From the Former Chairman’s Desk: Heart Disease
Dr. Peter Weiss wrote in the February issue of The Epoch Times newspaper: “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, Roughly 659,000 people die each year from heart disease, which is about 1 in 4 deaths, according to the American Heart Association.” About 805,000 people suffer from a heart attack each year, with about 1 in 5 being a “silent heart attack”. The only symptoms may be a nagging chest tightness which first may become a quick but a mild discomfort. It becomes constant but never “painful”. A simple blood test and an electrocardiogram will generally determine if the heart is the source of the symptom.
The electrocardiogram, known as the EKG machine, was developed by a British physiologist Augustus Desire’ Waller in 1887. He would place electrodes on a patient’s chest and back and the heart’s electrical impulses would then cause the heart’s electrical impulses to move the mercury in several tubes. An image was then projected onto a photographic plate, a flat sheet of metal, and a static image was recorded. This device was obviously not very accurate. Waller did not recognize the clinical importance of his invention according to an article “AD Waller and the so-called electrocardiogram, 1887”, published in the British Medical Journal. While Waller failed to miss the significance of his discovery and invention, “others did not.” Willem Einthoven, a physiology professor, at Leiden University in the Netherlands, took his work further. He used a string galvanometer to conduct the first recording of the human electrocardiogram in 1905, according to Dr. Weiss. The galvanometer is a device used for detecting and measuring small currents of electricity.
Einthoven’s machine weighed 600 pounds. Patients in the hospital were connected to the machine using a telephone wire from the laboratory to the patient, a distance of almost a mile. Patients were required to place each hand in a saline-filled bucket and the left leg in a solution filled bucket. These buckets acted as electrodes to conduct the electrical currents. Einthoven “coined” the term electrocardiogram which won him the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1924. Sir Thomas Lewis of University College Hospital in London recorded the first irregular heart beat. “It soon became the modern modality to help differentiate a heart attack from simple chest pain”, according to Weiss. What a difference a century makes. Today, we have what is commonly known the 12 lead EKG. The 12 leads refer to the 12 vectors of electricity that are measured by a full EKG.” A heart attack, known as a MI, occurs when the heart muscle doesn’t receive enough blood (oxygen) and the heart muscle starts to die. The EKG is a quick and simple method to help diagnose such an event. Today, major companies such as Apple and Kardia have developed hand-held devices that can detect cardiac irregularities.
Author Dr. Peet Weiss concluded – “While cardiovascular disease is still our No. 1 killer, one thing that has changed significantly is what we know about the heart’s rhythm and what it means. And all thanks to a 600 pound machine that can now fit in a wristwatch.”