Mending a broken heart

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By Richard P. Holm, MD

Mrs. H. was in her mid 80s when her husband died. I admired how she had provided loving care for him “in sickness and in health” right up to the end. Despite his expected and comfortable demise, his death broke her heart. It was like the painting of Mother Mary with a stabbed and bleeding heart. Mrs. H. began having trouble breathing, swollen legs, and profound weakness. I suspected what was wrong and ordered an echocardiogram.

Science proves the heart is a powerful pump, but history portrays it as the seat of emotion. As a pump, one heart moves about 2,000 gallons of blood each day, totaling about 3 super tankers worth in a lifetime —through 60,000 miles of veins, arteries, and capillaries. The largest artery is the size of a garden hose while the smallest capillary is the size of a human hair split ten times.


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