May 22, 2020

Blood pumps through a bag as physicians perform open heart surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) 

This piece was originally posted on November 17th, 2018. It was updated on May 22, 2020.

There has been a lot of focus on the health of our lungs during the coronavirus crisis  —  from updates about the availability of ventilators, to concern that the slightest cough could indicate the onset of COVID-19. But there’s another organ that is being increasingly discussed during this time: your heart. Because heart problems, as it turns out, are one of the most significant risk factors for those who contract the virus. 

Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, the director of the Heart Failure Program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and author of Heart: A History, takes a look at some of the unseen ways that we influence our hearts, and how our hearts influence us. What does medicine tell us about how to keep our hearts strong? We examine the research.

Three Takeaways:

  • People sing about broken hearts all the time… but it’s an actual medical condition. Jauhar says that “when people suffer intense emotional upset, they can develop what is commonly known as the broken-heart syndrome.”
  • Jauhar points out that our emotional lives are intrinsically linked to the health of our hearts. Doctors and public health officials have typically focused on issues like obesity and smoking when thinking about heart health, and while Jauhar acknowledges that those are important, he wants to see more attention paid to people’s psychological well-being.
  • So if you want to have a healthy heart… think about developing strong relationships and becoming part of your community. According to a study conducted by Michael Marmot that focused on Japanese immigrants to the U.S., even controlling for factors like diet and exercise, people who had stronger links to their community had healthier hearts. 

More Reading:

  • When we think of the damage that COVID-19 has been causing in patients’ bodies, the lungs jump to mind. But doctors are finding a significant link between the heart and COVID-19, whether from pre-existing heart issues or from heart-related complications that come from the virus.
  • How is your own heart health? The Cleveland Clinic shared what they most want heart patients to know about COVID-19, and what those at risk can do to protect themselves.
  • We had Michael Marmot on our show a while back. Here he is talking about the link between your paycheck and your lifespan, both of which are likely on many Americans’ minds right now.

Body and Mind, Sandeep Jauhar, Heart, health

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