The heart is a paradoxical organ. It declares its presence with that distinctive thump thump, yet its moment-to-moment condition is really hard to decipher. But as I learned while editing the just-published Stanford Medicine magazine special report “Mysteries of the heart,” new technologies and research are making it easier to assess heart health and diagnose disease. With heart disease the No. 1 cause of death worldwide, that’s good news.
The issue, published during American Heart Month, was supported in part by the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute. Among its contents:
- "A change of heart": An interview with former vice president Dick Cheney on having "virtually everything done to me that you could do to a heart patient," culminating with a transplant.
- "Fresh starts for hearts": A feature on using stem cells to revolutionize cardiac care, and a family for which new treatments can't come soon enough.
- "The ultramarathoner's heart": Visionary computer designer Mike Nuttall's exploits as an ultramarathoner, despite having severe heart disease (online only).
- "Hiding in plain sight": The story of a man born with high cholesterol — a surprisingly common but hidden and deadly condition.
- "Switching course": A piece detailing the untangling of a heart surgery that saves babies, but threatens their lives in adulthood.
- "The heart gadgeteers": A report on the new wave of heart- and fitness-monitoring devices, and why it's hard to integrate them into the medical system.
- "Easy does it": An article on an alternative to open-heart surgery to replace aortic valves.
- "Dear Dr. Shumway": Catching up with a kid who in 1968 wrote to transplant pioneer Norman Shumway, MD, for advice — on his frog heart transplant.
The issue also includes articles on the use of big data in medicine, which will be the focus of the Big Data in Biomedicine conference May 21-23 at Stanford.
Previously: From womb to world: Stanford Medicine Magazine explores new work on having a baby, Factoring in the environment: A report from Stanford Medicine magazine and New issue of Stanford Medicine magazine asks, What do we know about blood?
Illustration by Jason Holley