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Binges bring nothing but heartache

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ONE too many gin and tonics this holiday season can do much more damage than leave you with the hangover from hell.

A drinking binge can set off a common condition known as "holiday heart" an irregular heartbeat in otherwise healthy, and often young, adults.

Alcohol acts as toxin that interferes with the heart's rhythm, explains Dr. Ira Nash, an associate professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

"Holiday heart is not seen in someone who typically has a couple of drinks and gets tipsy," says Nash. "It's seen more commonly with binge drinking basically, going above and beyond what your norm is."

Dr. Richard Hayes, a cardiologist at NYU Medical Center, adds, "The majority of the time, you see young guys from Wall Street who come into the emergency room. They're lightheaded and their hearts are racing. They feel like they're not getting enough oxygen."

Although it feels like a heart attack, this scary condition is seldom life-threatening. What's more, it's temporary the heart usually goes back to its normal rhythm within 24 hours and is easily treated.

If needed, drugs are given intravenously to either slow the rapid heart rate or regulate the heartbeat if it's erratic, and then the patient is monitored overnight, which is one heck of a way to spend a holiday.

"Most of the time, things go back to normal in 24 hours, but not everyone wants to spent the night in the hospital," says Hayes.

The key to keeping your ticker in tempo: Know your limit, and no more than one drink per hour.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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