Stomach And The Heart
( Originally Published 1921 )
I repeat here what I have said before regarding the close relationship between stomach and heart. Indeed, in the speech of everyday life it is recognized that people with stomach trouble often think they have heart trouble, but sometimes some of the most serious heart attacks affect the stomach first. This takes the form of what resembles flatulent dyspepsia in which the patient has pain and great distension of the stomach with gas. In a heart attack, this is accompanied by irregularity of the heart, and the patient becomes frightened.
Many people with persistent indigestion and inability to digest food are completely relieved as soon as their hearts are rendered competent by a suitable course of treatment. When in an elderly person there is persistent stomach and liver trouble, particularly if there is tenderness on pressure over the pit of the stomach, the presence of heart disease should always be suspected because in many instances the real trouble is in the circulation as affecting these organs.
Stomach disease itself seldom results in heart disease, and the fermentation leading to gas on the stomach is not ordinarily dangerous in its ultimate effects. The converse of this is not true; for heart attacks, in which there is a great deal of wind on the stomach, are often serious.
The troubles that really cause heart disease are found beyond the stomach after the food is absorbed into the system. This may go on for many years without causing pain or attracting attention, and can be detected only by chemical means.
In my own experience, the most advanced examples of hardening of the arteries that I have seen, when the patients consulted a doctor for the first time, have been those in which the patients boasted of their excellent digestion, but acknowledged that they had been unwise in their rations. They may not have eaten too much food but they had eaten the wrong food. This had led to a disturbance of metabolism that gave no symptoms but could have been detected easily by chemical means ; this caused poison to circulate in the blood that hardened the arteries and often damaged the heart.
The nurse should know that simple indigestion does not lead to heart disease tho it may cause discomfort. In this connection, those who have the care of persons threatened with disease of the heart and blood vessels should not be imsician in his desire for careful laboratory investigations. The laboratory is the watch-tower from which the fire may be seen early and checked before it becomes a conflagration. Chemical analyses do not merely detect disease, they determine conditions ; the physician who examines the urine only for the sake of proving that his patient has not Bright's disease, without discovering the patient's tendencies, is falling far short of his opportunities.