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'A man is as old as his arteries.'

'This comment, made nearly four centuries ago, by Thomas Sydenham, an English physician, 1624-1689, raises a provocative modern-day question: Do you know how old your arteries are?'

The Wall Street Journal gives you some ideas about how to estimate their age. We'd like to tell you one or two things about Thomas Sydenham.

He didn't study much when he first entered Oxford, but savage encounters with civil war (fighting on Parliament's side) transformed him. He went back to school determined to master his field and became one of the first physicians in the world 'to make fine discriminations among diseases' (Oxford DNB). He became a great clinician. It sounds obvious to us, but 'Sydenham became well known for arguing that diseases could be distinguished one from another, and - this is sometimes overlooked by doctors even today - he figured out therapies to treat those diseases. He was one of the first doctors in Britain to recommend cinchona bark - the source of quinine - for malaria.

Sydenham affected our lives by stressing the importance of clinical observation and finding new and successful treatments. You can take a page from his book by studying your arteries for what they tell you.

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