A new study published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology says that chronic stress and exhaustion can be a key factor in arterial fibrillation, or AFib – the most common heart rhythm disorder. AFib is also the leading cause of stroke in Europe and the U.S., affecting more than 33 million people worldwide.
So if you’re feeling burned out, experts say it’s time to step back and calm down.
“We’ve known that stress can cause other types of heart disease, but this is the first study to really link exhaustion to potentially increasing your risk for a cardiac arrhythmia,” said study author Dr. Parveen Garg, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. “We’re drawing a link between exhaustion and atrial fibrillation which really hasn’t been described before.”
As many as 80 percent of American workers say they feel stress on the job, and more than half say they need help managing it.
The 25-year study followed almost 12,000 people who didn’t have AFib, and only people who scored highest in “vital exhaustion” were more likely to develop the condition. (Vital exhaustion is a medical term for irritability, extreme fatigue and a feeling of demoralization.)
“Vital exhaustion is associated with increased inflammation and increased activation of the body’s physiologic stress response,” Garg said. “When these two things are chronically activated that can have serious and damaging effects on the heart tissue, which could then eventually lead to the development of this arrhythmia.”
Vital exhaustion is a serious issue – and its key symptoms are feeling constantly overwhelmed, emotionally and mentally drained, demoralized and exceptionally tired, even after a full night of sleep. You might experience mental blocks, a lack of motivation, stress eating (or loss of appetite) and insomnia.
Experts suggest that you can help ease your own mental fatigue by:
- Staying organized
- Being realistic about the things you need to accomplish
- Doing repetitive tasks in bulk
- Rethink how you’re expending energy
- Don’t ruminate or over-worry
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