POTS: Part Two
How I Got Here
We're pretty sure my dad had POTS. I remember growing up, my dad always having non-specific complaints and my mom always complaining that my dad was lazy. Looking back, I think all his ailments could have been attributed to POTS. He felt generally unwell, would get headaches, and also thought he had arthritis. The first two are symptoms that I also experienced, and as for the supposed arthritis, I've read that some POTS patients get muscle and joint pain. The other telling sign is that these symptoms have all gone away now that he's in his 70's. As my mom puts it, the older he gets, the healthier he seems to get. This is in line with what the cardiologist told me ... that I would feel better in 20 years when my blood vessels harden.
When I was in high school, I remember feeling lightheaded upon standing. It's not something I ever told my parents because, I mean, we didn't even have health insurance. There wasn't that emphasis on health in my family. For example, my asthma went untreated for much of my childhood. But POTS does explain why I had so much trouble, seemingly more so than my friends, with getting myself up and to class in the mornings. I don't remember when my symptoms got better, but I think it's when I started college and started drinking, which I wrote about in this post.
It may be a coincidence, but I have read online that prolonged and heavy use of alcohol can raise your blood pressure. This could explain why my POTS symptoms went away from the time I started drinking, until a few months after I stopped. For all intents and purposes, I quit drinking in late August 2017, which you can read about here, and my POTS symptoms started up again in early 2018. I was talking to a friend this past weekend, and found out that she has POTS as well. Her symptoms also started up after she quit drinking and cut out sugar, dairy, and gluten from her diet. So take from that what you will ... it's a theory.
Based on my understanding, POTS is not something you can cure, but it is a condition you can manage. The quickest and most effective, if temporary, way that I manage my symptoms is by taking salt pills. I'll do a separate post on the salt pills, but I have to take them every day and actually, every few hours, or else my symptoms start creeping back.
With the salt pills, I continue to drink lots of water every day and I'll explain more about why in tomorrow's post. It may sound onerous, but it's actually wonderful because they've made the biggest difference in my well-being. With them, I don't get dizzy when I stand up, and I have energy to do life and feel good.
The second treatment I've pursued in addressing my POTS symptoms is exercising. I've read that having larger muscles will squeeze your blood vessels more, helping to get blood where your body needs it. I've also read that exercise can increase the size of your heart, which can then pump blood more efficiently. So finding out I had POTS finally gave me the push I needed, after years of trying, to work out harder.
It was definitely hard at first. In the middle of a workout, my heart would be racing like mad and I would be gagging with nausea. This got better over time. In my repertoire now is power yoga (read more here), the 7 minute workout, and working out with dumbbells. I'll write about my workout routine more in future posts. The effect of exercise is harder to measure, but I definitely feel stronger, have more endurance than before, and don't experience the gagging or nausea during workouts.
The hardest part of having POTS was actually figuring out I had it. Once that happened, I was able to do research online about other people's experiences and what worked for them. Then it was just a matter of figuring out what would work for me and integrating those treatments into my daily life. Getting my POTS symptoms under control was definitely a major step in my well-being and feeling as good as I do today. I'm extremely grateful for the path that brought me to this day.