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(Hearts Long to Be) Close to You


In a study that will inevitably be made into a Hallmark movie, researchers have uncovered a remarkable phenomenon: when longtime couples are in close proximity to each other, their heart rates sync up like a crowd of strangers clapping to the first beats of “We Will Rock You.”

A small study with a lot of heart

This study monitored 10 heterosexual couples who had been together for 14 to 65 years. With the use of a Fitbit and a proximity-sensing device, researchers were able to continuously monitor the couples in their homes and study correlations between the couples’ heart rates and spatial relationship.

You’d think Nicholas Sparks had engineered the results

The findings showed a “lead-lag relationship” in which one person’s heart rate synchronized to their partner’s when they were near each other. Whose heart led this cardiac tango? As with an eighth-grade dance, no clear leader emerged—sometimes the husband’s heart led, sometimes the wife’s. Also, “the magnitude and sequence of the correlation varied from day-to-day, suggesting that the coupling of proximity and heart rate is a dynamic of the interaction, rather than the couple.” Wait, does that mean that a synchronous heart rate could result just as easily from a discussion of a partner’s shortcomings? That’s certainly a plot twist in this romance novel.

What are the potential implications of this cardiac co-regulation? We can only speculate at this point. But these findings could both pave the way for future exploration into close personal relationships and cardiac physiology and lead to more insights into phenomena such as broken heart syndrome.

Are Your Patients’ Medications Causing Their Hypertension?


We’re not afraid to take a double shot of cardiac studies. According to a recent study, approximately 18% of US adults with hypertension have something in common: they take medications that may cause their high blood pressure.

Researchers calculated this percentage from 10 years of NHANES surveys completed by a diverse group of nearly 28,000 US adults. The offending medications most often found in adults’ medicine cabinets were antidepressants, prescription NSAIDs, steroids, and estrogens. The use of such medications was associated with a 24% relative increase in uncontrolled hypertension in those not taking antihypertensives.

“The solution of every problem is another problem.” –JW von Goethe

Patients most likely need these medications, so what is a clinician to do? The authors of the study suggest that the best way to tackle this conundrum is for clinicians caring for individuals with hypertension to “routinely screen for medications that may cause elevated BP and consider deprescribing, replacing them with safer therapeutic alternatives, and minimizing the dose and duration of use when alternatives are not available.”

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Automatically Reversing an Opioid Overdose


We all know that an opioid overdose in the absence of bystanders can have fatal consequences. Imagine a wearable device that can sense and reverse an opioid overdose in real time. This may sound like a prop from Back to the Future, but unlike a time-traveling DeLorean, this wearable device may one day come to fruition.

Here’s how the closed-loop injector system works

Most of us are familiar with closed-loop systems for insulin delivery. But unlike devices measuring blood glucose, this system measures respiration and apneic movement via an accelerometer-based sensor patch on a patient’s abdomen. When the system detects patterns consistent with an opioid overdose, it administers naloxone subcutaneously via an attached injector to quickly reverse the effects of the overdose.

Great Scott! This device does sound interesting, but we’re a bit skeptical

According to the researchers, the system’s algorithms and injector worked as intended in two test environments among a small sample of participants: “an approved supervised injection facility (SIF) where people self-inject opioids under medical supervision” and “a hospital environment where [the researchers] simulate opioid-induced apneas in healthy participants.” Although this device demonstrated efficacy in this proof-of-concept testing, will it work effectively in the real world? We hope so, given its potential to save lives, but many unknowns still exist. Furthermore, will patients who most need this device be willing and able to access it?

Of note, one of the study authors is also one of the inventors of the prototype, so the published report is akin to Doc Brown’s review of the flux capacitor.

Nevertheless, this wearable naloxone injector system could be one additional tool to help combat the catastrophic effects of the opioid epidemic. We hope it comes to market soon (and that Biff Tannen doesn’t get his hands on it first).

Interested in more healthcare news? Here are some other articles we don’t want you to miss:

Morning Report is written by:

  • Alissa Scott, Lead Author
  • Aylin Madore, MD, MEd, Author and Editor
  • Shira Page, RN, NP, Author and Editor

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