The human heart is a miraculous organ, a marvel of construction unsurpassed by any man-made creation with its resilience and precision. It beats 100,000 times a day so that if you live 100 years, that would be more than 3 billion beats in a lifetime. In “The Exquisite Machine: the new science of the heart”, Professor Sian Harding explores the latest scientific developments and mysteries of the heart. Harding, a world leader in cardiac research at Imperial College in London, reveals the latest cardiac discoveries as well as the relationship between the emotions and heart function. In addition to being a powerful pump, the heart is super-sensitive – not just in responding to emotions but in creating them. And yes, you can die of “broken heart syndrome” – although there are profound differences between men and women. There is also a much deeper connection between the heart and the brain than we previously realized.
Since the heart is at the nexus of feeling we use the word in everyday conversation – heartfelt, heartache, the heart of the matter, a good heart. E E Cummings, the poet, famously wrote “I carry your heart with me” but writers have obsessed with this organ for centuries.
Dr Fady Joudah practices Internal Medicine at St Luke’s Baylor Medical Center in Houston, TX. When not administering to his patients, Joudah is an award-winning poet who first starting writing when working for Doctors Without Frontiers in Africa and published “Earth in the Attic”. He has now published five collections of poems and will read from his work and discuss how poetry informs his mission as a physician.
The heart’s mini-brain: Intrinsic cardiac ganglionated plexus
“Neurocardiology: Structure-Based Function,” J. L. Ardell and J. A. Armour, Comprehensive Physiology 6 (2016): 1635–1653.
Stem cell-derived cardiomyocyte patches for the heart
“Large Cardiac Muscle Patches Engineered from Human Induced-Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Cardiac Cells Improve Recovery from Myocardial Infarction in Swine,” L. Gao, Z. R. Gregorich, W. Zhu, S. Mattapally, Y. Oduk, X. Lou, R. Kannappan, A. V. Borovjagin, G. P. Walcott, and A. E. Pollard et al., Circulation 137 (2018): 1712–1730.
Men vs. women in responses to emotional stress
“A Missed Penalty Kick Triggered Coronary Death in the Husband and Broken Heart Syndrome in the Wife,” Y. H. Shams, K. Feldt, and M. Stålberg American Journal of Cardiology 116 (2015): 1639–1642.
Even happy stress can cause Takotsubo syndrome
“Happy Heart Syndrome: Role of Positive Emotional Stress in Takotsubo Syndrome,” J. R. Ghadri, A. Sarcon, J. Diekmann, D. R. Bataiosu, V. L. Cammann, S. Jurisic, L. C. Napp, M. Jaguszewski, F. Scherff, and P. Brugger et al., European Heart Journal 37 (2016): 2823–2829.
Pollution and heart disease – the Oxford Street Study
Respiratory and cardiovascular responses to walking down a traffic-polluted road compared with walking in a traffic-free area in participants aged 60 years and older with chronic lung or heart disease and age-matched healthy controls: a randomised, crossover study. Sinharay R, Gong J, Barratt B, Ohman-Strickland P, Ernst S, Kelly FJ, Zhang JJ, Collins P, Cullinan P, Chung KF. Lancet. 2018 Jan 27;391(10118):339-349.
BIO: Professor Sian Harding
SIAN E HARDING, a leading authority in cardiac science, is Emeritus Professor of Cardiac Pharmacology at Imperial College London. She served as Special Advisor to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee on Regenerative Medicine, and has been awarded the Imperial College Medal and Lifetime Achievement Award from the European Society of Cardiology.
BIO: Fady Joudah
Fady Joudah has published five collections of poems: The Earth in the Attic; Alight; Textu; a book-long sequence of short poems whose meter is based on cellphone character count; Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance; and, most recently, Tethered to Stars. He has translated several collections of poetry from the Arabic and is the co-editor and co-founder of the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize. He was a winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition in 2007 and has received the Arab American Book Award, a PEN award, a Banipal/Times Literary Supplement prize from the UK, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is an Editor-at-Large for Milkweed Editions. He lives in Houston, with his wife and kids, where he practices internal medicine.