Health Advice



Pandemic's Toll on Mental Health

Scott LaFee on

It's a question often asked these days: Who will take care of the caregivers? Usually, it's asked in the context of health care workers laid low by COVID-19, resulting in severe staff shortages at hospitals and elsewhere.

But the question applies as well to mental health. New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research surveying more 26,000 health workers found that more than half reported recent struggles with at least one mental health condition, including depression, anxiety, PTSD or suicidal ideation.

Mental health worsened both as work hours and percentage of time devoted to the pandemic increased. Over one-fifth of survey respondents said they felt "bullied, threatened or harassed because of work."

Borderline Health

A new study reports life expectancy disparities for those living on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico. For Hispanic individuals and those of American Indian and Alaska Native descent living on the border, life expectancy was roughly two years shorter compared with the rest of the country.

At the same time, white, Black and Asian persons living along the border tended to live longer compared with similar groups elsewhere.

Though researchers did not investigate the mechanisms behind the disparities, they suggested immigration enforcement and displacement of disadvantaged groups may lead to downstream effects on health and life expectancy.

Body of Knowledge

In every minute, the average human heart beats 75 times, pumping approximately four to five quarts of blood through 60,000 miles of arteries, veins and capillaries. This blood consists of roughly 35 billion red blood cells, 50 billion white blood cells and 1.5 billion platelets. Each red blood cell completes the whole-body circuit three times per minute, each circuit carrying about 100 million oxygen molecules trapped onto roughly 25 million hemoglobin molecules.

All of this frenetic activity means the average red blood cell lasts for just four months, with roughly 300 million perishing every minute and replaced every minute by 300 million new red blood cells.

Get Me That, Stat!

A single human hair is roughly 500 to 800 times the size of an ultra-fine particle of air pollution coming from car exhaust or burning wood or coal. These particles are believed to play major roles in the development of asthma in children, even more so than larger particles because they can be more easily inhaled and pass through the lungs into the bloodstream. Airborne concentrations of ultra-fine particles, however, are not federally regulated.

Mark Your Calendar

September is a particularly busy month for health awareness: blood cancer, aging, childhood obesity, cholesterol, food safety, pediculosis (head lice), sickle cell, ovarian and prostate cancers, pain, sepsis and atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat). September is also national awareness month for yoga, which may come in handy after being aware of so many other things.


334.5: Annual estimated cost, in billions of dollars, if all 5.8 million Medicare-eligible adults with Alzheimer's disease began taking the newly approved drug Aduhelm

695.9: Entire Department of Defense budget this year, in billions

Source: STAT


Stories for the Waiting Room

Almost one in four parents fret that their child is not reaching developmental milestones at the right pace, according to a University of Michigan survey, but almost one-fifth of those parents did not bring their concerns to physicians or child care providers.

Instead, they were more likely to compare their children to friends' children.

Survey authors noted, however, that it's important to remember that child development is a process that unfolds over time and that each child is unique.

Phobia of the Week

Automysophobia: fear of being dirty

Hypochondriac's Guide

Sleeping Beauty Syndrome (or, more technically, Kleine-Levin Syndrome) is a neurological condition involving periods of excessive sleep. In some cases, episodes can last up to 20 hours with repeated bouts over multiple days.

Episodes may be preceded by flu-like symptoms, and sufferers may exhibit unusual behaviors, such as overeating, hallucinating or acting childishly. The vast majority of patients are adolescent males. Stimulant medications tend to moderate the syndrome, which usually dissipates as the person reaches adulthood.


"Adam and Eve ate the first vitamins, including the package." -- American doctor and pharmaceutical maker E.R. Squibb (1819-1900)

Medical History

This week in 1888, a baby incubator was used for the first time in a U.S. hospital to care for an infant: Edith Eleanor McLean, who weighed just 2 pounds, 7 ounces. Originally called a "hatching cradle," the device was designed to increase the survival rate for premature infants. Sixteen years later, 14 metal-framed glass incubators with constant ventilation and temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit would be displayed at the World's Fair, with actual infants tended by actual nurses. The infants' care was covered by the exhibit admission fee.

Curtain Calls

In the Dancing Plague of 1518, which afflicted parts of France, a mania for movement allegedly caused a spate of deaths due to heart attacks, stroke and exhaustion. Reports put the death toll between 50 and 400 people, all of whom had begun dancing fervently and continuously. Not everyone blames dance, however, with other reasons cited being the plain old bubonic plague, food poisoning and stress-induced hysteria.


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