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Affairs of the Heart
Mending a Broken HeartRobot Heart SurgeryThe Heart FactoryHow's Your Heart?
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Photo of Alan taking stress test
  Alan takes a stress test while researchers monitor his heart

Twenty miles west of Boston is a town whose people have arguably saved many millions of lives throughout the industrialized world. The town is Framingham, where over fifty years ago, five thousand citizens signed up for what became known as the Framingham Heart Study. Year after year, those five thousand people allowed themselves to be poked, prodded and questioned on anything and everything scientists thought might conceivably be connected with heart disease. Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the NIH, the study's resulting data has proven invaluable to modern medicine. Now, many of the participant's children and grandchildren are joining up too, extending the study's reach even further.

Photo of the Framingham heart study home
The Framingham Heart Study has documented one town's health over three generations  

In "How's Your Heart?," Alan puts his own heart to the test, under the direction of Dr. Dan Levy, director of the study since 1995. One test measures the resilience of Alan's arteries, a key indicator of blood vessel health. Next, an MRI scan provides a glimpse of Alan's heart at work, and checks his aorta for dangerous plaque build-up. Alan passes both tests with flying colors.

Later, over lunch with some of the study's original participants, Alan and the former director Dr. William Castelli discuss how the modern American lifestyle can be hazardous to our heart, and what each of us can do to change it.

For more on this topic, see the web feature:
"Profile: Castelli"

 

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