Things you didn’t know about your ambulatory vessel, and things you may have wondered about.

Why do we get hiccups?  Once in a rare while, a scientific paper will actually explore something everybody wants to know: what are hiccups, and why do we get them? In PLoS One, the word jumps out of the jargon: “Analysis of factors associated with hiccups based on the Japanese Adverse Drug Event Report database.” This paper by Japanese scientists is primarily concerned about medications that induce hiccups, especially during chemotherapy. For some reason, males tend to get hiccups more than females, the paper says.

A lay article in Medical Xpress came out about the same time. The scientific name is “singultus,” an expert on hiccups tells us. It’s not a disease, but a symptom of some other cause, he says. “And we all have them, even before we are born.” They are described as “an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm (the muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen ), followed by the sudden closure of the vocal chords, which produces the ‘hic’ sound.” In rare cases they can be chronic; most cases last just a few minutes. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but some of the home remedies actually might help if they stimulate the vagus nerve. Neither source mentions whether hiccups have a function. Perhaps they are just warning calls of some underlying condition.

How old can couples have a baby?  This article on Live Science begins with a photo of George (age 55) and Amal (age 39) Clooney, expecting twins this summer. Having children later in life is a trend in America, Rachael Rettner says; fortunately, she has some good news. If the science is correct, older mothers may live longer and have reduced risk of cancer; the children of older fathers may live longer. Older couples seem to have a greater chance of bearing twins. However, there are risks, too: possible higher risk of Down syndrome, autism, or psychiatric problems in the children, and problems with pregnancy. These kinds of studies are often overturned, so none of them should be taken as definitive findings of science. The average age for parents’ first children are in the mid-twenties.


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