Most likely, you’ve heard this advice before. Maybe you ignored it; maybe you’ve forgotten. Either way, here it is again.

A recent French study looked at basic modifiable lifestyle practices that influence the risk of developing dementia later in life. These “simple 7” focus on cardiovascular health, which directly correlates with cognitive health and function:

1. Manage your blood pressure.

2. Manage your cholesterol levels.

3. Lower blood sugar.

4. Stay physical active.

5. Follow a healthful diet.

6. Lose weight.

7. Stop smoking (or don’t start).

Researchers looked at how well people adhered to these steps at 50 years of age and their development over the following 25 years. The risk of dementia increased with the number of lifestyle practices not followed.

Mental and Physical

New Canadian research shows that people with mental illness are much more likely to find themselves in emergency rooms with physical illnesses.

Scientists looked at more than 5 million adults in Quebec with and without mental health conditions. For those who were bipolar or had other serious mental disorders and four or more physical conditions, the risk of going to the ER was more than 16 percent, compared to around 11 percent for those with no mental health disorders.

The findings underscore the close link between mental and physical health, suggesting that treating the former can benefit the latter and reduce emergency room visits.

Get Me That, Stat!

Almost 7 in 10 smoked cigarettes in this country wind up not in ashtrays or trash cans but as litter, reports The Wall Street Journal. Cigarette butts are a universal blight, the single most littered object in the world.

That’s especially disheartening environmental and health news given that butts are made from a potentially toxic plastic called cellulose acetate.


29: Percentage efficacy for this season’s flu vaccine. (The vaccine had a 47 percent efficacy until February, when an unaffected viral strain emerged.)

37-43: Estimated number of people in the United States who fell sick with flu this season, in millions.

61,000: Estimated number of deaths associated with flu infection.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Stories for the Waiting Room

Livestreaming dead people’s ceremonies has become a thing. The National Funeral Directors Association estimates 20 percent of U.S. funeral homes now offer the service, catering to loved ones unable to travel on short notice to pay their respects.

Doc Talk

Rhinorrhea: A runny nose.

A runny nose caused by eating certain foods (such as hot or spicy ones) is called gustatory rhinitis.

Phobia of the Week

Ephebiphobia: Fear of teenagers


“You can’t be as old as I am without waking up with a surprised look on your face every morning: ‘Holy Christ, whaddya know — I’m still around!’” — Actor Paul Newman, who lived to the age of 83

Medical History

Last week in 1897, physician Sir Ronald Ross made a key breakthrough when he discovered malaria parasites while dissecting a mosquito. Aug. 20 is now celebrated as World Mosquito Day to commemorate the discovery.

Ig Nobel Apprised

The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate achievements that make people laugh and then think — a look at real science that’s hard to take seriously and even harder to ignore.

In 2012, the Ig Nobel Prize in medicine went to a pair of French researchers for their advice to doctors performing colonoscopies on how to minimize their patients’ chance of exploding.

Med School

Q: How many muscles in the human body?

a) 125

b) 200

c) 650

d) 1,000

A: 650, according to most sources, though some cite figures up to 840. The difference is due to whether individual muscles within complex muscles are counted separately.

The largest muscle in the human body by volume is the gluteus maximus, the major component of each buttock. The smallest muscle is the stapedius, just over 1 millimeter in length, which stabilizes the stapes, the smallest bone in the body, located in the middle ear.

Curtain Calls

Agathocles (361 to 289 B.C.) was a Greek tyrant of Syracuse and king of Sicily. He reportedly ruled by use of arms and widespread murder. Though some say he died of natural causes (he was plagued by ill health in his later years), others contend his grandson, Archagathus, ordered him fatally poisoned via tainted toothpick.

Scott LaFee is a staff writer at UC San Diego Health and the former chief science writer at The San Diego Union-Tribune, where he covered science, medicine and technology. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.