CNN  — 

If you’re feeling bone-deep mental and physical exhaustion, or what is otherwise known as burnout, new research suggests you could be at a higher risk for a potentially fatal heart flutter.

Atrial fibrillation, also called AFib or AF, is the most common heart rhythm disorder and the leading cause of stroke in Europe and the United States; it affects more than 33 million people worldwide. In the US, AFib is responsible for approximately 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations every year.

Many people living with AFib suffer chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue. But for others, AFib is symptomless, a potentially silent killer.

Now a new study published Monday in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology suggests chronic stress and exhaustion could be a key factor in developing the disease.

“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 know a few prime risk factors that are very important, such as obesity, high blood pressure and smoking, but it doesn’t explain everything about why we get this condition,” Garg said. “We’re drawing a link between exhaustion and atrial fibrillation which really hasn’t been described before.”

Stress and a silent killer

According to the American Institute of Stress, 80% of American workers say they feel stress on the job; half say they need help with managing stress. In the UK, nearly 600,000 people said they suffered from stress during 2018 while on the job.

But it’s more than work, experts say. It’s the 24-hour news cycle, the constant connection to social media, and a race to be the best at what you do both at home and at work.

“Burnout can be any sort of stressor – it doesn’t necessarily have to be work,” Garg said. “It can be personal stress, home or family tension. It’s anyone who is chronically stressed and who suffers from chronic exhaustion.”