By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With less than a week until Christmas Day, holiday festivities have moved into high gear and that could be dangerous for some.

The holidays are a time to celebrate, but too much celebrating can cause heart problems.

Doctors say there’s a syndrome linked to this time of year that’s a potentially serious medical problem related to overindulgence called holiday heart syndrome.

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“When you drink too much alcohol and then you go into this irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation,” said Dr. Leslie Cho of the Cleveland Clinic. “Atrial fibrillation is when the top part of the heart doesn’t beat in conjunction with the bottom part of the heart.”

Alcohol can short circuit the electrical system of the heart, change electrolyte levels in the blood and increase the release of stress hormones, which can cause a-fib.

The most common symptoms – intense heart palpitations and being short of breath.

“If you’re in a-fib, you’re probably going pretty fast and to be in that fast rhythm for a long time can sometimes cause damage,” said Cho. “So, it’s really important to be seen by your doctor’s office or your local urgent care center or emergency room.”

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Doctors say it’s important to recognize atrial fibrillation because not only can it cause your heart to beat out of rhythm, it can cause a clot to form, which can lead to a stroke.

For some people, the condition is temporary, but others might need to be chemically or electrically converted back to a normal heart rhythm.

Doctors say overeating rich, salty food is another common trigger for holiday heart syndrome. Moderation is the best defense and making sure to get enough sleep and regular exercise.

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