Holiday Heart Syndrome

| April 28, 2017

Holiday Heart Syndrome and How Alcohol Can Interfere With Holiday Plans

Today is Saint Patrick's Day, when many will over indulge on alcohol and some will find themselves in an emergency room with symptoms of heart fluttering, lightheadedness and shortness of breath caused by the onset of atrial fibrillation. This condition is known as 'Holiday Heart Syndrome' and is said to be present when an individual without any pre-existing cardiac condition develops atrial fibrillation as a direct result of binge drinking. Atrial fibrillation is where the atria or upper chambers of the heart beat rapidly in a chaotic fashion. The condition is often temporary but when the condition persists, the blood tends to pool which makes the blood susceptible to clotting and can lead to a stroke. The exact mechanism behind alcohol and atrial fibrillation is unclear despite being the subject of much research. Some chronic binge drinkers will go a lifetime without an episode of holiday heart while others may develop holiday heart syndrome with as little as one drink.

Why is all this important to you as a financial advisor?

When a life insurance underwriter evaluates a case with atrial fibrillation they focus on the duration and frequency of the episodes as well as the underlying cause of the event(s). Common causes for atrial fibrillation include: coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, hypertension, cardiomyopathy and heart attack. All these conditions can be managed but never eliminated. Often the cause of the atrial fibrillation is unknown and that is concerning for an underwriter because it is difficult to project the odds of recurrence. If the cause for the atrial fibs was alcohol, then abstinence can virtually eliminate the likelihood of your client developing atrial fibrillation again. This provides the underwriter with a cause/effect relationship where the cause can be eliminated and enables them to make very aggressive offers. For example, we recently had a situation where a 48-year-old healthy male had three episodes of atrial fibrillation spaced out years apart and each was associated with very modest drinking. His medical records clearly stated that each episode occurred when he only drank two or three drinks and that typically he was a non-drinker. However, the medical records never went as far as to spell out the modest alcohol consumption as the cause of the atrial fibrillation. At our recommendation, the client obtained a detailed narrative from his physician which detailed the connection and documented that the client was typically a non-drinker and would remain so due to his low threshold for holiday heart syndrome. We used the narrative to obtain a preferred offer.

If your client calls you and says that he had an episode of atrial fibrillation, call me to discuss their history in detail. I can direct you to the appropriate carrier and help formulate a strategy to paint a favorable picture for the underwriter.  

Contact me and allow me to draw on my sales and underwriting experience to advocate for your client.  I can be reached at 800-426-6848 ext. 121