Can workplace stress cause irregular heartbeat? Study links vital exhaustion with risk of atrial fibrillation

Swapna Raghu Sanand
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In today’s world, workplace stress and burnout are considered normal. However, researchers have come forward with disturbing insights in a recent study on what can bring on atrial fibrillation. Their findings on atrial fibrillation causes reveal that vital exhaustion is associated with an increased risk of incidental atrial fibrillation.

‘Burnout’ is emerging as a grave condition pointing towards vital exhaustion. The study titled ‘The Atheroscelerosis Risk in Communities Study’ highlights that atrial fibrillation is the most frequently encountered cardiac arrhythmia in clinical practice.

Notably, vital exhaustion itself is defined broadly as excessive fatigue, increased irritability and anger. Further, vital exhaustion is associated with an increased inflammatory response.

The study also points to evidence that vital exhaustion is linked with a decrease in the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis, which plays a pivotal role in managing the body’s stress response.

While nearly all studies focus on risks of ventricular arrhythmias, a very small study found that paroxetine reduces drug resistant paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, using its modulating vagal tone.

READ | What is ventricular fibrillation and how does it affect your heart?
Interestingly, guilt and low self-esteem, which are known to be key features of depression, are mostly absent among exhausted persons, according to the study.