Researchers think that burnout, often caused by constant and prolonged stress, might be a trigger for heart problems—but it could also be the case that exhaustion and tiredness are early signs of a heart problem.
Either way, the association means that people do need to learn de-stress strategies, such as meditation, yoga or exercise, say researchers from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
They discovered a definite link between burnout and atrial fibrillation when they tracked more than 11,000 people, and monitored them for signs of exhaustion, anger and irritability, and antidepressant use for 25 years. Those who registered the highest scores for burnout were also 20 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, they discovered—although people with anger problems didn't run a higher risk.
And burnout is different from depression, which is characterised by feelings of low mood, guilt and poor self-esteem, said researcher Parveen Garg.
Although atrial fibrillation is a common complaint, affecting around 27 million people in the US and Europe, doctors are still unclear about its cause. Dr Garg and his team are convinced that burnout is one cause, and this is often the result of prolonged stress, where people may feel hopeless or unable to control situations at home or work. "The importance of avoiding exhaustion through careful attention to, and management of, personal stress levels as a way to preserve overall cardiovascular health cannot be overstated," he added.