30 Years of Heart-Related Discoveries/Advances at the University of Maryland School of Medicine

cholesterol, Diabetes, dietary fat, fish consumption, Health & Wellness, heart disease prevention, laughter, Uncategorized

As my 30-plus years as a faculty member at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Medical Center has drawn to a close, I fondly recall 10 heart-related findings/discoveries and newsworthy events that gained worldwide attention, ending with the first genetically altered pig heart transplanted at UMMS last week.  Here they are in no special order.

1.         Poe likely died of rabies, doctor’s review shows: https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1996-09-11-1996255015-story.html

2.         Having high cholesterol levels early in life leads to heart problems by middle age: https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/823756

3.         Air Pollution and Diabetes: https://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=14-P13-00002&segmentID=5#:~:text=We’ve%20long%20known%20that,fatty%20diet%20can%20promote%20diabetes.

4. U.S. Amish gene trait may inspire heart protection: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-heart-gene/u-s-amish-gene-trait-may-inspire-heart-protection-idUKTRE4BA6JQ20081211

5.         Want a McMuffin? Take your McVitamins: https://greensboro.com/want-a-mcmuffin-take-your-mcvitamins/article_20be3661-d342-549f-9118-a2e355f4175a.html

6.         UMMC Implants the World’s Smallest Pacemaker: https://www.umms.org/ummc/news/2017/ummc-implants-the-worlds-smallest-pacemaker

7.         University Of Maryland School of Medicine Study Shows Laughter Helps Blood Vessels Function Better: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050309111444.htm

8.         Study finds no value in heart supplement: CoQ10 not shown to relieve symptoms, UM cardiologist says: https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1999-09-27-9909270293-story.html

9.         Secondhand Smoke Ups Heart Disease in Unique Group of Female Nonsmokers – Amish Women: https://www.umms.org/ummc/news/2017/amish-secondhand-smoke

10.       In a First, Man Receives a Heart from a Genetically Altered Pig https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/10/health/heart-transplant-pig-bennett.html?smtyp=cur&smid=tw-nytimes

Dr. Michael Miller is Chief of Medicine, Corporal Michael J Crescenz VAMC in Philadelphia, PA   Check him out on twitter: @mmillermd1

On Babe Ruth, Hobbies and the Heart


As we get set to leave Baltimore for Philadelphia, I can’t help but reminisce of the great friendships and memories made in “Charm City”.   As a baseball enthusiast, moving to Baltimore in the mid-80s brought me an even greater appreciation of GH (Babe) Ruth, the hometown hero and legendary “Sultan of Swat”.  Over the past several decades, my hobby of collecting baseball memorabilia rose to a new depth as I pursued Ruth-related collectibles.  Of the 7 baseball cards illustrated, 5 are of the Bambino himself (from the 1933 Goudey and 1948 Leaf set), 1 is of his teammate, Lou Gehrig (1934 Goudey) and on the upper right, is the 1909 T-206 Ty Cobb (green background) acquired from the estate of Babe Ruth’s cousin shortly after my move to Baltimore from Cincinnati.   

It is no surprise that we commonly refer to Baltimore as “Small”-timore because there are so many interconnections…in the case of Babe Ruth, I pass by his birth home nearly every day as the University of Maryland Hospital is just a block away.  Ironically and many decades earlier, my wife’s family (generations of native Baltimoreans) at one time owned the pub where Babe Ruth’s father was employed (currently the centerfield area of Camden Yards).  Even our 13-year-old cockapoo is aptly named “George Herman”!

Listed below are reasons to engage in a hobby that is appealing to you.

  1. Hobbies have a positive impact on the heart by improving psychological health.  Studies have shown that psychological health is an important component of wellness/well-being for patients at risk of heart disease (CVD).
  2. A recent study in spouses who were caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease found that participation in pleasant leisure activities was associated with improvement in cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure and emotional stress.
  3. Engagement in a variety of art forms (2 hours each week) such as the performing arts, visual arts and literature is associated with better emotional and heart health (improved heart rate variability).
  4. A study conducted in Pittsburgh found that engaging in enjoyable activities was associated with lower blood pressure, stress hormone (cortisol) levels, waist circumference, and body mass index as well as a better overall perception of physical function.
  5. A study of 4,200 Swedes aged 60 and over found that gardening and do-it-yourself projects to be associated with a 25-30% lower risk of heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease over a 12 year follow-up period.
  6. Enjoyment of a hobby is associated with an 8-fold lower risk of future cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke due to improvement in vascular health.
  7. A newly published study conducted in Japan over a 16-year follow-up period found that compared to those that have no hobbies, engaging in 1 or multiple hobbies was associated with a 10-20% lower risk of cardiovascular events.
  8. Engagement in activities such as jigsaw and crossword puzzles reduce stress hormone (cortisol) levels; a recent study found that elevated levels of urinary cortisol predates the development of hypertension.

Dr. Michael Miller is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.  Check him out on twitter: @mmillermd1

Back To College in the COVID Era


With one of my daughters returning to college over the weekend, I reminded her that she needs to remain diligent both on and off campus, to wear a mask, to socially distance and to not attend parties or social gatherings of more than a handful of people who are also diligent. I know…good luck with that one!

Before she left, I impressed upon her to make every attempt to avoid COVID-19 if at all possible and was delighted to see that she was very well prepared for a safe flight! Even though the vast majority of healthy young men and women stricken with COVID-19 make complete recoveries, some develop longer-term heart related complications. They include myocarditis that was first reported in China and more recently identified in college athletes. Another newly reported heart related complication that may occur weeks to months after being infected with COVID-19 infection is postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). This condition is characterized by inability of the body to respond properly with changes in position, especially when standing, due to pooling of blood in the lower part of the body rather than throughout the body and brain. As a result, the longer you stand, the more likely you are to experience lightheadedness, fatigue and poor concentration. Pulse rate increases 30-40 beats per minute when standing for more than 10 minutes and you can experience premature (skipped) beats and chest discomfort. Expect to hear more about this association in the coming months.

The Bottom Line: COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, so best to listen to and heed the advice of qualified health care experts, like Dr. Anthony Fauci. I met Tony when I was a medical student and researcher at the National Institutes of Health during the early stages of the AIDS epidemic and have the highest regard for him. I also had the opportunity to work with Dr. Phil Pizzo, who was also at NIH during that time. Like Dr. Fauci, Dr. Pizzo is of the highest integrity and aims for the promotion of honesty and truth in science.

Michael Miller, MD, is a Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology & Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Check out his twitter handle: @mmillermd1

Does REDUCE-IT Prove the Triglyceride Hypothesis?



We’ve appreciated for many years that lowering levels of LDL cholesterol directly contributes to reduction in the risk of a cardiovascular event.  However, it has been less clear whether (or to what extent), triglyceride lowering may also contribute to reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease.   In our editorial just published in Future Cardiology, we would predict that less than 25% of the cardiovascular benefit observed in the REDUCE-IT trial was directly attributable to triglyceride lowering.   This supports other pleotropic effects of Icosapent Ethyl (Vascepa®) that contributed to the large benefits observed in the study.

In fact, a newly published analysis supports the tenet that lowering of LDL cholesterol has a greater impact in reducing cardiovascular risk than lowering of triglycerides.  That is, a 40 mg/dL reduction in LDL cholesterol corresponded to an approximate 20% reduction in cardiovascular risk whereas a 40 mg/dL reduction in triglycerides only correlated to an 8% reduced risk.   In REDUCE-IT, triglycerides were lowered by nearly 45 mg/dL on average . Therefore, triglyceride lowering  would have only played a modest role when compared to the benefits observed.

Bottom Line: While high triglycerides contribute to increased cardiovascular risk, the benefits observed in REDUCE-IT extend well beyond triglyceride lowering.  In other words, REDUCE-IT to some extent supports, but does not prove the triglyceride hypothesis.

Dr. Michael Miller is a Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA.  HIs most recent book is Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” now published by Penguin Random House.  

Did You Lose Your Laptop Last Week? PLEASE SHARE THIS MESSAGE



Three days ago I was returning home on American Airlines (AA) after attending an American Heart Association Meeting when I received an email from AA.  They had found a laptop and sent me the following message:


We have found a laptop inside a black bag and your business card was inside the pocket. Please let us know if this laptop belongs to you? And please provide more information of the laptop. Like what kind of laptop, brand, serial number or passcode. If you have any question feel free to contact our Lost and Found (305)526-1979 we are open from 6am to 10pm 7 days a week.

Best regards

American Airlines

Lost and Found

Fortunately, I had my laptop so obviously someone else is missing theirs.  The only clue AA shared is that it contained the early version of my “Heal Your Heart” business card (see above). If you know anyone who may have lost their laptop last week on AA, have them contact the airlines directly.  Case Number is 7516840.

Please share this info…I will also promote it on Facebook today to get the word out …Thanks!