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Warning signs for heart disease and diabetes, the role of palmistry in female athletic prowess and more.

Published September 28, 2006 9:54PM (EDT)

Medical News Today: Don't ignore the symptoms. A survey by National Women's Health Resource Center found that 75 percent of women with a family history of diabetes or heart disease experienced the early indicators of impaired insulin management, an important risk factor in both diseases. "Excess weight in the mid-section, frequent fatigue and carbohydrate cravings may be the warning signs of something more serious," Medical News explained. Unfortunately, these "symptoms" sound a lot like the average afternoon slump experienced by a majority of overfed, overworked Americans with a few extra pounds around the middle.

Los Angeles Times: Captain Alicia Mathis has moved one step closer to a class action suit against the Los Angeles Fire Department, her employer of 17 years. Along with many other female firefighters, she has accused the department of gender discrimination, hostile work environment, harassment and retaliation. Another case of prissy political correctness concerning off-color jokes? Not exactly. Among her complaints, Mathis describes a male firefighter crawling into her bed and trying to kiss her at work and being passed over for a promotion given to a less qualified man. And the department's bad-boy reputation is old news. Eleven years ago, an audit found that the department was mired in racist and sexist practices. But despite two further audits and another sexual harassment lawsuit by a female firefighter -- settled for $320,000 this week -- a recent audit found that little has changed. Mathis has said she hopes the lawsuit is unnecessary, but she seems less than optimistic, calling her complaint "potentially a career-ending" act.

CBC News: Perhaps palmistry was just ahead of its time? Researchers at at King's College London have found that the relative length of a woman's ring finger may show her athletic potential. If a woman's ring finger is longer than the index finger (as it is typically in men), then she's likely to perform better in running and sports related to running. In previous studies on men, researchers found the index/ring finger ratio was "associated with sexuality, musical ability, sperm count and disease vulnerability."

Will finger length become a tool in societies that actively recruit child athletes for the Olympics? I hope not. There has long been a hunger to make one part of the body the key to the larger, less visible mysteries. Reflexology, an ancient Chinese practice used in massage and acupuncture, claims that the feet and hands are a mirror of the body. But bodily measuring theories -- especially predictive ones vis-à-vis gender and race -- have a darker history. Anthropometry, the 19th century pseudoscience of measuring skulls, was used to prove inferiority of certain races. Although these digital discoveries might lead to a wider body of knowledge about our genetics, let's relegate it to a party trick for now.

By Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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