The Little-Known Heart Condition Plaguing Working Women

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Ladies, listen up! Young, well-educated woman are the primary victims of a little-known health condition called postural tachycardia syndrome, according to recently published research in the online journal BMJ Open.

Postural tachy-what?! The condition—known as PoTS—is a by-product of orthostatic intolerance, an autonomic nervous system disorder. With orthostatic intolerance, the circulatory and nervous system responses your body needs to handle stress aren’t functioning properly—which leads to a rapid heartbeat and dizziness upon standing.

In the survey of 136 PoTS sufferers in a support group in the United Kingdom, a majority were women between ages 30 and 33, and had a degree or postgraduate degree. While PoTS is thought to only affect about 170 per 100,000 people in the U.S., the condition is so debilitating that one quarter of suffers are unable to work—and can experience trouble doing routine activities, like eating and bathing, according to a blog on BMJ.com.

In this case, it could simply be that women are more likely to join a support group—and seek support and care when they think something is wrong—but other studies still show that PoTS is more common in young women than men. Even more: “PoTS is probably much more common that we currently think,” says Julia Newton, professor of Aging and Medicine at Newcastle University in England and a lead researcher on the study. “Up to one third of those with chronic fatigue syndrome have PoTS,” Newton says. And if you consider that over one million Americans have chronic fatigue, then this would suggest there a considerable number of undiagnosed PoTS patients. 

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PoTS symptoms include frequent heart palpitations upon standing, the sensation that your heart is racing quickly when you stand up, extreme fatigue, lightheadedness, blackouts, or feeling like you might blackout. Some unusual symptoms also include blotchy rashes on your lower legs, nausea, and chest pain. If you think you may be suffering, see your doc. While researchers don’t yet have a cure, the physiological properties of drugs that that slow heart rate can improve symptoms.

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