The Biggest Lie Ever Told? Futurism and Medicine

Just  four centuries ago, most still believed the earth was the the center of the universe. At least, the major governing bodies did…or wanted the populace to…. And, on this day, 385 years ago, the Inquisition forced Galileo Galilei to say he was wrong — that the Earth did not revolve around the sun.

Galileo had made the proclamation in his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, and whether he really believed his words that summer day is debatable. Legend has it, after he recanted his views, Galileo muttered, “And yet it moves.”

Many people believe Galileo was hounded by the church for almost two decades, that he openly maintained a belief in heliocentrism, and that he was only spared torture and death because his powerful friends intervened on his behalf. An examination of the fine details of Galileo’s conflict with church leaders does not necessarily bear that out, according to UCLA English department’s distinguished research professor, Henry Kelly.

“We can only guess at what he really believed,” said Kelly in an article published in 2016. His research undertook a thorough examination of the judicial procedure used by the church in its investigation of Galileo. “Galileo was clearly stretching the truth when he maintained at his trial in 1633 that after 1616 he had never considered heliocentrism to be possible. Admitting otherwise would have increased the penance he was given, but would not have endangered his life, since he agreed to renounce the heresy — and in fact it would have spared him even the threat of torture.”

When first summoned by the Roman Inquisition years before, in 1616, Galileo was not questioned but merely warned not to espouse heliocentrism. In the same year, the church banned Nicholas Copernicus’ book “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres,” published in 1543.  This was one of the first major scientific works detailing a theory the Earth revolved around the sun. After a few minor edits, making sure that the sun theory was presented as purely hypothetical, it was allowed again in 1620 with the blessing of the church.

Sixteen years after his first encounter with the church, Galileo published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in 1632, and the pope, Urban VIII, ordered another investigation against him. This time, he was prosecuted, following the usual methods of the Roman Inquisition.

The atmosphere in Italy at the time Galileo was writing his book was tense. The Inquisition was at peak intensity, and even more significantly, the bubonic plague was sweeping the country. Travel and communication were extremely difficult, creating an infectious sense of fear in the population.

Before Dialogue was published, Galileo was favored by the Church, even earning a pension from the pope; but officials were angered by the book’s content. The plot featured three characters – a simpleton, a student and a sage – who debated the structure of the solar system. The simpleton supported an Earth-centered view of the solar system, was subsequently proven wrong and ridiculed by the other characters. This was considered to be heresy as it ran contrary to the modern views of the Church. For Rome, the earth, and Rome itself, was at the center of everything. The book undermined contemporary ideas about the structure of the universe and the placement of heaven and hell.

“It made the universe physical,” says David DeVorkin, curator at the Air and Space Museum. “Then, people had to ask, ‘where in the world is heaven?’” In addition, Dialogue was a public offense to a number of officials who believed the character of the simpleton was, in part, a representation of themselves.“The real issue was the nature…that seemed to lampoon some sensitive personalities who were either on the Inquisition or were advisors or patrons or something,” DeVorkin said. “They did not want to be made out as fools.”

First, on April 12, 1633, before any charges were laid against him, Galileo was forced to testify about his beliefs under oath in hopes of obtaining a confession. This had long been a standard practice in heresy proceedings, even though it was a violation of the canonical law of inquisitorial due process. However, the interrogation was not successful – Galileo admitted no wrongdoing.

The cardinal inquisitors realized the case against Galileo would be very weak without an admission of guilt, so a plea bargain was arranged. He was told, if he admitted to having gone too far in his treatment of heliocentrism, he would be let off with a light punishment. Galileo agreed and confessed he had given stronger arguments to the heliocentric proponent in his dialogue than to the geocentric champion. He insisted he did not do so because he believed in heliocentrism. Rather, he claimed he was simply showing off his debating skills.

After his formal trial, which concluded on June 22nd of that year, Galileo was convicted of a “strong suspicion of heresy,” a lesser charge than actual heresy. “In sum, the 1616 event was not the beginning of a 17-year-long trial, as is often said, but a non-trial,” Kelly said. “Galileo’s actual trial time lasted for only a fraction of a single day, with no fanfare at all.”

Kelly also noted the Inquisition practice of the time, in light of Galileo’s guilty plea, which denied actual belief in the heresy, triggered another automatic examination of his private beliefs under torture. This was a new procedure adopted by the church around the turn of the 17th century. However, the pope decreed the interrogation should stop short at the mere threat. This was a routine kind of limitation for people of advanced age and ill health, like Galileo, and some say it should not be attributed to the influence of the scientist’s supporters.

Ultimately, Galieo’s book was banned, and he was sentenced to a light regimen of penance and imprisonment at the discretion of church inquisitors. After one day in prison, his punishment was commuted to “villa arrest” for the rest of his life. He died in 1642. In his final years, while most say Galileo insisted on the truth of the heliocentric solar system, Kelly estimates, “He would have been liable to receive an automatic death sentence.”

For its part, the church maintained efforts to ensure their version of scientific beliefs prevailed. “The most unusual aspect of the proceedings was that the sentence was ordered to be widely publicized in scientific circles,” Kelly said. “The cardinals asserted Galileo had always been orthodox in his belief concerning the cosmos and had never believed in or affirmed the heliocentric heresy.”

Today, he is celebrated as one of the world’s most disruptive scientists. Galileo’s assertion that the planets revolved around the sun, in addition to his myriad other contributions to physics and astronomy, became integral, pivotal portions of the evolution of how we view the universe. Using his own telescope design, he collected and cobbled together mountains of evidence supporting the Copernicun Revolution. “He really was one of the first modern scientists,” DeVorkin said. “He added rigorous observation to the scientific toolkit. He also added the earliest concepts of relativity and theories of infinity.”

If you have read this far, you are likely wondering why on earth this article is even on a healthcare website blog. Two reasons, really. It points to how not too distant resistance to change in strongly held beliefs, even in light of ever increasing evidence, can hold back progress; and to the importance of innovating passionately. Both of these are critical to making breakthroughs in medicine.

We can’t claim to be putting our lives on the line for constant improvement and welcome Inquisition into what we are doing. Still, every day, we at HealthLynked place getting better, each day, for you, at the center of how we operate.

And we believe you, the patient and your care team, are the center of healthcare. Many are starting to agree. We certainly aren’t Galileo and Copernicus, here, but we are working really hard to make it possible for patients to take control of their medical information in ways never before possible so they may truly collaborate to Improve HealthCare.

Patient-centric medicine is at the center of want we do. We and all the physicians in the HealthLynked network want to revolve around you.

Ready to get Lynked? Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more.

 

Sources:

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/the-truth-about-galileo-and-his-conflict-with-the-catholic-church

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/378-years-ago-today-galileo-forced-to-recant-18323485/

 

Top Health News | Stress at Work Could be Harming Your Heart

Job strain could be harming your heart

Published
Individuals with high-strain jobs are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, which is a common heartbeat disorder that can significantly raise the risk of stroke.

 

This was the conclusion of a new Swedish study on work stress, now published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

The researchers define “high-strain jobs” as those that are “psychologically demanding” but give job-holders little control “over the work situation.”

Examples include bus driving, nursing, and working on assembly lines.

Previous studies have linked work stress to coronary heart disease, but whether there is also a link to atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is less clear.

According to first study author Eleanor I. Fransson, who is an associate professor of epidemiology at Jönköping University in Sweden, A-fib “is a common condition with serious consequences and therefore it is of major public health importance to find ways of preventing it.”

A-fib and consequences

A-fib affects millions of people in the United States. It occurs when the upper two chambers of the heart (the atria) beat abnormally and disrupt blood flow to the lower two chambers (the ventricles).

The condition, which can be temporary or permanent, raises the risk of stroke. A person with A-fib has a four to five times higher risk of having a stroke than a person without it.

As well as irregular heartbeat, individuals with A-fib might also experience: chest pain, palpitations (a fluttering or pounding sensation in the heart), shortness of breath, feeling lightheaded, and “extreme fatigue.”

However, some people with A-fib may have no symptoms and not even realize that they have it.

Each year in the U.S., A-fib is responsible for over 750,000 hospital admissions and contributes to 130,000 deaths. Deaths in which A-fib is a contributory or primary cause have been increasing for the past 20 years.

The costs associated with A-fib are substantial. Overall, the burden in the U.S. amounts to $6 billion per year. The average annual medical bill for treating an individual with A-fib is $8,705 higher than for those without it.

Demands-control model

To assess work stress, Prof. Fransson and team used a measure of job strain that is based on the job demands-control model. It is one of the “most widely studied” models of work stress.

It is based on the idea that the effect of job demands on the strain that people experience is “buffered” by the amount of control that they have over their work.

For their study, the researchers used a Swedish questionnaire based on the model. It comprises five items on job demands and six on control.

The questions ask, for example, whether the individual:

  • has “to work very hard or very fast”
  • experiences conflicting demands in the job
  • has enough time to complete tasks
  • has to complete lots of repetitive tasks
  • is able to decide which tasks to do and how to do them

Link between job strain and A-fib

The researchers used data on 13,200 individuals who constituted a “representative sample of the working population” of Sweden. They were recruited in 2006, 2008, and 2010 to take part of the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH).

None of the participants had A-fib — or a history of the disorder — when they joined the study. Neither did they have a history of heart failure or heart attack.

They were all employed, and they all completed a battery of questionnaires when they entered the study. These were sent out by post and included the usual demographic questions plus others about health, lifestyle, and work.

The study followed the group for a median of 5.7 years. Using national registers, the researchers identified 145 cases of A-fib during this period.

Analysis of the SLOSH data — after adjusting for age, gender, and education — showed that job strain was linked to an almost 50 percent raised risk of A-fib.

The risk stayed the same when the team further adjusted the results to take into account the effect of exercise, smoking, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI).

Stress, heart health, and the amygdala: Links explained

Published
That long-term stress is linked to cardiovascular disease is not breaking news. However, despite the well-known connection, exactly how the two are coupled has been difficult to pinpoint. Two studies published this week provide new insight.

 

Psychological stress carries with it a wealth of ills. In fact, excessive stress is known to contribute to a range of conditions, including hypertension (high blood pressure), ulcers, asthma, and irritable bowel syndrome.

It also has a well-documented impact on heart health. Some of this negative influence could be due to coping mechanisms – such as drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco – but there also appears to be a direct link between elevated stress levels and heart complaints.

Although this relationship is common knowledge to medical researchers and laypeople alike, the exact physiological processes behind it have remained difficult to unpick.

How can an emotion that is constructed in the brain influence the physical health of the heart?

While the link between stress and heart disease has long been established, the mechanism mediating that risk has not been clearly understood.”

Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, lead author

Studies in animals have found that stress increases the manufacture of white blood cells in bone marrow. This, in turn, leads to an increase in inflammation. How this fits into the full picture is yet to be understood.

Stress, inflammation, and heart health

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) in New York designed a double-pronged investigation to gain insight into this fascinating question.

The results, published this week in The Lancet, provide new information regarding the links between cardiac health and psychological stress.

Dr. Tawakol’s paper describes two studies that aimed to combat the same problem in a similar way. The first study, conducted at MGH, analyzed positron emission tomograph (PET) and computed tomography (CT) scans of nearly 300 individuals. The scans utilized a radiopharmaceutical called fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), which can simultaneously measure activity in the brain and the level of inflammation in arteries.

All participants were healthy at the time of the scan and had information in their medical records of at least three additional clinical visits within the following 5 years.

The second study was carried out at the Translational and Molecular Imaging Institute at ISMMS. This smaller study involved 13 participants with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The researchers assessed their current levels of perceived stress and carried out FDG-PET scans.

In the larger MGH study, 22 participants experienced a cardiovascular event – such as stroke, angina, or a heart attack – during the follow-up period.

Dr. Tawakol and his team were able to show an association between the likelihood of a cardiac event and a specific part of the brain: the amygdala, a region known to be involved in emotional processing.

Stress and the amygdala

High levels of activity in the amygdala at the start of the study were associated with an increased risk of experiencing a cardiac event. Even after adjusting for other cardiovascular risk factors and atherosclerosis, the association was significant. The link became even stronger when the analysis only took into account more serious cardiac events.

They also showed that activity in the amygdala could predict the timing of the events. Higher levels of activity at baseline were associated with the occurrence of cardiac events sooner in time.

Greater activity levels in the amygdala were also associated with increased metabolism in regions of the body responsible for creating blood cells (bone marrow and spleen) and an increase in arterial inflammation.

The results from the smaller ISMMS study add weight to the MGH findings. Participants’ stress levels were, again, significantly associated with activity in the amygdala and arterial inflammation.

This pioneering study provides more evidence of a heart-brain connection, by elucidating a link between resting metabolic activity in the amygdala, a marker of stress, and subsequent cardiovascular events independently of established cardiovascular risk factors. We also show that amygdalar activity is related to increased associated perceived stress and to an increased vascular inflammation and hematopoietic activity.”

Zahi A. Fayad, Ph.D., co-senior author

Further research will help to deepen our understanding of the so-called amygdala-bone marrow-arterial axis. In the future, medications that target this mechanism may be useful for controlling or minimizing cardiovascular disease. The findings also underscore the importance of addressing stress in order to reduce health risks.

As Dr. Tawakol says: “It would be reasonable to advise individuals with increased risk of cardiovascular disease to consider employing stress-reduction approaches if they feel subjected to a high degree of psychosocial stress.”