Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) might be why you’re dizzy
More people in their 20s and 30s are paying attention to their heart health and for good reason. This population, not previously known for doctor visits regarding heart care, is more frequently getting diagnosed with a condition called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).
“In the past few years, I have seen an increase in patients in their 20s and 30s come in with heart palpitations, fatigue, dizziness and fainting episodes,” says Advocate Health Care Cardiac Electrophysiologist Dr. Peter Brady. “This is a clear change from before.”
Many of these patients are being diagnosed with POTS, he says. And while the good news is that the condition will not trigger something as extreme as cardiac arrest or stroke, it can impact a person’s quality of life.
“As we stand up and walk around, blood from our feet, lower extremities, pelvis and abdomen must be able to get back up to our heart,” says Dr. Brady. “That is an important process because if that doesn’t work well then blood stops circulating around our bodies which causes heart racing or palpitations, dizziness, and fatigue along with, in many cases, congestive symptoms due to blood pooling such as swelling, abdominal bloating, and heavy menstrual periods.”
People with POTS and related conditions — including inappropriate tachycardia where the heart rate increases excessively with only minimal exercise — have a defect in this process, he explains.
The condition manifests different in everyone. Some people will have just one, a few, or all the following symptoms: rapid heart rate, heart palpitations, fatigue and fainting. But the good news is POTS is treatable.
There are some simple steps Dr. Brady recommends to help treat POTS, including increasing fluid intake, exercising regularly and sometimes even adding salt to your diet. If initial therapy doesn’t work, then a doctor may also recommend prescription medication. However, the overall recommendation to decrease and even eliminate symptoms is overwhelmingly non-drug based and non-surgical.
“The reality is that the condition is becoming all too common. I hope to bring greater awareness to POTS and related conditions especially since proper treatment can make it go away altogether,” says Dr. Brady.
Heart conditions can affect patients at any age which is why it’s important to monitor how you are feeling and trust your intuition no matter your age, he says. You may find you have a treatable condition, and a diagnosis could improve your quality of life, Dr. Brady adds.
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