Exercise May Help Treat POTS Heart Condition
Study Shows Exercise Program Is Effective for Heart Condition Also Known as 'Grinch Syndrome'
WebMD News Archive
June 20, 2011 -- An exercise training program worked better than medication for those with a debilitating heart problem that's dubbed the "Grinch syndrome," new research suggests.
The condition is so named because those who suffer from it have a heart that's too small.
The medical term for the condition is POTS, short for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. About 500,000 in the U.S., mostly young women, are affected.
Among other symptoms, those with POTS have a rapid increase in their heartbeat when they change from lying down to standing. The volume of blood pumped out from the heart with each beat is low. That can make it difficult to stand for long periods. Quality of life can suffer greatly.
''We have come to the conclusion that the essence of the condition is a small, atrophied, deconditioned heart," says study researcher Benjamin D. Levine, MD, director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and professor of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.
In the new research, he says, "the heart was too small, we made it bigger [through exercise] and the symptoms went away."
The team found the same benefits to exercise in a previous study. However, in the new study, they found that exercise training made patients feel better without using the beta-blocker medication commonly given to lower the heart rate.
The study results are potentially good news for people like Amy Krakower, 26, a San Diego law school graduate diagnosed at age 23 with the condition. She was so affected, she tells WebMD, that "I couldn't walk up the stairs to my contracts class without feeling like a 90-year-old woman."
In his small study, Levine found that a rigorous exercise program, which began with participants exercising on recumbent equipment, helped many and cured 10 of 19 patients.
The study is published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Exercise Program for Grinch Syndrome
Levine and his team evaluated 19 people with POTS (including one man) and compared them to 15 people without the condition (including one man).