What’s the best way to diagnose disease?
Today, as never before, there are many scientific tests such as ultrasound, CT scans, MRIs and more blood and genetics tests available every year. But is it possible to spot a potential disease without using these expensive procedures? Instead, how about the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) approach?
Researchers at Britain’s Warwick University report in the British Journal of Cancer that prostate cancer kills about 250,000 men every year. But who are the most likely to develop this disease late in life?
After studying males with prostate cancer, and those without this disease, researchers discovered an interesting physical finding. Males whose index finger was longer than their ring finger were 33 per cent less likely to develop a prostate malignancy. An interesting fact, but no one has the answer to why this changes the risk of developing cancer.
But what about the length of your legs? Dr. Kate Tilling and her colleagues at Bristol University in the U.K. measured the leg lengths of 12,252 men and women aged 44 to 65. They discovered that the longer the leg, the less risk of heart attack and stroke.
But how does leg length affect health problems? Tilling found that people with longer legs had less cholesterol deposits in both the heart’s coronary arteries and the carotid vessels that supply blood to the brain.
The $64 question is why do some people have longer legs. Certainly, having parents with long legs is a major advantage. But Tilling claims leg length is strongly affected by habits established early in life. For instance, studies show breast feeding and a high-energy diet between ages two to four years increases leg length.
Dr. William Elliott at the University of Chicago believes the K.I.S.S. approach also applies to our earlobes. He examined 1,000 patients suffering from coronary artery disease. He discovered that if patients had an obvious ear lobe crease, they were much more likely to suffer from heart disease.
A similar study at the Mayo Clinic showed that 90 per cent of patients complaining of chest pain, who also had an earlobe crease, were having a heart attack. But only 10 per cent of those with chest pain without the crease experienced coronary attack.
A good look at the belly can also evaluate the risk of heart attack. Several studies show that not all fat is equal. As in real estate, you’re a winner or loser depending on location, and in this case, belly fat is the loser. Being apple-shaped is more dangerous than being pear-shaped.
Get out the tape and check your waist measurement. A waistline of more than 40 inches (100 centimetres) for men and 35 inches (90 centimetres) for women is a risk factor for heart disease.
Another look at friends and TV personalities will indicate whether their neck fat is bulging over tightly buttoned shirt collars. Dr. Susan Watkins at Cornell University, after studying this matter, says that in two cases out of three, the neck size of the men’s shirts is too small and ties too tight.
Watkins claims this causes visual problems in addition to discomfort. Her tests revealed that tight collar wearers showed less ability to tell when a light, flickering at increased speed, became constant.
Another study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology says tight collars also increase the risk of glaucoma. The tight collar causes constant and increased pressure on the jugular vein, which in turn increases intraocular pressure, one of the leading causes of glaucoma. In fact, wearing a tight collar during an eye examination can result in a false diagnosis of glaucoma.
In spite of all these studies, don’t slip into a funk if you find a deep earlobe crease or a short index finger. Such results are all "associations," not 100 per cent diagnostic tests.
However, if you discover a significant earlobe crease and you are not living a good lifestyle, it would be prudent to start doing so. Why risk glaucoma when it’s easy to purchase a shirt with a larger neck size?
» Dr. Gifford-Jones is a graduate of The University of Toronto and The Harvard Medical School. He took post-graduate training in surgery at the Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, McGill University in Montreal and Harvard. During his medical training he has been a family doctor, hotel doctor and ship’s surgeon. His medical column is published by 70 Canadian newspapers, several in the U.S. and the Epoch Times which has editions in a number of European countries.