Health Desk

Bingeing has become many people's favorite way to consume television. But marathon-viewing doesn't just change how we watch, it also affects how we eat.

While the culture of the Netflix all-nighter is relatively recent, researchers have been studying the links between TV viewing and mindless eating for years. And the news isn't good for our waistlines.

Nepal's Gurung Community Says Goodbye To A Trying Year

Dec 31, 2015

At a New Year's celebration in Kathmandu, people are munching water buffalo dumplings and sipping moonshine while looking back on a tough year.

"So many people died in the earthquake, so many houses went down," says Dil Bahadur Gurung, 45, who ran a food stall at the Lhosar festival — the name of the Tibetan New Year.

Tampon or pad? That's all you get when you stroll through the feminine care aisle of any big supermarket chain.

But times are a changin'.

This year has been epic for menstruation, with news and social media catapulting the once hush-hush topic into the open.

There's the woman who ran the London marathon without using feminine hygiene products, and the #PeriodsAreNotAnInsult hashtag that erupted after presidential candidate Donald Trump referred to GOP debate moderator Megyn Kelly as having had "blood coming out of her wherever."

Editor's note: This story was first published in December 2014.

The first time I ever got tipsy was during a champagne toast at a cousin's wedding reception.

All was good, until the room started spinning — and the sight of my cousin's bride dancing in her wedding dress was just a whirl of lace.

Of course, if you're an uninitiated teenager, any amount of alcohol can go straight to your head. But, decades later, bubbly wine still seems to hit me faster than, say, beer. It turns out there's a reason.

It's been another year of reporting on deadly diseases and lifesaving cures, girls and boys, changes in the cultural and physical climate, goats

Health insurers in several big cities will take some pain out of doctor visits in 2016. The plans will offer free visits to primary care doctors in their networks.

You read that right. Doctor visits without copays. Or coinsurance. And no expensive deductible to pay off first either.

In Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Miami and more than a dozen other markets, people seeking coverage through the insurance exchanges can choose health plans providing free doctor visits, a benefit once considered unthinkable.

Editor's note: A version of this story first ran on Sept. 23, 2015. It has been updated to reflect the current ages of the subjects.

When doctors told Robert Madison that his wife had dementia, they didn't explain very much. His successful career as an architect hardly prepared him for what came next.

How safe is it in the United States to be born someplace other than a hospital? The question has long been the focus of emotional debate and conflicting information. Now, Oregon scientists and health workers who deliver babies have some research evidence that sheds a bit more light.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 19,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses last year. The drug epidemic has so rattled the country, it's become a topic on the presidential campaign trail.

"Dry" is a tiny word with many interpretations: a well-made martini, a fluffy towel after a hot bath, a subtle wit.

Editor's note: This story first ran on Jan. 16, 2015, as part of NPR's Invisibilia podcast. It's about a man who decided he no longer wanted to be ruled by fear. Without realizing it, he used a standard tool of psychotherapy to help him stop dreading rejection.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

When Anthony McCann opened a thick manila envelope from the Department of Veterans Affairs last year, he expected to find his own medical records inside.

Instead, he found over 250 pages of deeply revealing personal information on another veteran's mental health.

"It had everything about him, and I could have done anything with it," McCann said in an interview.

An inherited disorder that stems from a problem in the way the body handles iron in the blood has been called a "Celtic Curse" because of the condition's high prevalence among people with ancestry in the British Isles and Ireland.

Early this month, House Speaker Paul Ryan asked a crowd in Washington, D.C., "What kind of country do we want to be?" As he unfurled his sweeping 2016 agenda, he returned to one of his signature issues: public benefit programs. There are just too many, and they don't work, he said: "We are trapping people in poverty."

New VA Clinic Opens For Transgender Vets

Dec 29, 2015

A Veterans Affairs hospital in Tucson, Ariz., is expanding treatment to a previously underserved faction of the armed services: transgender veterans.

It's one of the first VA hospitals in the country to open a clinic devoted specifically to the needs of veterans like Sue McConnell.

"In 1994 I was diagnosed with PTSD. I was also dealing with the fact that I was a woman," McConnell says.

Guinea is set to celebrate with concerts and fireworks Wednesday, following the World Health Organization's announcement that the country is now officially Ebola-free.

On Tuesday, WHO declared that after two years and over 2,500 deaths, the Ebola epidemic in Guinea has officially ended. The announcement marks the passing of two 21-day incubation periods since the last person to have contracted Ebola — a baby girl called Noubia — was cured of the virus.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

John Boyega Is Awakening 'Star Wars' Fans In Nigeria

Dec 29, 2015

Nigeria is falling in love with Star Wars.

Editor's note: One of the most intriguing stories we ran in 2015 looked at — and listened to — how the invention of the stethoscope changed medicine. We're presenting it again, in case you missed it in July.

Cage-free, antibiotic-free, artificial-free. Sound familiar?

Many of the world's biggest food companies announced major changes this year — in what they purchase and how they manufacture their food.

Solicit opinions about health insurance and you're almost guaranteed to find consensus: It's mystifying and irritating.

"It just seems like a lot of the buzzwords are intended to just complicate the whole thing and make it more expensive," says David Turgeon, 46, who's sitting in a Minneapolis mall eating lunch.

Enrollment season rolls on, and people shopping on HealthCare.gov and the other marketplaces have until Jan. 31 to decide on a plan.

When CVS Health customers complained to the company about privacy violations, some of the calls and letters made their way to Joseph Fenity. One patient's medication was delivered to his neighbor, revealing he had cancer. Another was upset because a pharmacist had yelled personal information across the counter.

As soon as the pink-clad Ayesha Mumtaz steps out of her car, word of her arrival spreads along the street like a forest fire. Storekeepers begin shooing away customers, hauling down the shutters, and heading into the shadows in the hope that Mumtaz's scrutinizing eye will not fall on them.

These traders would sooner lose business than risk a visit from a woman whose campaign to clean up the kitchens and food factories of Pakistan has made her a national celebrity, nicknamed "The Fearless One."

Every once in a while a technology comes along that completely alters the way scientists do their work.

It's hard to imagine astronomy without a telescope or high energy physics without an accelerator.

From here on in, it's going to be impossible to imagine biology without CRISPR-Cas9.

"Mashiaat Allah" — It is God's plan.

In Sudan, a father utters this Arabic expression as he watches his son die slowly from a flesh-eating fungus.

The phrase provides consolation in its acknowledgement that we do not control our fates. But when Alnour Alhassan says it, I feel a pang of indignation. His son Mustafa suffers from an infection that probably would never kill anyone in a rich country.

Are hospitals doing everything they should to make sure they don't make mistakes when declaring patients brain-dead? A provocative study finds that hospital policies for determining brain death are surprisingly inconsistent and that many have failed to fully implement guidelines designed to minimize errors.

About 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, the latest statistics suggest, and it's probably about as common on Native American reservations as anywhere else. But a diagnosis in Indian Country is rarer, say mental health workers. That's likely at least partly because of a cultural belief — many Native American communities don't recognize dementia as a disorder.

A novel immunotherapy drug is credited for successfully treating former President Jimmy Carter's advanced melanoma. Instead of killing cancer cells, these drugs boost the patient's immune system, which does the job instead.

Immunotherapy is cutting-edge cancer treatment, but the idea dates back more than 100 years, to a young surgeon who was willing to think outside the box.

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