Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/200

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188
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

When the degeneration of the right heart has progressed to a certain extent, incompetency of the tricuspid valve follows either with or without the aid of an exciting cause. Hence it is easy to understand why dilatation of the right heart and tricuspid incompetency are often found to exist apart from any previous history of cardiac disease.

The third great vital function which influences the degenerative tendency of the heart is that of the circulation of the blood. To preserve the health of the tissues, the blood must not only be pure and rich in the materials of growth, but it must flow with a certain speed through all the blood-vessels. If the speed with which the blood moves is on the side of either plus or minus of the standard of health, disease will shortly arise. If it is on the side of plus, active disease of the heart, where that organ is the one to suffer, will follow. If on the side of minus, tissue degeneration will ensue. Active disease will be the consequence before middle age; degeneration after that period.

These facts teach that all violent and long-continued efforts of the body should be avoided. They hurry the heart's action to an inordinate degree, they cause it to throw the blood with great force into the extreme vessels, and, as there is almost always one organ of the body weaker than the others, the vessels of this organ become distended, and, remaining distended, the organ itself becomes diseased. Running, rowing, lifting, jumping, wrestling, severe horse-exercise, cricket, football, are fruitful causes of heart-disease. Those which require the breath to be suspended during their accomplishment are more fruitful causes in this respect than those which require no such suspension of the breathing. Rowing, lifting heavy weights, wrestling, and jumping, do this; and, of these, rowing is the most powerful for evil. At every effort made with the hands and feet, the muscles are strained to their utmost; the chest is violently fixed; no air is admitted into the lungs; blood is thrown by the goaded heart with great force into the pulmonary vessels; they become distended; they at length cannot find space for more blood; the onward current is now driven back upon the right heart; its cavities and the blood-vessels of its walls become in like manner distended; the foundation of disease is laid. Hypertrophy, hæmoptysis, inflammatory affections of the heart and lungs, are the consequences in the young; valvular incompetency, rupture of the valves or of the muscular fibres of the heart, pulmonary apoplexy, and cerebral hæmorrhage, are too frequently the immediate consequences in those of more mature years.

If the flow of blood is minus the standard of health, the heart's walls are imperfectly nourished, by reason of a deficient supply of food within a given time; the blood itself, receiving less aeration, is, in consequence, more impure; degeneration of the heart's walls is thus induced, if it does not already exist—hastened, if it is present.

I propose now to consider the influence of an increasng quantity of