History of the Heart

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Before 1900, very few people died of heart disease. Since then, heart disease has become the number one killer in the United States. The age of technology has made life easier and made people more prone to heart disease. Before the Industrial Revolution, most people made their living through some sort of manual labor. Walking was the major means of transportation. Laundry was scrubbed and wrung by hand. Stairs were climbed, carpets were beat, and butter was churned.

With the arrival of automation, life became less strenuous. Most manual labor was either replaced or assisted by machinery. Automobiles, washing machines, elevators, and vacuum cleaners became commonplace. Modern conveniences made physical activity unnecessary.

Along with the change in lifestyle came a change in diet. Machines were built to homogenize milk, process cheese, churn butter, and make ice cream. Previously, such high-fat treats had to be made by hand. Fried foods, like potato chips, hamburgers, and french fries, became staples in many diets.

The combination of a sedentary lifestyle and a rich diet led to an increase in clogged blood vessels, heart attacks, and strokes. Heart disease became commonplace. The rate of heart disease increased so sharply between the 1940 and 1967 that the World Health Organization called it the world's most serious epidemic.

Medical science immediately went to work studying the disease and searching out its causes and cures. In 1948, a thirty-year study began in Framingham, Massachusetts. Known as the Framingham Study, the investigation involved 5127 people aged 30 to 62 who showed no signs of heart disease. Every two years, the participants underwent a complete physical examination. The Study lasted thirty years and provided priceless profile information for predicting heart disease.

Today, the causes of heart disease are known. To a certain extent, so are the cures. The field of cardiology has grown tremendously to meet the demands of the disease. Through the years, tools and techniques for treating heart disease have also evolved to meet the increased need. Many of the milestones in cardiology once seemed unreachable. Who knows what the future may hold?

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