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State of the Heart By Haider Warraich

Updated: May 7, 2021

Virginia Dematatis, Staff Writer

“The entire medical team was convinced he didn’t have long to live, maybe a few months at best. Everyone nodded in agreement one final time, like a football team about to take the field or a group of paratroopers about to leap from the side of a plane. As we filed into his room and after the customary introduction …I started talking slowly.”

“You have recovered well from your infection, the one thing we cannot help you recover from is your heart failure.” “Wait—what—I have heart failure?” he asked abruptly. Startled, he looked to his wife, who started crying. “He has heart failure? No one told us he has heart failure! What is heart failure?” she wailed.

In the first few pages of his book, State of the Heart, Haider Warraich recounts his shock and surprise at meeting a new patient that had been living with heart failure for almost two decades while under the care of a cardiologist, with little knowledge of his true condition. By writing this book, Warraich sets out to answer the questions posed to him that day. But, he also does so much more! He draws us into the intriguing world of heart disease by exploring its history, politics and future.

Early in the book, Warraich gives the reader a captivating description of the history of cardiac disease. He writes that the ancient Egyptians were ahead of many other civilizations in understanding the “centrality of the heart in human circulation”. They thought it circulated blood, as well as air, bile, feces, semen, and “the spirits and the soul”. Ancient papyrus inscriptions detailed symptoms of an early death for those patients with illness of the “cardia” by pointing to: pain in the arms, chest and side of the cardia (angina), the weakening or “kneeling of the heart” (heart failure) and episodes where, “… the heart trembles, has little power and sinks” (symptoms of ventricular fibrillation). But, since these ancient texts were either discounted or hidden from the view of early Western Civilization, other theories about the heart were more widely accepted.

To read the full article, please go to the February 2020 Issue of CCT.

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