Heart | Sandeep Jauhar

Summary of: Heart: A History
By: Sandeep Jauhar

Introduction

Dive into the fascinating world of the human heart with Sandeep Jauhar’s ‘Heart: A History.’ This book summary scrutinizes the impact of emotions on our physical hearts, explores groundbreaking medical advancements, and delves into the often underappreciated societal factors that affect heart health. Discover the history of the heart as a metaphor for love and courage, learn about medical pioneers like Werner Forssmann and C. Walton Lillehei, and observe the outcomes of groundbreaking studies like the Framingham Heart Study. This book summary aims to demystify the complex world of cardiology for readers of all backgrounds.

The Heart as a Symbol

Sandeep Jauhar’s book explores how the heart has been used as a symbol of courage, love, and much more for centuries. From Renaissance Europe to the Middle Ages, Jauhar dives into the history of how the heart shape has become associated with emotions such as bravery, courtship, and sexual behavior. He uncovers how depictions of hearts found their way onto coats of arms as symbols of loyalty and bravery. Interestingly, he also explores how the shape of a heart, called a cardioid, occurs naturally in flowers and seeds, and was even used as a natural contraceptive. This intriguing history of the heart as a symbol will give readers a new appreciation for one of the most iconic shapes in history.

The Impact of Emotions on Heart Health

The physical heart is significantly affected by emotional stress, as discovered by cardiologist Sandeep Jauhar during his practice in New York. Emotional matters such as fears and anxieties are often addressed to help patients alleviate the stress and prevent heart damage caused by constriction of blood vessels that increase blood pressure and heart rate. Statistics reveal that the heart is indeed sensitive to emotional stress. Jauhar even observed that loveless marriages may contribute to heart disease. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is the medical term given to the heart’s physical deformations caused by emotional stress, with women being affected more often. Symptoms of impending cardiac arrest, such as chest pain, breathing difficulties, and sudden collapse, are common, and some individuals may even die of grief.

Groundbreaking Self-Experimentation

In 1929, Werner Forssmann, a medical intern, performed a revolutionary experiment on himself. Forssmann, with the help of a nurse, operated on his own heart using a catheter tube, which allowed him to monitor blood pressure and blood flow. The scan initially showed that the catheter had not yet penetrated the heart. However, Forssmann persisted and eventually succeeded. His work laid the foundation for later developments in cardiac operative techniques, such as coronary angiography. Inspired by Forssmann’s work, two American cardiologists, André Cournand and Dickinson Richards, developed their own techniques that helped in the diagnosis of cardiac illnesses. Forssmann, Cournand, and Richards shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1956 for their groundbreaking work.

A Pioneering Surgeon’s Revolution

A surgeon named C. Walton Lillehei developed a cross-circulation system for heart operations after being inspired by babies in the womb. He experimented on dogs and successfully linked their circulatory systems using a beer hose and milk pump. Lillehei’s revolutionary system allowed for heart surgery to become possible for the first time.

Cross-Circulation Surgery

In 1954, Dr. Lillehei identified the group of patients with congenital heart disease, most common in newborns, who would respond best to his experimental cross-circulation surgery. Congenital heart disease caused leakage, reducing oxygen in the blood, resulting in fainting fits or even death. However, stopping a patient’s heart for more than ten minutes was practically impossible. Lillehei’s innovative technique involved connecting the patient’s circulation with an adult’s, whose blood kept the patient’s organs alive. Lillehei’s first patient, 13-month-old Gregory Glidden, had a successful 14-minute operation to stitch up a coin-sized aperture in his ventricular septum but later developed a chest infection and died. However, by the end of that year, Lillehei had performed the risky surgery on 44 more patients, and 32 of them survived. Lillehei’s cross-circulation surgery marked a significant turning point in treating congenital heart disease patients, saving many lives.

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