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Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome

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Living with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)

Tampa, Fla. residents will recognize Morgan Boykin for her many accomplishments — 2016 Miss Tampa, 2017 Miss Osceola, 2018 Miss Winter Haven, the feature baton twirler for the University of South Florida from 2016-2018, and co-owner and operator of the Southern B Boutique, which she started with her sister. What you may not know about Morgan Boykin is that she has been living with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) since 2016.

What is POTS?

POTS is an often-debilitating chronic illness characterized by increased heart rate, low blood pressure, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and fainting, the last symptom of which is why this disorder is often referred to as “the fainting disease.” POTS patients like Morgan Boykin frequently find themselves waging an ongoing battle against gravity; any change in posture — standing up, sitting up, adjusting the blankets — can cause someone with POTS to feel fait or pass out. Prior to being diagnosed, Boykin was passing out over 30 times a day!

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome

These fainting spells are no surprise when you consider the impact of POTS on heart rate. A normal heart rate when the body is at rest is 70 to 80 beats per minute (BPM). That rate normally climbs another 10 to 15 beats per minute when standing up, then settles back down. With POTS, a person’s heart rate often increases 30 to 50 beats per minute or more, resulting in lightheadedness, dizziness, and fainting. At one point, Boykin’s doctor told her that her heart rate climbed into the 200s, while she was asleep.

At the root of this dramatic increase in heart rate is the autonomic nervous system (ANS) — the part of the nervous system responsible for controlling bodily functions subconsciously, such as breathing, heartbeat, and digestion. ANS malfunctions give rise to various medical conditions including POTS, orthostatic hypotension (OH), orthostatic intolerance (OI), neurogenic bowel (gastroparesis, intestinal dysmotility, and constipation).

While POTS patients like Boykin and advocacy groups like The Dysautonomia Project work to raise awareness of POTS and other autonomic nervous system disorders, many of us in healthcare — especially those of us who practice functional and integrative healthcare — are  continue reading

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