Fifty years ago, on September 25, 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower suffered a myocardial infarction after playing golf outside of Denver. As documented in a recent article at the New England Journal of Medicine (“Eisenhower’s Billion-Dollar Heart Attack — 50 Years Later”), his heart attack had significant immediate as well as a long-term effects. The day the news of president’s heart attack spread, the Dow Jones had lost 6 percent of its value, a whopping loss of $14 billion, and its largest decline since the crash of 1929. As for the long term effects, as the article reckons, the president’s MI heralded an era of cardiology becoming a mature science.
Immediately following the heart attack, one of the nation’s leading cardiologists, Dr. James Watts went before clinicians attending American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans, and reckoned “the most important risk factors for myocardial infarction: older age; male sex; broad, muscular body build; active, ambitious personality; and heredity. Among the environmental contributors, he mentioned stress and strain, diet, and exercise. Factors that needed appraisal (“although at the moment they appear to be much less important”) included the use of alcohol, certain “local religious and social customs,” and “tobacco use.”
In addition, Eisenhower’s MI was also a testing ground for the latest medgagdets of the time as well as new therapeutic options:
But Eisenhower also benefited from several newly developed cardiac devices and medications. He became one of the first patients to profit from the introduction of the direct-current defibrillator by Dr. Bernard Lown in 1962. He was cardioverted at least four times during one hospitalization. In May 1967, while hospitalized after an infarction, he became one of the first patients to receive bretylium tosylate, a then-experimental antifibrillation drug, which was credited with saving his life. In the late 1960s, the inventors of the intraaortic balloon pump approached the military because they thought that such an invasive therapy would not be acceptable to private insurance companies. Eisenhower, at that time, had end-stage ischemic cardiomyopathy and was briefly considered as a candidate for the device. In the end, though, the scientists declined the opportunity — they worried that if the device failed him, the widespread adverse publicity would permanently ruin its prospects.
Eisenhower’s health gradually deteriorated in 1968, and he spent his last nine months in Walter Reed Army Hospital. He died from heart failure on March 28, 1969, at the age of 78 years, nearly 14 years after his first heart attack.
Walter Reed, the hospital that served Eisenhower and countless other vets, is itself in critical condition…
On this note, we conclude our usual “excellence in medgadget coverage” week. :} Have a wonderful autumn weekend (or spring, for our Southern hemisphere readers). See you on Monday!