Exercise intolerance is a hallmark of the postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). However, no data are available on the implications of an exaggerated submaximal heart rate (HR) on exercise intolerance in patients. We investigated whether exaggerated HR responses occurring early on during incremental stress testing relate with increased odds of POTS and exercise intolerance.
Clinical characteristics and stress test HRs were compared between adults with POTS achieving ≥85% predicted metabolic equivalents (METs) (EX-TL, n = 101; body mass index [BMI] 24 ± 5 kg·m−2; 95% women) or <85% (EX-INTL, n = 71; BMI 28 ± 7 kg·m−2; 79% women) and sedentary controls (n = 30; BMI 36 ± 3 kg·m−2; 87% women). Multivariate logistic regressions were performed to estimate ORs and the probability of POTS and exercise intolerance associated with exercise HRs.
Exercise tolerance was increased in EX-TL, but not in EX-INTL (10.0 ± 1.3 and 8.3 ± 1.5 METs vs 8.0 ± 1.6 METs, respectively) versus controls. Absolute peak HR was increased in EX-TL and EX-INTL versus controls (P < .01), whereas percent predicted did not differ. Exercise within the first-to-second stress stages was performed at exaggerated HRs (122 ± 17 bpm vs 103 ± 15 and 113 ± 15 bpm, P < .001) and percent HR reserve in EX-INTL versus controls and EX-TL (49% ± 12% vs 34% ± 11% and 41% ± 11%, P < .001), respectively. In multivariate analyses, peak HR was not significant, whereas increased submaximal HR (either variable) was associated with increased odds of EX-TL or EX-INTL. Lastly, odds of EX-INTL increased as METs decreased, whereas METs was not a predictor of EX-TL.
An exaggerated submaximal exercise HR is predictive of POTS and exercise intolerance, and this chronotropic phenotype is exacerbated in patients achieving <85% predicted METs.