Lipid-regulating statins, used to treat high blood cholesterol and other cardiovascular problems, are among the world’s most popular prescribed medications by class, with hundreds of millions of prescriptions filled annually in the U.S. alone.

More than a third of American adults are eligible to take statins and similar drugs based on current medical guidelines — and many obviously do. In raw numbers, it’s estimated that more than 78 million Americans take a generic statin.

SCOTT LAFEEBut here’s the thing: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of eligible Americans do not. Based on these statistics, blacks and Mexican-Americans are less likely than whites to take a statin or similar drug.

“Nearly 800,000 people die in the U.S. each year from cardiovascular diseases — that’s one in every three deaths — and high cholesterol continues to be a major risk factor,” said Carla Mercado, a scientist in CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. “This study reveals opportunities to reduce existing disparities through targeted patient education and cholesterol management programs.”

What are indicators for cholesterol-lowering medication?

• People with heart disease, a prior heart attack or some types of stroke or angina.

• LDL cholesterol levels of 190 mg/dL or more.

• People ages 40 to 75 with diabetes and LDL of 70-189 mg/dL.

• People ages 40-75 with LDL of 70-189 mg/dL and estimated 10-year risk of heart disease of 7.5 percent or more.

If you’re wondering what to do, ask your doctor.

Food for naught

Every year, 1 in 10 people worldwide — mostly children and the poor — experience some kind of foodborne illness, typically a diarrheal disease caused by bacteria, viruses or other pathogens.

In a report for the World Health Organization, researchers found that 31 identified foodborne hazards caused 600 million illnesses and 420,000 deaths in 2010.

“Of those who lost years to ill-health, disability, or early death, 40 percent were children under 5 years old, even though they constitute only 9 percent of the world population. Foodborne illnesses affect people on the African continent the most, followed by sub-regions of Southeast Asia and the eastern Mediterranean,” said Arie Havelaar, a researcher at the University of Florida.

The global impact, declared the scientists, is similar to the “big three” of infectious disease: HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Body of knowledge

There are 34 muscles in the human face and all of them are activated when you kiss someone.

Get me that, stat!

Diagnoses of early-stage cervical cancer in women under the age of 26 have risen dramatically. For women 21 to 25 diagnosed with cervical cancer, 79 percent were diagnosed in 2011-2012, according to findings published in JAMA, compared with 71 percent in 2007-2009. One possible reason, according to researchers: More young people have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.


40,000: number of genes analyzed from three different organisms: a nematode, zebrafish and mouse.

30: number of those genes identified to have a major effect on aging and life span.

- Source: ETH Zurich

Stories for the waiting room

Kids get half their genetic information from their fathers, including predisposing data on adult weight. Interestingly, this information appears to change with the weight of the father at time of conception.

University of Copenhagen researchers compared sperm cells from 13 lean and 10 obese men, discovering different biomarkers that could alter the next generation’s appetite. They also followed six men before and one year after gastric-bypass surgery to find out how surgery affected the epigenetic information contained in their sperm cells. The researchers observed an average of 4,000 structural changes to sperm cell DNA from the time before the surgery, directly after, and one year later.

Phobia of the week

Euphobia: fear of hearing good news, which raises the question: If a doctor diagnoses you as euphobic, are you supposed to be happy or sad?