If you are whipping through cocktails this holiday season, you’re doing more damage than you may think to your heart. A new study that shows this behavior can result in what doctors are calling Holiday Heart Syndrome, or when people get an irregular heart beat after binging on alcohol. And as Msnbc.com reports, the effects can be deadly.

Binge drinking is already known to be very bad for the heart. Dr. Peter Counihan is an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Cardiovascular Institute. As he told Msnbc.com, “People can get an irregular heart rhythm after bingeing. It’s from the toxic effect of alcohol on the heart’s electrical system.” As other experts point out, binge drinkers may also experience pancreatitis, skin problems, infertility, obesity, impaired brain function, kidney problems and more. And now it turns out there may be a cultural component to its negative health influences.

The study, soon to be published in the British Medical Journal, is based on research comparing male drinkers in Ireland to male drinkers in France. Researchers decided to look at why Irish men had a much higher rate of heart disease than French men, and if alcohol had anything to do with this trend. The Frenchman drank more alcohol, which Msnbc.com reports as 21 drinks a week to an Irishman’s 14 drinks. Both cultures enjoy a vibrant drinking culture that is viewed as a fun, social activity.

But the key difference are in how each culture consumes alcohol. An irregular heavy drinker has twice the chance of dying from a heart attack. While the Irish might enjoy a more pub-centric drinking strategy, the French stretch it out over longer periods of time with a glass of wine or two over dinner. And an Irish pub atmosphere may encourage more binge drinking. According to Dr. Counihan, “When the last call comes, you’ll see two or three drinks stacked up in front of people like flights coming in to land before the bar shuts down.”

And this is where health becomes a factor. Studies have shown that reasonable alcohol consumption over a longer period of time can be healthy. As the Mayo Clinic reports, moderate drinking can reduce the risk of heart problems, lower your risk for stroke, and also reduce your risk of diabetes. As Msnbc.com points out, moderate levels of alcohol in the system can stimulate good cholesterol levels. But if a person consumes a large amount of drinking in a short time period, this all changes.

The study looked at how the French and Irish drink, but it may have left out a key group of binge drinkers. As the Daily Mail reports, a study from the European Institute of Studies on Prevention with Liverpool John Moore University shows it is the British who lead the world in binge drinking.

For further reading:

New study urges people to drink like the French
Pacing alcohol over a longer time period is much better for your heart health.