Holly Jolly

Staying safe and avoiding ‘holiday heart’

Conversations about staying safe over the holidays–ourselves, our loved ones and our friends–usually focuses on drinking and driving, which is always an important topic. This year, however, cardiologists are getting the word out about a serious medical condition referred to as “holiday heart syndrome.” While there is no clear understanding of why this happens, the over indulgence of alcohol can cause “alcohol-induced atrial arrhythmias,” a condition that effects even those with no clinical evidence of heart disease.

Holiday heart syndrome is a common cause of cardiac disease, characterized by acute, cardiac rhythm disturbances. Symptoms can include heart palpitations, dizziness, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and loss of consciousness. More serious complications include: severe cardiomyopathy, life-threatening arrhythmia, valvular disease, and death. Holiday heart syndrome must be treated early to avoid these serious health consequences. Cardiologists point out that prevention of this disease is straightforward: Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. This advice is particularly valuable during the holiday season when cases of this disorder spike.

Tips for holiday entertaining that places safety as a top priority to prevent friends and family from driving while intoxicated and lowers the risk of serious health problems caused from excessive drinking. Begin your holiday planning by thinking of different ways your guests can have fun, so drinking alcohol isn’t the primary activity. The Internet has seemingly endless suggests for holiday entertainment activities.

As a way to help prevent overindulgence, hire a bartender or designate a friend to bartend. Stipulate that drinks are measured properly, so guests are receiving just one drink per glass. When the pours are heavy, guests may be getting up to two drinks per glass. They think they’ve had two drinks when they have actually had four. Serve plenty of protein-rich foods to help slow down alcohol absorption and reduce alcohol’s effects on the body. Serve fancy non-alcoholic drinks as an alternative. Close the bar an hour before the party is over, setting up a dessert and coffee bar. There are so many ways to get creative with coffee drinks that will pique your guests’ interest in trying one.

As always, have a transportation plan in place for guests who, in spite of your best efforts, still over-imbibe. For instance, your invitations can clearly state that guests who plan to drink choose a designated driver. Contact Uber or local cab companies to check the availability of services. Choose someone who will remain sober that you, as host or hostess, can rely on as a designated driver if needed.

Every holiday season we select a non-alcoholic drink that we find particularly delicious and pretty. Here is this year’s choice.

HOLLY JOLLY Ingredients:

  • 1 quart cranberry juice
  • 2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 3 tablespoons almond extract (alcohol-free for any guests in recovery)
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • 1 2-liter bottle of Vernor’s ginger ale
  • Garnish: sprigs of fresh rosemary, fresh cranberries


Mix the first 4 ingredients. Refrigerate overnight. Before serving, add the Vernor’s. Stir. Serve in a punch bowl or from a pitcher at the bar.
For the garnish, spear 3 cranberries on the end of each rosemary sprig and place across the top of the glass.

This post originally appeared in the Grosse Pointe News.

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