Matters of the Heart: Story Ideas and an Expert Pitch for Heart Month and Valentine’s Day
Below are brief summaries of story ideas for February’s Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND LOVE AND PLEASURE: WHAT MAKES LOVE CONQUER ALL?
Take a bite into a silky, sweet chocolate bar and experience the wave of pleasure that comes with eating Belgium’s finest. But what’s actually happening in our brain when we chomp down on that decadent dessert?
Neuroscientist David Linden, Ph.D., explains how feelings of pleasure and love have evolved over millennia and originate amid neuronal circuits in the brain. He’ll explain the chemical changes that happen in your brain when you fall in love, the burst of hormones released during passionate encounters and how those change between short-lived affairs and long-lasting relationships.
Linden has authored and co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications and written three books on the science behind pleasure, touch, feeling and love, including The Accidental Mind and The Compass of Pleasure.
MAINTAINING A STEADY HEART RATE IS A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH WITH THIS INHERITED HEART CONDITION
Jasonee Foster was headed to a business meeting in 2012 when she suddenly felt out of breath and started experiencing what she calls “butterflies” in her stomach and chest. The 38-year-old attributed it to exhaustion and nerves, having just returned to work from maternity leave. When her symptoms persisted, she sought help. After several doctor and emergency room visits with no answers, Jasonee finally saw a physician in Missouri who had trained at Johns Hopkins. He recognized her symptoms and asked about a family history of sudden, unexplainable death. Jasonee’s brother died suddenly in 2011. That was the evidence the physician needed to start Jasonee on the path to answers by connecting her to Johns Hopkins physicians. Jasonee has a rare, life-threatening condition known as arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, or ARVD, an inherited heart disorder that can lead to sudden death. People with ARVD like Jasonee can’t do anything that raises their heart rate, such as exercise, or it can kill them. Jasonee herself flat-lined three times during her search for a diagnosis. Her story is one of motherhood, loss and survival. She has a young son and is in the thick of navigating life and activities for her child, who may also have inherited ARVD. Raw film footage of Jasonee talking about her journey is available.
NO FASTING NEEDED BEFORE NEWER CHOLESTEROL TEST
Routine fasting for cholesterol tests could be eliminated for most people, making such screening more convenient, according to experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Their study adds to evidence that a newer method of calculating so-called “bad cholesterol” levels in the blood is more accurate than the older method in people who did not fast before blood was drawn. The study’s authors developed the new LDL cholesterol counter, which is available to clinicians via an app and a national diagnostic company. Read more about this research.
DNA IN CELL’S POWER STATION COULD FORETELL HEART DISEASE
Johns Hopkins scientists found that DNA stored in a cell’s energy-creating mitochondria may be able to predict the risk of heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths a decade or more before they happen. Their research revealed that adding a patient’s mitochondrial DNA copy number to currently used clinical measures improved the accuracy of determining the patient’s risk of a deadly cardiac event. The researchers measured the mitochondrial DNA levels relative to nuclear DNA levels, and then added that value as a risk factor to the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association’s heart risk calculator. The lower the copy number, the higher the risk. While further research is needed before mitochondrial DNA can be clinically used to predict risk for sudden cardiac death, the researchers say their new biomarker is promising. Read more about this research.