The Check-Up: How Long Are Your Fingers?

Start measuring—finger length is linked to everything from sperm count to breast cancer

• Here’s an article that just had me staring at my hands for way longer than I’d like to admit. Scientists in Florida have discovered that sex hormones present in early embryonic development determine finger length. Finger length and proportion, turns out, play a role in determining everything from “sperm counts, aggression, musical ability, sexual orientation, and sports prowess, to health problems such as autism, depression, heart attack and breast cancer”; the new discovery could offer a genetic explanation as to why. Also! The article reports that men generally have ring fingers that are longer than their index fingers, while women have just the opposite. Did you know that? I’ll bet you’re staring intently at your fingers now, too.

• Attention anybody who’s ever signed up for Weight Watchers: The LA Times reports on study which tracked people who were trying to lose weight over the course of a year—some following Weight Watchers, some following plans prescribed by doctors. Guess what? The people who followed the Weight Watchers plan lost twice as much weight than the doctor group. “On average, weight loss for the Weight Watchers members was 11.16 pounds, versus 4.96 pounds for the patients receiving standard care,” reports the Times. Pretty sweet, right? Looks like all that points-tallying really does add up to weight loss.

• Truth be told, I’m still a bit squeamish from my report a few weeks back about the abysmally low rates of hand-washing in US hospitals—which is why this story is just what I needed to perk up. A Cleveland newspaper reports on a local hospital that employs hand-washing monitors. They started the program earlier this year with four “hand-washing ladies,” as they’re called, who roam the halls of the hospitals with clipboards and monitor doctors’ and nurses’ use of hand-washing stations and waterless sanitizers. The program has been a huge success: Since it started, bloodstream infections are down significantly, to a third of what they were for all of last year. And that’s a good thing, considering that the CDC estimates that one out of every 20 patients in the US gets a hospital-acquired infection each year—eeeep. So I wanna know, Philly hospitals: Are you guys doing anything to encourage employees to wash their hands more often? I’d so love to hear about it.