My heart which by the way is not the one in the photo (more on that in a moment) is apparently OK, but at every physical exam over my 62 years with a new doctor he or she will stop and listen.
They move the stethoscope around and then invariably pause and stare into space. Only a couple have commented.
An early comment from one doctor was, “you have a slight murmur.”
And that was it.
Heart murmur I’ve since learned, is common and most of the time not a problem.
But heart issues are worth paying attention to.
My newly restored interest in keeping my heart healthy is because of a recent visit to the University of Minnesota’s Visible Heart Lab.
Among other sights, I viewed a human heart with a wall as thick as beef steak.
Lab director Paul Iaizzo (pronounced EYE zee oh) says the cause was hypertension.
The result is the thickened heart wall meant a smaller chamber which reduced the amount of blood the heart could pump to the body and, well, that’s not a good thing.
Moral of the story: Get your hypertension or high blood pressure under control.
Iaizzo says the sixteen-year-old Visible Heart Lab is the only one in the world where researchers re-animate – restart – hearts outside the body.
Mostly swine hearts since they are similar to human hearts.
And that brings us to the amazing image above captured by MPR’s Jeff Thompson.
It’s a beating swine heart restarted during our recent visit to the lab.
The tubes carry the nutrients – not blood – needed to keep the heart beating.
Over the years Iaizzo and colleagues have restarted 50 human hearts from donors when the harvested organ couldn’t be matched with a recipient for one reason or another.
The scientists study the beating hearts.
They want to learn about all kinds of things including whether new drugs reduce damage to heart cells during surgery.
They take lots of pictures and movies outside and inside the hearts and put them online.
Medical school students tour the lab. Iaizzo, a Ph.D. in physiology and professor of surgery, teaches classes about the heart among other topics.
Oh, yes, and Iaizzo is a stroke survivor.
His heart was repaired, and he is fully recovered, a beneficiary of the research his lab does.
Take care of your heart.