(NaturalNews) Imagine simply standing up and feeling your heart speed up more than 30 beats a minute -- sometimes it races well over 120 beats a minutes. You also have heart palpitations out the blue and low stroke volume (the amount of blood your heart pumps with each blood). Even the amount of blood in your body is too low.
These are the symptoms of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) -- dubbed "The Grinch Syndrome" because the majority of patients have a heart that is literally, to use Dr. Seuss' description of the Grinch's heart, "two sizes too small." POTS affects about 500,000 people in the U.S., primarily young women.
And while it isn't life-threatening, it can destroy the quality of a person's life and cause substantial disability by bringing on symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, inability to stand for prolonged periods of time (chronic orthostatic intolerance) and fainting.
But now there's evidence POTS can be cured without drugs or surgery, according to research just published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Medical Association. It isn't the easiest "prescription" for many POTS sufferers but knowing they can be cured may be enough to get them started on this natural path to total healing. The treatment? Regular exercise.
"The exercise training program is a resounding success in the treatment of POTS," Benjamin Levine, M.D., senior study author and director at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas, said in a statement to the media.
As anyone with POTS knows, the condition can cause such dizziness and fatigue that exercise can seem downright impossible. But the researchers figured out a way to help POTS sufferers begin exercising safely.
"The unique component is to start training in a recumbent (semi-reclining) position, which is important to those who can't tolerant standing. This strategy avoids the upright position that produces symptoms. We don't even let patients stand up to exercise for one or even two months," explained Levine who is also professor of medicine and cardiology and distinguished professorship in exercise science at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. "However, to maintain the benefits these patients will need to incorporate the training program into their everyday lives indefinitely."
There are a variety of recumbent or sitting exercises include cycling with a recumbent bike, rowing and swimming. Dr. Levine and his research team recommend exercise training for POTS patients that progressively increases in intensity, frequency and duration. The training regime, they said, should start with 30 to 45 minute sessions, two to four times per week. Eventually, patients work up to exercising five to six hours each week and they are encouraged to exercise upright when they are able to.
For the recent study, the scientists worked with 18 women (average age 27) and one man who completed a double-blind drug trial. The POTS sufferers were randomized to receive either the beta blocker propranolol, commonly prescribed for their heart condition, or a placebo for four weeks. After that time period, the research subjects participated three months of exercise training. There was also a control group of 15 non-POTS healthy participants who participated in the study.
The results of the study showed that all POTS patients who completed the exercise training showed improvement in physical function scores. What's more 95 percent of them showed improvement in their ability to function socially.
Every single POTS patient who completed the exercise regime showed an improvement in heart rate responses and over half - 53 percent - were actually "cured" of their POTS. That means their change in heart rate with standing no longer met the diagnostic criteria for the syndrome. More good news for POTS sufferers: aldosterone-to-renin ratio (the regulation of sodium balance, fluid volume and blood pressure) has long been known to be low in people with POTS and the standard drug therapy given these people does nothing to help. But not so with the all-natural exercise regime -- the aldosterone-to-renin ration, which plays a critical role in how the body handles changes to blood circulation during prolonged standing, showed a dramatic increase in the POTS patients who worked out regularly.
The researchers' analyses also showed the group receiving beta blocker drugs showed no change in social function scores and very few patients taking the drugs improved their physical function scores at all.
"Exercise training is superior to the beta blocker in restoring upright blood circulation, improving kidney function and dramatically improving quality of life," Qi Fu, M.D., Ph.D., study first-author and assistant professor of internal medicine and cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, concluded in the statement to the media.