From the Archives: First Electrocardiograph, 1913


Chicago’s first electrocardiograph was installed 100 years ago at Presbyterian Hospital, which later became part of Rush University Medical Center.

Renowned heart specialist and Rush Medical College graduate James B. Herrick, MD, was instrumental in securing the equipment through a gift from Mrs. Cyrus McCormick, Sr., a noted Chicago philanthropist.

She also helped the hospital acquire an improved model in 1915 and provided substantial funding for research in heart disease.

According to the 1939 issue of the Presbyterian Hospital Bulletin, “It was with the aid of these instruments that Dr. Herrick made his first notable discoveries about coronary thrombosis and started on the trail which has brought fame to himself and immeasurable benefit to humanity.”

Electrocardiography measures the heart’s electrical activity and helps detect abnormalities.

Avoiding Winter Heart Attacks

By Philip R. Liebson, MD

The snow is falling. The winter winds are raging, you are over 50 years of age and you have to shovel the driveway. You may be aware that heart attacks are increased in winter, almost twice the rate as at other seasons. Why and how can you protect yourself?

The reason for the increase in heart attacks involves the cold weather primarily, although snow shoveling helps. Cold weather causes the arteries to constrict, increasing the work of the heart by raising the blood pressure. When the arteries have arteriosclerotic plaque, this decreases blood flow even more. Also, cold causes the heart rate to increase, making the work of the heart even greater. Finally, lifting snow with your shovel is an isometric exercise adding to the work of the heart by an increase in blood pressure.

If you want to shovel snow early in the morning, beware! This is the time of day when heart attacks are greatest, because of the surge of adrenaline that occurs around the time of awakening. With the decreased daylight hours there is also a tendency for depressed mood which can also affect the function of the heart.

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Heart-Healthy Foods (And They Taste Good, Too)

By Heather Rasmussen

While Valentine’s Day reminded us that the heart is a symbol of love, fewer connect that symbol to our own personal heart health. As February is also recognized as American Heart Month by the American Heart Association, we should also focus our attention on lifestyle factors that can benefit our heart, whether through smoking cessation, increased physical activity or diet modification.

While this month highlights these key factors that impact heart health, our heart is something that deserves our attention all year round. How do we incorporate heart-healthy ingredients into our diet, and what are the mechanisms by which they function? Discussed below are a few key foods to incorporate into the diet on a frequent basis.

Oatmeal: The key to oatmeal’s success as a heart-healthy food is likely two-fold. First, oatmeal contains soluble fiber, a type of fiber that is unique in that it has the ability to trap cholesterol within the intestine, reducing absorption. This results in reduced plasma low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) concentrations and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. With 2 grams of soluble fiber per half-cup dry serving, oatmeal provides a good start toward the goal of 10 grams of soluble fiber a day. While oats have the highest proportion of soluble fiber compared to other grains, other good options include beans, peas, barley and citrus fruits.  Second, oatmeal is a low-fat breakfast item that can serve as an alternative to eggs, bacon and the donuts we gravitate to on our drive to work; when these breakfast items are replaced with a low-fat, low-calorie, high-fiber food, health benefits are soon to follow. Continue reading