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  The ‘holiday heart syndrome’

Narrator:       This is Science Today. The term "holiday heart syndrome" was coined back in the '70s to describe patients who presented with their first episode of atrial fibrillation after excessive drinking, which can be common during the holidays. Dr. Gregory Marcus of the University of California, San Francisco, explains that atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, or irregular heart beat.

Marcus:          It's been clinically recognized that alcohol appears to trigger atrial fibrillation. So, it was assumed that there was a causal link between binge drinking or heavy drinking and subsequent atrial fibrillation. However, people with the disease have intermittent episodes by their nature and many patients and we know that alcohol is very commonly consumed and so it's possible that there's no causal relationship and by chance alone, somebody would drink heavily and then have an episode of atrial fibrillation.

Narrator:       But Marcus' recent study has strengthened the causal link between binge drinking and serious heart palpitations in these patients. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.