Caregiving's Health Toll

By Scott LaFee

October 21, 2020 5 min read

A new Blue Cross Blue Shield report on the state of caregiving in the United States paints an unsettling picture: Caregivers tend to have lower overall health scores than the general population, especially among some racial groups and those of younger age.

The company found that nearly three-quarters of the identified caregivers (almost 7 million people with Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage) were spouses. One in five cared for a child.

The largest age demographic were caregivers between 38 and 53 years of age (Gen Xers), followed by older baby boomers and younger millennials.

Black and Hispanic caregivers had lower health scores compared with non-caregivers in the same racial groups and compared with white caregivers.

Pandemic Pounds

The COVID-19 pandemic isn't helping the nation's obesity problem. Obesity rates in the U.S. continue to remain at record levels: In 2017-2018, 42% of people had obesity, a 26% jump from 10 years earlier. Last year, 12 states had obesity rates of 35% or higher, up three states from 2018.

Body of Knowledge

As we age, the muscles that control pupil size and reaction to light in our eyes weaken, causing the pupil to become smaller and less responsive. That's why older adults are likely to require more light to read comfortably than younger people.

Get Me That, Stat!

Only 3% of clinical trials are sponsored by the National Institutes of Health or other government entities, while 29% are industry-sponsored. The average sample size for trials is about 60 participants. Most trials have fewer than 100. And in 2019, the last year with available data, only 40% of trials were completed, according to ClinicalTrials.gov.

Counts

890: global research and development funding for infectious diseases in 2018, in millions of dollars

5: times more the 2018 amount is compared with the 2014 amount

Source: Policy Cures Research

Doc Talk

Presbyopia: farsightedness caused by difficulty in changing focus to close-up objects from things far away

Phobia of the Week

Belonephobia: fear of needles

Best Medicine

Man: "My psychiatrist says I have a phobia of over-engineered buildings."

Friend: "Really? What was the actual diagnosis?"

Man: "Complex complex complex."

Observation

"You know you've reached middle age when you're cautioned to slow down by your doctor, instead of by the police." — comedian Joan Rivers (1933-2014)

Medical History

This week in 1814, the first modern plastic surgery was performed at the Duke of York's Hospital, in Chelsea, England. The surgeon, Joseph Carpue, had read a letter by a British surgeon named Lucas in the October 1794 issue of Gentleman's Magazine. Lucas described a successful procedure performed in India in which a forehead flap was used to reconstruct a man's mutilated nose. (Ancient Hindu texts had described various reconstruction techniques.) After practicing on several cadavers, Carpue successfully operated on a British military officer who had lost his nose to the toxic effects of mercury treatments and another whose nose was mutilated by a sword.

Food for Thought

Butylated hydroxytoluene and butylated hydroxyanisole, otherwise known as BHT and BHA, are petroleum-derived antioxidants used to preserve fats and oils. They're used in beer, crackers, cereals, butter and foods with added fats. BHA is considered more of a health threat, since animal studies have linked it to cancer. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services classifies it as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen," but until proven so in humans, it remains an ingredient in foods.

Med School

Q: A new person is added to an organ transplant wait list once every:

a. 10 minutes

b. 30 minutes

c. 1 hour

d. 2 hours

A: a. every 10 minutes, or 144 new people needing an organ transplant every day. Each year, approximately 8,000 people in the United States die while waiting for an organ transplant.

Curtain Calls

Edward Archbold, 32, of West Palm Beach, Florida, died in 2012 shortly after being proclaimed winner of a cockroach- and worm-eating contest. Victor's prize was a pet python valued at $850. The Broward County Medical Examiner's Office determined the cause of death to be choking due to "arthropod body parts." No other contestants showed ill effect.

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: truthseeker08 at Pixabay

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