because a young man should not have A-fib. What they don't know is why he is in A-fib. The answer is simple: Ethanol (the alcohol in beer and other commonly imbibed liquors) is cardiotoxic, as well as being toxic pretty much every other body system. In high enough doses, it interferes with the electrical conduction of the myocardium, resulting in a-fib and sometimes other fun arrhythmias. The cure? Stop drinking and study so you don't have to work at McDonald's flipping burgers.

Exactly why this is a national news story, I don't know. People have known about this for years. I guess every now and then we have to be reminded of how stupid people really are.

The really ironic thing is that while heavy drinking may result in arrhythmias like a-fib (which, as pointed out in the article, may cause a blood clot to form in the atria), it also results in cirrhosis and liver damage, which paradoxically causes a coagulopathy - so, if you drink long enough and heavily enough you might have a-fib, but you won't have to worry about clotting your blood!

Funny, eh?
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