Friday, September 30, 2011

It's All In My Head

My health problems are in my head—literally. Research, monitoring my heart rate for 3 months, and Dr David Bell’s home test  have led me to this conclusion. I have a form of orthostatic intolerance known as POTS (postural tachycardia syndrome). For some mysterious reason, my heart rate fails to adjust when I go from lying/sitting to standing. Initially a healthy person’s heart rate increases when making that postural change but returns quickly to a slower rate. Mine does not, making me feel as though I am running even though I am standing still. This rapid heart rate results in cerebral hypoperfusion; a decrease in blood flow to the brain.

Cerebral hypoperfusion causes the symptoms which have plagued me for ten years and for which I was given the diagnosis by one doctor of fibromyalgia. These symptoms of fatigue, lightheadedness, headache, exercise intolerance, and cognitive impairment also seem to mimic Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

However, when I allow my brain to get the blood flow it needs, I feel a thousand times better.

And this is how I take care of my brain:
1)      Avoid prolonged standing and sitting.
2)      Rest as needed.
3)      Adopt postures that aid in maintaining an adequate blood flow to the brain: sitting in a low chair or any way in which the knees are close to the chest.
4)      Eat a low carbohydrate diet; high carb meals cause vasodilation.
5)      Maintain a liberal fluid and salt intake to ensure that the blood vessels are filled adequately.
6)      Improve physical conditioning and endurance through activity such as rowing and using a recumbent bike.

The symptoms of POTS are exacerbated for me when living at high altitude. My home has been Colorado but this summer I lived on the coast of Maine. Unlike healthy people my heart rate remains high and fails to accommodate to the lower saturation of oxygen in the atmosphere of Colorado. I feel much better at sea level.

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