Research published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association says that an exercise training program worked better than a commonly used beta blocker, significantly improving even curing patients with a debilitating heart syndrome.
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) called "The Grinch Syndrome" because most patients have a heart that's "two sizes too small" affects about 500,000 Americans, primarily young women.POTS is characterized by a rapid increase in heartbeat of more than 30 beats per minute or a heart rate that exceeds 120 beats per minute when patients change from lying down to standing within 10 minutes.
AdvertisementThe heart rate is high with palpitations, but the stroke volume (the volume of blood pumped from the heart with each beat) and blood volume are low.Symptoms include dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, inability to stand for prolonged periods of time (chronic orthostatic intolerance) and occasionally fainting. POTS may be life-altering and may cause substantial disability that interferes with daily living. In the United States, women who are afflicted with POTS range in age from adolescence to about 50.In the small study, 18 Caucasian women (average age 27) and one man completed the double-blind drug trial. They were randomized to receive either the beta blocker propranolol or a placebo for four weeks followed by three months of exercise training. There were 15 age-matched healthy controls, 14 women and one man.In analyzing quality of life, researchers found:
- All patients completing exercise training showed improvement in physical function scores.
- Nearly all patients completing the exercise program (95 percent) showed improvement in social function scores.
- All patients completing exercise training showed improvement in heart rate responses. Ten (53 percent) of 19 patients were "cured" of POTS - that is, their change in heart rate with standing no longer met criteria for the syndrome.
- Aldosterone-to-renin ratio (the regulation of sodium balance, fluid volume and blood pressure) increased among those in the exercise program. This ratio is low in POTS patients, and it remained low after the beta blocker treatment. Aldosterone-to-renin plays a critical role in how the body handles changes to blood circulation during prolonged standing.