USD Expert: Holiday Drinking Spikes Heart Problems

Image John Korkow John Korkow, Ph.D., an instructor in USD's Department of Addiction Studies

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Excessive alcohol consumption during the holidays, especially by occasional imbibers, sends a higher number of people to the hospital with heart trouble than any other time of year, a USD expert said of the condition known as "holiday heart syndrome."

John Korkow, Ph.D., an instructor at the University of South Dakota’s Department of Addiction Studies, said hospital admissions for serious cardiac trouble immediately after the holidays can be double or even triple the normal rate because of excessive drinking. The reason: Heavy alcohol consumption can trigger severe heart rhythm disturbances that can cause stroke or heart failure. These heart disturbances can occur in drinkers who have no history of heart problems.

On the roads, 41 percent of fatal vehicle crashes are usually related to alcohol, but that jumps to 57 percent this time of year, Korkow said.

“Over holidays like Christmas, people who aren’t normally drinkers are more likely to drink, and these people have less tolerance for alcohol and they don’t understand their limits. That puts them at risk for dangerous behaviors,” Korkow said.

He encourages people to pay attention to the size, potency and number of drinks they consume.


USD’s School of Health Sciences is a national leader in interprofessional health sciences education. South Dakota’s comprehensive School of Health Sciences develops scholars, practitioners and leaders in health and human services, including addiction counselors, dental hygienists, health science practitioners, medical laboratory scientists, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, physician assistants, public health practitioners and social workers.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News