Health Advice



Statins Are Not a Pain

Scott LaFee on

One of the alleged side effects of statins -- a popular class of drugs used to prevent deaths from heart attacks and strokes -- is the perception that they cause muscle pain. A new trial asked older patients who had stopped taking statins (or were thinking about it) because of associated pain to go back on the drug or take a placebo. They would not know which they were getting.

Trial investigators found that there was no difference between the groups. While older people more often report aches and pains, study author Liam Smeeth told STAT, "we convincingly showed they are not made worse by statins and their pain is not caused by statins."

Noise Annoys

As people age, they tend to struggle more with navigating new environments, which can be a sign of impending dementia. It's one reason why older people often shun unfamiliar places in favor of places they know well.

A small study suggests "noise" in the hippocampus, a key brain region impacted by conditions like Alzheimer's disease, may be to blame. Researchers compared how young people and old people learned their way through a virtual reality town while brain activity was monitored using fMRI. As young adults improved at recalling which way to go, activity in the hippocampus fell while rising in other navigation areas of the brain. For the older people, there was no change, suggesting that too much activity in the hippocampus might explain deficits in spatial memory, and subsequent struggles.

Body of Knowledge

Two percent of people have a bifid uvula, which means there is an abnormal split of the bit of tissue (like a tiny punching bag) that hangs down at the end of the soft palate in the roof of the mouth. The uvula serves multiple purposes: It prevents food and liquid from entering the nasal cavity. It aids in speech. And it stops you from choking because it triggers the gag reflex should a large piece of food or foreign object reach the back of your throat.

Get Me That, Stat!

A new review of eight studies has found that women do better when they are treated by female physicians, in large part because female doctors spend more time, on average, with their patients, resulting in more personalized diagnoses and treatment.

Doc Talk

Adjuvant therapy: extra therapy given after a primary treatment to increase the effectiveness of the latter. One example is receiving chemotherapy after surgery or radiation treatment for cancer.

Phobia of the Week

Cacophobia: fear of ugliness.

Food for Thought

Polydimethylsiloxane is an inert, nontoxic and nonflammable compound used as an anti-foaming additive in many cooking oils to help prevent oil splatter during the cooking process (think fast food French fries but also milkshakes). That utility comes from its ability to remain viscous and elastic at varying temperatures, which also makes it useful in shampoos, lubricants, medical devices and Silly Putty, which is 65% polydimethylsiloxane.

Best Medicine

Q: Why do phlebotomists always carry red pens?

A: In case they need to draw blood.

Hypochondriac's Guide

Bromodosis tends to be worse for those around than for the sufferer. It's the medical term for stinky feet, caused when bacteria in your shoes or on your skin break down sweat produced by your feet. One remedy: Don't wear the same shoes two days in a row. Let them air out.



"Nineteen percent of doctors say that they'd be able to give their patients a lethal injection, but they went on to say that the patient would have to be really, really behind on payments." -- comedian Jay Leno (1950-)

Medical History

This week in 1988, Retin-A got a boost when a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association said the anti-acne drug could also reduce wrinkles caused by exposure to the sun.

Sum Body

Eight trace minerals required by the human body:

1. Iron

2. Manganese

3. Copper

4. Iodine

5. Zinc

6. Cobalt

7. Fluoride

8. Selenium

Last Words

"That's good. Go on, read some more." -- U.S. President Warren G. Harding (1865-1923) Harding reportedly said this to his wife, Florence, as she read a complimentary Saturday Evening Post news piece about him during an official trip to the West Coast. Harding is believed to have died of congestive heart failure.


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