LEFT TO RIGHT: Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (cigarette in hand) and Joseph Stalin, Yalta Conference, 1945.

The year was 1945. So much was unknown to mankind at this time and many of the most incredible gadgets and gizmos the world has known didn't come about until much later. But putting aside the fact that there were some pretty nifty inventions in the years that followed, some consideration should be given to the discoveries that came to light around this time. One discovery worth mentioning was made by some very brilliant people who, through some simple plotting of points on a graph and humble analysis, discovered something that would change healthcare for years to come. The discovery was that high blood pressure is bad for you! And the geniuses behind this discovery were not medical doctors at Harvard or Johns Hopkins. Rather, it was a group of folks at 1 Madison Avenue near East 23rd Street in New York City, NY in a building called the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower. To be fair, doctors have commented heavily on what they called "hard pulse disease" for centuries, but they didn't know the extent of it, what to do about it or if they even should do anything about it. Dr. Jon Hay of Liverpool University in 1931 stated "... the greatest danger to a man with a high blood pressure lies in its discovery, because then some fool is certain to try and reduce it." Another doc by the name of Dr. Paul Dudley White in 1937 added this gem, stating that "... hypertension may be an important compensatory mechanism, which should not be tampered with." And author of "Diseases of the Heart," Dr. Charles Friedberg considered 210/100 "mild benign hypertension" and that it "need not be treated."

Adnan Khan, MSIII read these quotes and then said: "LOL!"

Going back to 1945, there's one doctor I just cannot bring myself to laugh at. Poor guy was Navy doc, Admiral Ross T. McIntire, an ear, nose and throat specialist, and personal physician of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In addition to treating countless ailments of the then troubled, war-time president, he did an interesting thing, which was documenting the president's blood pressures regularly. He found that Roosevelt was frequently found to be hypertensive, but did next to nothing regarding this finding. He continued to follow the president all over the country and the world, which brings us to the Yalta Conference near the region of Crimea of Southern Ukraine (currently making headlines).  

Top line - Roosevelt's systolic blood pressure. Bottom line - Roosevelt's diastolic blood pressure. Both seen steadily rising until his death, just two months after the meeting at Yalta, during which time his blood pressure was almost 350/200.


Now, the normal blood pressure we all know that is considered healthy is '120/80' -- a rare finding, and probably not what most of us actually have. However, as you can see to the left, FDR's blood pressures ran a little high. Actually, they ran very high! And shortly after the Yalta Conference, there was a rapid rise in his blood pressure.

Newspaper article printed the day following the death of Roosevelt with Adm. McIntire's famous proclamation and cause of Roosevelt's death.

Obviously, this was not a sustainable situation and one of the complications of malignant hypertension is a stroke, which he subsequently had. Going back to Admiral McIntire, he is famously quoted as expressing his completely being blind-sighted by this event by saying it "came out of clear sky." I believe he is remembered by some as being an incompetent buffoon and ridiculed for his very public confusion.

The truth; however, is that his confusion was probably shared by many more doctors than just him and similar sentiments were quietly echoed from supposed "geniuses" in white coats everywhere.  

The reason I decided to write this was because I have a couple of genuine fears. The first being, I don't want to miss something like this. That's terrible. But you can't blame McIntire for not knowing given the information that he had at the time. And if it weren't for life insurance companies taking note of the fact that their clients with high blood pressure don't seem to live as long, we wouldn't know, either! The other fear has to do with the fact that I'm about to graduate next May. Ahh! The scary part of that is I don't feel as smart as some say and am actually pretty apprehensive about the whole thing. I suppose that is a normal feeling, but I need to iron that out. I'm hoping 4th year takes care of that! One thing I will say, though, is that doctors are just trying to do the best they can. Which is what I'm going to try and do! The best thing any of us can do is learn from past mistakes, I guess...

Still a 3rd year. Can't wait for this to be in the past as well.


AuthorAdnan Khan