Planting the Idea

By Scott LaFee

October 2, 2019 6 min read

You know this, but it bears repeating: A diet rich in plant-based foods may be better for heart health than an animal-based one or one with insufficient daily fruit and vegetable servings.

A study of more than 12,000 adults, surveyed periodically between 1987 and 2017 about their food habits and heart health, found that those who consumed four to five servings of fruit and vegetables daily and less than one daily serving of red or processed meat had a 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and about a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular-related mortality compared to enthusiastic meat-eaters.

Taking a Hit

There's strong evidence that concussions in football players can cause brain damage, but a new report finds that even hard hits or a season full of small hits that don't concuss can lead to reduced white matter in the brain, perhaps resulting in cognitive and motor problems.

The study measured more than 19,000 hits sustained by 38 college players during one season of practices and games. MRIs comparing start and end of the season revealed an overall reduction in white matter in the players, even though only two players suffered concussions. The extent of brain damage corresponded with the number of hits sustained.

Body of Knowledge

Toenails grow more slowly than fingernails, a fact that's related to the relative lengths of their "terminal phalanges," the last bone at the end of your toes and fingers. The shorter the bone the slower the rate of nail growth.

The same things holds true for individual fingers. The longer middle fingernail grows faster than the nail on your pinky.

Get Me That, Stat!

The rate at which teens are using e-cigarettes has doubled in just one year. In 2019, the prevalence of nicotine vaping in the past month was more than 1 in 4 students in the 12th grade, 1 in 5 in the 10th grade and 1 in 11 in the eighth grade, according to newly published data.

"The use of these devices has become a public health crisis," said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "These products introduce the highly addictive chemical nicotine to these young people and their developing brains, and I fear we are only beginning to learn the possible health risks and outcomes for youth."

In recent weeks, health officials have documented at least seven deaths related to lung injuries associated with e-cigarettes.

Mark Your Calendar

October is both home eye safety and eye injury prevention month. (Good to see agreement there.) It's also the national month for breast cancer awareness, bullying prevention, dental hygiene, Down syndrome and sudden cardiac arrest awareness and a time to celebrate medical librarians and physical therapists.


2,600: Number of reported mosquito-borne cases of West Nile virus in the U.S. during 2018, the highest number in six years

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Stories for the Waiting Room

New research shows nearly 6 in 10 children are prescribed opioids after a tonsillectomy for pain relief. The average prescription was for eight days, with Vicodin the most commonly prescribed drug. Three percent of 16,000 cases studied were prescribed codeine, even though a 2013 black box warning recommends against using the drug for those under age 18 following a tonsillectomy.

Of note: The study chronicled number of prescriptions, but that doesn't mean the children actually took the drugs.

Doc Talk

Bulla: Otherwise known as large fluid-filled blisters (like the kind you get breaking in new shoes). Smaller blisters are called vesicles.

Mania of the Week

Theomania: An obsession with one's own divinity or divine mission


"Anywhere is walking distance if you've got the time." — Comedian Steven Wright

Medical History

This week in 2010 marked the first open enrollment for individuals and families in health care plans launched by the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. At last measure, nearly 8.5 million people were enrolled in such plans.

Perishable Publications

Many, if not most, published research papers have titles that defy comprehension. They use specialized jargon, complex words and opaque phrases like "nonlinear dynamics." Sometimes they don't and yet they're still hard to figure out. Here's an actual title of actual published research study: "The mouth, the anus and the blastopore — open questions about questionable openings."

The work, published in the journal Animal Evolution, talks about gastrulation, an early developmental period for multicellular animals. A blastopore is the opening of the central cavity of an embryo during gastrulation.

Med School

Q: How did the pineal gland get its name?

A: The gland, which secrets the hormone melatonin, is shaped like a pine nut.

Last Words

"I am dying. Please bring me a toothpick." — French absurdist writer Alfred Jarry (1873-1907). Jarry's work and life celebrated the absurd, so his last words seem appropriate. In fact, he had a practical reason for requesting a toothpick. Jarry died of drug-, alcohol- and tuberculosis-induced dehydration; dehydration can make one's gums itch.

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

Photo credit: Pexels at Pixabay

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