This holiday season Santa Claus will be bringing presents to millions of nice med tech enthusiasts: Quantified Selfers will get activity monitors, clinicians will receive smart phone-enabled diagnostic tools, hospitals can expect new MRI and CT scanners, and insurance companies will probably get lumps of coal. As a small gesture of thanks, we at Medgadget wanted to devote this post to the jolly old man himself. But then we realized that, beyond the usual tales of his North Pole residence and never-ending generosity*, we don’t actually know that much about St. Nick. Thus, we asked the question: underneath the Christmasy exterior, what is Santa like on the inside?
Fortunately, we could not have asked that question at a better time. Last week our friends at Pocket Anatomy released their latest app, which provides the most detailed, in-depth perspective on Kris Kringle that we’ve ever seen. Available for free on the iTunes store, Santa Anatomy features a fully rotatable 3D rendering of Father Christmas that can be viewed using three options: Santa, Anatomy, and X-Ray (don’t worry parents, some details have not been rendered; in more specific terms, this fireplace has no yule log). While we appreciated the bonus features – including background holiday music and a Christmas e-card that you can send to friends and family – the true value of the app are the 21 labelled anatomical features of Santa Claus, ranging from his Belt to the Twinkle in Santa’s Eye. Here are a few highlights of what we’ve learned about Father Christmas:
- Santa’s belt contains inertial dampeners to keep him and his reindeer safe during accelerations to Mach 3000 (though others have claimed he has to travel at twice that speed, about 5 million miles an hour, to make all of his deliveries),
- His lungs have a large capacity for optimal “Ho-Ho-Hoing” and he has a high VO2 max enabling him to travel in oxygen scarce settings,
- His beard has been growing consistently since 1821 (two years prior to Clement Clark Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas”) and is now so dense that it has to be trimmed with a diamond-coated razor,
- Santa’s eyes are much better equipped for nocturnal vision than ours. This is because he has larger eyeballs and lenses, more rods than cones in his retina, and – interestingly – a tapetum lucidum, which is the reflective tissue layer in the posterior eyeball that allows nocturnal animals to capture more light.
Admittedly, we were concerned about Santa’s health because he is getting up there in age – some sources claim he is more than 550 years old, but the man himself dodged the question by saying he’s “older than the Easter Bunny, but younger than the Tooth Fairy.” Here are some of the concerns we would have if we were Santa’s personal clinicians:
- Rosacea. Santa’s characteristically rosy cheeks may indicate a long-standing problem with rosacea, and potentially the associated condition of rhinophyma. Though not known to be contagious, these potential disorders may have been zoonotically spread to Santa from his reindeer, Rudolph, who has been known to suffer from red nose syndrome.
- Obesity. In the absence of exact figures, we found estimates that Santa weighs anywhere from 220 lbs to 1,380 lbs and is somewhere between 4′ 3″ and 6′ 7″ tall, which gives him a BMI between 24.8 (just below overweight) and 373, making him an excellent candidate for liposuction…and bariatric surgery.
- Metabolic Syndrome. This is a potential problem because everyone knows Santa has a weakness for sugar- and fat-rich foods. Say only 1% of the 75 million homes he visits each place one glass of milk and one cookie for him: that’s 750,000 cookies and 46,875 gallons of milk. Even if that milk was fat free, he’ll still have a massive tummy ache on December 25th.
- Christmas disease. Also known as Hemophilia B, this is a blood-clotting problem named after its first diagnosed patient, Stephen Christmas, and described in the 1952 Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal. Okay, we aren’t actually worried that Santa has this.
- Sciatica. Santa has spent hundreds of years lugging heavy sacks of toys to millions of houses. We hope he has good insurance because that is a bad combination for developing lumbar spine problems which may lead to sciatica.
- Chronic bronchitis. We hope that all of the “Ho-Ho-Hoing” is intentional and not a manifestation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Prolonged exposure to chimney stacks may have led to COPD-like symptoms.
- Dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus lesion. The DMH nucleus is responsible for the emotion of rage. Since Santa has no rage, he may have a minor lesion in that nucleus.
- Holiday Heart Syndrome. This is an irregular heart beat, such as atrial fibrillation, that can occur in otherwise healthy individuals. We’ll need to strap a holter on him to know for sure.
- Nutmeg liver or Cirrhosis. These liver issues may pop up because of fluid congestion or too much “eggnog for adults,” respectively.
- And, finally, cardiomegaly. Everyone knows Santa has a big heart.
Fortunately after a detailed examination of Santa’s anatomy, our fears were set aside. We were glad to find out that Santa regularly exercises to improve his hand grip (squeezing tennis balls) and leg strength (squats, deadlifts, and kettleball classes) so that he can carry the over 700 million toys he delivers each year. In addition he “maintains a healthy diet (for most of the year), and regularly gets his cholesterol levels checked by his doctor in the North Pole,” and also “makes sure to have a diet rich in fiber…Omega 3 oil supplements and a daily multi-vitamin in order to maintain his health.” It seems to us that beneath his portly exterior Santa is actually pretty healthy!
We hope that 2013 brings health and joy to you as well, our Medgadget readers – Happy Holidays!
* While we have no doubts about Santa’s goodness, in order to be balanced we must share this Forbes story about Santa’s often-strained relationship with his elfish workforce.