Heart of the Matter

By Scott LaFee

April 11, 2018 5 min read

Disparities in heart health among ethnicities in the U.S. have narrowed in recent years, according to a new analysis, but not in a good way. Most Americans do not have healthy hearts — at least as healthy as their doctors or medical guidelines would suggest.

The analysis, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that less than 40 percent of whites enjoyed optimum cardiovascular health. Among Mexican-Americans, it was 25 percent and among African-Americans, just 15 percent. These were the only three groups studied.

The health gap between races was smaller than in the past, but only because white patients have become less healthy. "The narrowing disparities (are) no cause for celebration," said Dr. George Mensah, a study author. Everyone is less healthy.

The Mouse That Gorged

Food scientists at Cornell University have discovered that when mice are fed a high-fat diet and become obese, they lose nearly 25 percent of their tongue's taste buds. The loss is caused by a massive inflammatory response prompted by the unhealthy diet.

That might seem like it would prompt a subsequent reduction in food consumption by the mice, but scientists found that the obesity-triggered metabolic malfunction actually encouraged the mice to eat more food.

Body of Knowledge

For roughly six to seven months after birth, an infant can breathe and swallow at the same time. Older children and adults cannot do this.

Get Me That, Stat!

Almost three-quarters of Americans think drug companies have too much sway on Capitol Hill, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll. That compares to 69 percent for Wall Street and 52 percent for the NRA.

Why the big differences? Both Republicans and Democrats see the drug industry's influence as a problem, while the other issues are more partisan.

Doc Talk

Hemoptysis: Spitting up blood

Mania of the Week

Hippomania: An obsession with horses

Never Say Diet

The Major League Eating record for haggis is three pounds in eight minutes, held by Eric Livingston. Haggis is a savory pudding containing sheep's heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, traditionally encased in the animal's stomach. Livingston's record, set in 2008, is not likely to be broken anytime soon.

Best Medicine

Patient: Nurse, I keep seeing spots in front of my eyes.

Nurse: Have you seen a doctor?

Patient: No, just spots.

Observation

"Everyone should have a few bad habits so he'll have something he can give up if his health fails."

—Franklin P. Jones

Medical History

This week in 1992, Johns Hopkins medical researchers reported that thalidomide improved the survival rate of bone marrow-transplant patients. The drug effectively fought graft-versus-host disease, the most common and dangerous complication. Thalidomide was notorious for causing horrendous birth defects in thousands of babies in the 1950s and 60s, when it was used to alleviate morning sickness. The same properties of the drug that arrested the development of babies appear to arrest progression of many diseases, and may even reverse the effects of some.

Med School

Q: What is transient global amnesia?

A: Otherwise known as TGA, transient global amnesia is a sudden, temporary episode of memory loss that cannot be attributed to more common neurological conditions, such as epilepsy or a stroke. When TGC occurs, recall of recent events simply vanishes. Memory formation stops. You suddenly can't remember anything, including answers to questions just asked. (You do, however, remember who you are and recognize people you know well.)

Fortunately, memory loss is short-lived and full brain function returns. The condition is rare and seems to happen to people only once. The underlying cause is not known, but may be linked to strenuous activity, sexual intercourse, acute emotional distress or sudden immersion in cold or hot water.

Last Words

"Doctor, do you think it could have been the sausage?"

—French poet Paul Claudel (1868-1955)

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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