Livin' on the MDedge

Drinking your way to heart failure, and the fringe benefits of COVID-19 vaccination


Energy drink doom

Who doesn’t need some caffeine to get going in the morning and keep moving throughout the day? Whether it’s tea, coffee, or energy drinks, people can get addicted to caffeinated beverages when there are only so many hours in a day and way too much work to get done.

energy drink Alexander Mirokhin/

That’s what happened to a 21-year-old college student who powered down four 16-ounce cans of energy drink – each with double the amount of caffeine in an ordinary cup of coffee – every day for 2 years. Now, if you’ve ever overdone it with caffeine, you know there are some uncomfortable side effects, like shaking and anxiety. In this case, the student reported migraines, tremors, and heart palpitations. Instead of being able to focus better on his work, he had trouble concentrating.

Over time, after these side effects took a turn for the worse and became shortness of breath and weight loss, he visited St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, where physicians diagnosed him with both heart and renal failure.

Excessive consumption of energy drinks is known to cause issues such as high blood pressure and irregular heart beat, so if that’s your fuel of choice, it might be worth cutting down. Maybe take a morning run to get the blood pumping – in a good way – instead?

Loneliness may be hazardous to your health

Sometimes loneliness can feel like it affects your physical health, but according to a study there’s a possibility that it actually does.

depressed man at window @paolitta/Unsplash

Back in the 1980s, researchers from the University of Eastern Finland started monitoring almost 3,000 middle-aged men. They’ve kept up with the participants until the present day, and the results have been staggering. After an average follow-up of over 20 years, 25% of participants developed cancer and 11% died from cancer, and the increase in risk from loneliness was about 10%, regardless of age, lifestyle, and BMI.

What does that say about preventive care? The researchers think these data are cause enough to pay attention to loneliness as a health issue along with smoking and weight.

Social interactions and relationships play important roles in human mental health, of course, but this is pretty solid evidence that they play a role in physical health too. As the researchers said, “Awareness of the health effects of loneliness is constantly increasing. Therefore, it is important to examine, in more detail, the mechanisms by which loneliness causes adverse health effects.”

So, as we progress through this pandemic, maybe you should join that social group on Facebook? Who knows what kind of effect it could have on your health?

An ounce of prevention is worth 12 ounces of lager

COVID-19 vaccine refusal is now a thing, and there’s no law that says people have to be immunized against our newest, bestest buddy, SARS-CoV-2, but the folks who skip it are missing out. And no, we’re not talking about immunity against disease.

Governor Jim Justice Governor Jim Justice

We’re talking … FREE STUFF!

Corporate America has stepped up and is now rewarding those who get the COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Budweiser will give a free beer to anyone – anyone over age 21, that is – with proof of vaccination until May 16.
  • Show a vaccination card at a Krispy Kreme and you can get a free glazed doughnut, every day. You don’t even need to buy anything.
  • White Castle will give you a free dessert-on-a-stick just for showing proof of vaccination. No purchase is required, but the offer ends May 31.

But wait, there’s more!

Even the public sector is getting in on the giveaway action. Gov. Jim Justice announced April 26 that West Virginia will give a $100 savings bond to any resident aged 16-35 years who receives a COVID-19 vaccine. It must make sense, because the governor broke out a white board to show residents he’s done the math.

One closing thought: How cool would it be if he was named to the Supreme Court, so he could be Justice Justice?

Where no shirt has gone before

Space. The final frontier, for both humanity and for shirts. Specifically, it’s a new frontier for the Bio-Monitor smart shirt, a tank-top filled with sensors that monitor the wearer’s stats, such as heart and breathing rate, oxygen saturation, skin temperature, and blood pressure. And you thought space was just for finding a new human habitat and growing steak.

man in tank top in space capsule Canadian Space Agency/NASA

This shirt is already used by athletes to assess performance and by people with limited mobility to monitor health, so its potential impending usage by astronauts makes sense. Space is a pretty extreme environment, to put it mildly, and there’s a lot we still don’t know about how the human body reacts to it. Traditionally, astronauts hook themselves up to separate devices so their stats can be measured, a method which captures only snapshots of their bodies. By wearing the shirt constantly, the astronauts can be measured constantly, so scientists and doctors can see how the body deals with microgravity during normal activities and sleep. It also reduces stress, as there is no psychological impact of having to report in for constant health checks.

For the test, astronauts wore the shirt for 72 hours before flight and for 72 hours during flight. The shirts passed this first test with flying colors; in addition to providing accurate and more consistent stats monitoring than traditional methods, scientists on the ground determined that the astronauts recorded far less physical activity during flight than preflight, a finding in line with previous studies.

And before you question whether or not a tank top is really appropriate for space, just remember, Picard pulled it off at the end of “First Contact,” and that’s arguably the best Star Trek movie. So there’s certainly precedent.

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