Health & Spirit

Heart of the Matter

Scott LaFee on

You're having chest pains. An ambulance rushes you to an emergency room where physicians begin a battery of exams, including CT scans and cardiac stress tests, to determine whether you're having a heart attack. It's reassuring, but is it necessary?

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis suggest not. In published findings, they said neither CT scans nor cardiac stress tests actually provide information about whether a patient is in the midst of a heart attack. A more accurate measure is a newish blood test that measures levels of a protein called troponin. High troponin levels signal injury to the heart.

The unnecessary testing, they said, adds cost and time: More than $500, on average, and eight hours to the ER visit.

"It's important to keep in mind that CT scans and stress tests are used to diagnose coronary disease, whether someone has plaque in the arteries," said Dr. David Brown, senior author of the study. "Many people have coronary plaque but are not having a heart attack.

"The goal of evaluating patients with chest pain in the ER is not to screen for coronary artery disease. Anyone who goes to the ER for chest pain and gets sent home should make an appointment to see their primary care doctor to talk about their recent hospital visit. It's important to follow up to see if additional testing is warranted because screening tests are not appropriate in this specific emergency situation."

Body of Knowledge

A normal breath takes five seconds: two to inhale, three to exhale. A normal swallow takes eight to 12 seconds, from mouth to stomach.

Get Me That, Stat!

The rate of self-inflicted injury among young girls ages 10 to 14 jumped nearly 19 percent between 2009 and 2015, according to new data published in JAMA. The figure underestimates the actual rate because it includes only adolescents who were taken to emergency rooms and not those treated in other settings or not at all.

Life in Big Macs

One hour of sitting and writing burns 68 calories (based on a 150-pound person) or the equivalent of 0.1 Big Macs.

Never Say Diet

The Major League Eating record for mince pies is 46 in 10 minutes, held by Sonya Thomas. Warning: Most of these records are held by professional eaters with apt nicknames; the rest by people who really should find something better to do.

Doc Talk

Palp: Refers to taking a blood pressure reading under emergency conditions when listening for the systolic and diastolic pressures through a stethoscope is impossible. Instead, the measurement is taken by feeling (palpation) the pulse.

Phobia of the Week

Eremophobia: fear of being isolated, alone or just oneself

Best Medicine

A group of senior citizens were exchanging notes about their ailments.

"My arm is so weak I can hardly hold this coffee cup," said one man.

"Hell, my cataracts are so bad I can't see to pour the coffee," complained another.

"I can't even turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck," opined a third, "and my blood pressure pills make my dizzy."

"Well I guess that's the price we pay for getting old," declared the first man. "On the plus side, at least we can all still drive."

Hypochondriac's Guide


Argyria is a condition in which the skin turns blue -- not the transient bluish tinge of being cold but a permanent blue caused by the accumulation of silver in the body. Unlike other compounds, the body does not excrete excessive silver but rather gradually accumulates it in various parts of the body. Argyria can be localized to patches of skin or turn virtually the entire body blue. It's not clear whether the condition results in specific physiological harm, but it currently cannot be reversed.


"If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as the souls who live under tyranny."

--American founding father and U.S. president Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). Reportedly, among Jefferson's favorite foods were waffles, chocolate, macaroni, Parmesan cheese, figs, raisins, almonds, mustard, vinegar, oil and anchovies and French cuisine.

Medical History

This week in 1998, scientists announced that they had deciphered the entire genetic blueprint of an animal, the tiny nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. The worm's genetic code is worked out to 97 million genetic letters corresponding to 20,000 genes. In humans, it's 3 billion letters corresponding to roughly 20,000 genes.

Sum Body

The ingredients of a healthy mammalian tear include (aside from sadness):

1. Water

2. Mucin

3. Lipids

4. Lysozyme

5. Lactoferrin

6. Lipocalin

7. Lacritin

8. Immunoglobulins

9. Glucose

10. Urea

11. Sodium

12. Potassium

Interestingly, the chemical composition of a tear can differ based on type. Emotional tears differ from tears produced as a reaction to eye irritation.

Curtain Calls

Martin the Elder, the King of Aragon, reportedly died in 1410 from a combined bout of indigestion and uncontrolled laughter, also known as "fatal hilarity," but more likely cardiac arrest or asphyxiation.

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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