One of my attendings this month is a big history buff, and I get the sense that he enjoys discussing it, as he discusses it with me all the time. He even gave me his copy of Truman to read in my “spare” time. Of note was a particular conversation we had where he quizzed me on the cause of FDR’s death–hypertension, as it turns out. (Stroke, to be exact, but it might not have happened had his hypertension been controlled.)
I just thought it interesting that things we take so for granted now were still so poorly treated 60-some years ago. There’s a great history on the treatment of hypertension, and our favorite agent, a diuretic (water pill) called hydrochlorothiazide, made its basic debut back in 1958. (Note: we still don’t exactly know why hydrochlorothiazide is so good for hypertension.) Prior to that, we tried terrible diets that were bland and intolerable.
There are a couple really great President Medicine sites, including a summary of the causes of the deaths of all the US Presidents, and a Medical History of all the US Presidents. As we move from acute to chronic care in the US, there’s far fewer deaths from pneumonia, and more from heart failure.