Health Desk

Law
2:51 am
Fri May 2, 2014

Texas Family's Nuisance Complaint Seen As Win Against Fracking

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 4:22 pm

A Dallas jury recently awarded nearly $3 million to a family who said they were poisoned by a natural gas drilling operation near their North Texas ranch. The verdict, reached on April 22, is being called a landmark by opponents of the drilling technique, called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking."

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The Salt
5:15 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Mamma Mia! Italian Chains Make Fast-Food Fare Look Light

At 820 calories, Maggiano's tiramisu packs in more than the tiramisu served at Olive Garden (510 calories) or Macaroni Grill (690 calories). But it pales in comparison with the version served at Carrabba's, which has 1,060 calories.
Maggiano's

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 9:13 am

A Mediterranean diet is all the rage, but don't confuse this healthful pattern of eating for what you're likely to be served in popular Italian-style chains.

A new report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest finds some astronomical calorie counts at these restaurants. Not to mention sodium.

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Shots - Health News
4:35 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Doctors Think The Other Guy Often Prescribes Unnecessary Care

She ordered the test, not me.
iStockphoto

Three out of four physicians believe that fellow doctors prescribe an unnecessary test or procedure at least once a week, a survey released Thursday finds.

The most frequent reasons that physicians order extraneous β€” and costly --medical care are fears of being sued, impulses to be extra careful and desires to reassure themselves about their assessments of patients, the survey said.

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Shots - Health News
4:02 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Contagious Aphrodisiac? Virus Makes Crickets Have More Sex

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 7:47 am

Imagine if there were a virus that could get inside you and dial up your libido, so that you all of a sudden start mating more (more frequently and with more partners), so that the virus β€” the tricky, tricky, clever, little virus β€” could transmit itself through your lovemaking to somebody else, then somebody else, and somebody else after that.

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Health
3:54 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

'Provocative' Research Turns Skin Cells Into Sperm

New research could be promising for infertile men. Scientists were able to make immature sperm cells from skin cells. Their next challenge is to make that sperm viable.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 7:46 am

Scientists reported Thursday they had figured out a way to make primitive human sperm out of skin cells, an advance that could someday help infertile men have children.

"I probably get 200 emails a year from people who are infertile, and very often the heading on the emails is: Can you help me?" says Renee Reijo Pera of Montana State University, who led the research when she was at Stanford University.

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Politics
3:04 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Effort To Force Treatment On Severely Mentally Ill Meets Resistance

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., speaks during a December 2013 news conference in Washington to discuss the introduction of a legislative package of major mental health reforms.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 7:32 pm

Ed Kelley and his wife have three children. They live in a comfortable suburb of Baltimore. And for a long time their life seemed perfect.

"We were churchgoing; we were involved in the community. We had a very close-knit family all around us."

And he adored his 14-year-old son.

"He was funny, he was getting good grades, he loved playing sports; he was so humorous. Actually for the longest time he was sort of the center of the family."

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The Salt
2:10 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Here's The Scoop On Jackfruit, A Ginormous Fruit To Feed The World

Jackfruits grow on the branches and trunks of tall trees. You don't wait to harvest until they drop of their own accord β€” by that time, they'd be overripe.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 9:31 am

It's not every fruit that gets its own international symposium.

Then again, the jackfruit is not your typical fruit. It's got a distinctive, musky smell, and a flavor that some describe as like Juicy Fruit gum.

It is the largest tree fruit in the world, capable of reaching 100 pounds. And it grows on the branches β€” and the trunks β€” of trees that can reach 30, 40, 50 feet. (Trunk-growing is a good thing because it reduces the odds of a jackfruit bopping you on the head.)

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Shots - Health News
11:29 am
Thu May 1, 2014

Love That Gel Nail Polish, But Know It Doesn't Come Risk-Free

Dermatologists say women should use sunscreen and sunglasses to protect themselves from the ultraviolet light used to cure gel nail polish.
Claude Donne iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri May 2, 2014 8:34 am

Just last week a friend told me about a gel polish manicure that stayed flawless through two weeks of mucking out stables and dish washing. Since I'm lucky if I get through a day without ruining polish, this seemed like a technological breakthrough.

Then I saw a report in Wednesday's JAMA Dermatology investigating whether the ultraviolet light used to dry gel nails causes skin cancer. I decided I'd better find out a bit more before I paint.

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Shots - Health News
9:46 am
Thu May 1, 2014

New Virus Related To Smallpox Is Found In Republic Of Georgia

Disease detective Neil Vora of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looks for the new smallpox-like virus in Georgian cattle.
Darin Caroll CDC

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 3:24 pm

Two herdsmen in the country of Georgia have been infected with a brand-new virus, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The newly identified virus is a second cousin to smallpox. And, like smallpox, it causes painful blisters on the hands and armsβ€Ž. Other symptoms include a fever, swollen lymph nodes and overall weakness, CDC scientists reported at a meeting in Atlanta.

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Shots - Health News
8:13 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Experimental Technique Coaxes Muscles Destroyed By War To Regrow

A cross-section of skeletal muscle in this light micrograph shows the individual, parallel muscle fibers (red). These fibers work in concert to power movement.
Thomas Deerinck, NCMIR ScienceSource

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 8:35 am

Ron Strang was on patrol in Afghanistan when a primitive land mine exploded.

"When it went off, it came across the front of my body," Strang says. Though he survived the blast, his left leg was never the same. Shrapnel destroyed most of the muscle on his left thigh. He used to run, swim and hike. But even after he recovered, those days of carefree movement were gone.

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Shots - Health News
4:35 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Botched Execution Leads Doctor To Review His Principles

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issues a statement to the media after the execution of Clayton Lockett. Oklahoma Secretary of Safety and Security Michael C. Thompson stands behind her at the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City.
Alonzo Adams AP

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 2:09 pm

Executions in this country often draw controversy. But when the headlines about them include words like botched or bungled, the debate about capital punishment enters new territory.

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Shots - Health News
1:32 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Cancer Plus Chemo Might Put Your Job At Risk

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 1:47 pm

Imagine that you've just been told you have cancer. The good news is that it's early stage. Still, your doctor believes a course of chemotherapy would boost your survival odds.

Then this week you read the headline, "Chemo for breast cancer increases unemployment risk."

What are you supposed to do now?

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Education
11:35 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Lawmakers, Educators Target Sexual Assault On Campus

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're going to start our program today with an issue that has been in the news of late, but it has been on the minds of many college students and their families long before that. And that issue is sexual assault on college campuses. The Department of Justice says 1 in 5 women has been sexually assaulted while in college. So the Obama administration is out with new guidelines for colleges about how to stop this behavior.

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Shots - Health News
11:08 am
Wed April 30, 2014

To Get Help From A Little Kid, Ask The Right Way

Need a hand with those dishes?
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 6:31 am

Motivating children to stop playing and help out with chores isn't exactly an easy sell, as most parents and teachers will attest. But how you ask can make all the difference, psychologists say.

If you say something like, "Please help me," the kids are more likely to keep playing with their Legos. But ask them, "Please be a helper," and they'll be more responsive, researchers report Wednesday in the journal Child Development.

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Shots - Health News
8:58 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Who Really Pays For Health Care Might Surprise You

President Obama said eight million people signed up for health coverage through new insurance exchanges.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 4:55 pm

Eight million people have signed up for subsidized private health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, President Obama said this month. Millions more obtained new coverage through the Medicaid program for the poor.

Full implementation of the health law has renewed discussions of winners and losers, makers and moochers.

Here's a corrective to common misconceptions about who pays for health care.

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Shots - Health News
2:30 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Mysterious Kidney Disease Slays Farmworkers In Central America

Loved ones express their grief at the burial of Ramon Romero Ramirez in Chichigalpa, Nicaragua, January 2013. The 36-year-old died of chronic kidney disease after working in the sugar cane fields for 12 years. Ramirez is part of a steady procession of deaths among cane workers.
Ed Kashi VII

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 6:32 am

Manuel Antonio Tejarino used to be a lean, fit field hand. During the sugar cane harvest, he'd swing a machete for hours, hacking at the thick, towering stalks.

Now Tejarino is slumped in a faded, cloth deck chair outside his sister's house on the outskirts of Chichigalpa, Nicaragua.

Tejarino's kidneys are failing. He's grown gaunt. His arms droop by his side. In the tropical midday heat, he alternates between wiping sweat off his brow and pulling a sweatshirt up over his bare chest.

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Shots - Health News
6:12 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Obamacare Enrollees Emboldened To Leave Jobs, Start Businesses

Mike Smith, of Long Beach, Calif., now pays $200 for his family's health insurance policy, compared with the $3,000 a month he would have had to pay on the individual market last year.
Stephanie O'Neill for NPR

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 11:10 am

Until recently, Mike Smith, 64, of Long Beach, Calif., worked 11 hours a day, Monday through Friday and then half a day on Saturday. He was a district manager for a national auto parts chain.

He dreamed of retiring early, but it wasn't an option for him because he and his wife relied on the health insurance tied to his job.

"At our age, with some pre-existing medical conditions, it would have been very costly to buy insurance on the open market β€” about $3,000 a month," he says.

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Shots - Health News
4:14 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Mom's Diet Right Before Pregnancy Can Alter Baby's Genes

Even before you were a twinkle in your mom's eye, what she ate β€” and didn't eat enough of β€” may have helped shape you.
George Marks Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 8:59 am

Pregnant women have heard it time and time again: What you eat during those nine months can have long-term effects on your child's health.

Heck, one study even found that when pregnant women eat a diverse diet, the resulting babies are less picky in the foods they choose.

So what about mom's eating habits before she even knows she's pregnant?

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Law
3:24 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

New York And Chicago Bring E-Cigs Under Umbrella Of Tobacco Laws

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 12:05 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

No smoking signs now have an expanded meaning in Chicago and New York. The image of a cigarette in a red circle with a line through it now applies to e-cigarettes, too. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports on the new laws that went into effect in both cities today.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: At a shop called Smoque on Chicago's North Side, there's no tobacco. Instead, says owner Jared Yucht, it's a store full of batteries for e-cigarettes and different-flavored e-liquids that are manufactured there.

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Shots - Health News
3:16 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

A Brief Tour Of The Alimentary Canal, From Spit To You Know What

There's a lot more going on in our guts than just digestion.
Andreas Lindlahr iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 9:41 am

Not so long ago, the workings of the digestive system were of interest only to gastroenterologists and 10-year-old boys. But the gut is now chic, with its microbiome playing a huge role in human health, and passing gas deemed a sign of healthy gut microbes.

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Shots - Health News
11:51 am
Tue April 29, 2014

To Survive A Tornado, First Run To Shelter, Then Grab A Helmet

Tornadoes killed at least 17 people on Sunday and Monday. But some managed to stay safe in underground shelters like the one at right in Vilonia, Ark.
Karen E. Segrave AP

Originally published on Tue April 29, 2014 2:44 pm

Deadly tornadoes have wreaked havoc in the South, leveling homes and claiming at least 28 lives in the past three days. And meteorologists say the threat of more tornadoes won't ease up till Wednesday.

Getting to a safe place is the best thing that people can do to protect themselves and their families. That can mean a specially constructed concrete safe room, a basement, or just a ditch if you're caught outdoors.

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Shots - Health News
9:58 am
Tue April 29, 2014

Health Law Adviser Says Insurers Will Morph Into Providers

Insurance plans that only cover catastrophic costs don't pencil out for most people, an architect of the Affordable Care Act says.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue April 29, 2014 10:11 am

As a special adviser on health policy to the While House from 2009 to 2011, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel was deeply involved in the creation of the Affordable Care Act. So it's no surprise that in his new book, Reinventing American Health Care, Emanuel defends the law.

But he also makes some surprising predictions about where health care is going in the next decade and beyond, including forecasting the death of health insurance companies as we know them.

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Shots - Health News
4:18 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Higher Doses Of Antidepressants May Raise Teen Suicide Risk

It's not clear why children, teenagers and young adults would be at greater risk of suicide when they start taking antidepressants.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon April 28, 2014 5:50 pm

Antidepressants are thought to increase the risk of suicide in young people, but that may be caused by starting them on larger doses of the drugs, a study finds.

Children and young adults who started taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants in higher-than-average doses were twice as likely to attempt suicide as people taking average doses, according to a study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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Shots - Health News
2:29 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Tax Breaks Could Be Biggest Prize In Pfizer Deal For AstraZeneca

For now, Pfizer's world headquarters remains in New York. But a deal for AstraZeneca could turn Pfizer British.
Mark Lennihan AP

Originally published on Mon April 28, 2014 6:00 pm

Pfizer finally fessed up and told the world that it wants to buy British drugmaker AstraZeneca. It wasn't a very well-kept secret.

The New York-based drugmaker confirmed publicly that it approached AstraZeneca in January about getting together. AstraZeneca, based in London, rebuffed the New Yorkers.

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The Salt
12:43 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Got Gas? It Could Mean You've Got Healthy Gut Microbes

Sulfur-rich foods, such as cabbage, bok choy and kale, can be popular with gut bacteria. And we all know how much the critters enjoy beans.
Meg Vogel/NPR

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 11:02 am

Not long ago, we heard about a catchy idea for a cookbook: "Fart-free food for everybody."

In theory, these recipes would be helpful for some people β€” and those in their vicinity.

But being a bit gassy may actually be a small price to pay for a lot of benefits to our health.

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Shots - Health News
9:50 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Pediatricians Say Training Can Help Teens Avoid Knee Injuries

Kelly Koshuta, a basketball star at James Madison High School, Vienna, Va., had surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament injured in 2012.
Sarah L. Voisin The Washington Post

Originally published on Mon April 28, 2014 11:43 am

If you're a teenage athlete, or the parent of one, you probably live in fear of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, one of the knee's key stabilizing ligaments.

A torn ACL often requires surgical repair. But so-called neuromuscular training programs can cut the risk of a serious ACL injury and should be recommended to at-risk young athletes, especially girls, according to a clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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NPR Story
4:15 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Conservatives Yet To Rally Around Obamacare Replacement

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 11:18 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Here at home, President Obama has repeatedly criticized House Republicans for voting to repeal his health care law without offering a replacement.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They have no alternative answer for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions who'd be denied coverage again.

GREENE: Republicans have promised an alternative but have yet to release it. And that left one Republican lawmakers on the defensive during a town hall meeting in Florida.

Here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

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Shots - Health News
2:36 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Test First Before Going For Those Testosterone Supplements

Testosterone levels in men can go up and down throughout the day.
Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Mon April 28, 2014 4:41 pm

If you're a man and you're concerned about low levels of testosterone, doctors say there are a key steps to take before you go with testosterone supplementation.

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Shots - Health News
2:35 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Testosterone, The Biggest Men's Health Craze Since Viagra, May Be Risky

Katherine Streeter for NPR
Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 1:55 pm

Men seek it out to combat low energy and decreased sex drive. Prescription testosterone has become so popular that so-called "low T" clinics are becoming common sights in cities and suburbs.

The number of testosterone prescriptions written in the U.S. more than tripled in the past decade. But researchers suspect that much of the testosterone dispensed at low-T clinics isn't tracked, since it's often bought with cash. This unfettered flow of testosterone β€” officially a controlled substance β€” has raised concerns among doctors who specialize in hormonal problems.

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Science
4:21 pm
Sun April 27, 2014

Astronaut Twins To Separate For The Sake Of Space Travel

Mark Kelly (left) will stay on Earth while his brother, Scott Kelly, spends a year on the International Space Station. NASA will test how the environments affect them differently.
NBC NewsWire NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Originally published on Sun April 27, 2014 5:23 pm

This month, NASA revealed new details of the plan to send humans to Mars by 2030. It's an elaborate and expensive mission, involving a giant deep-space rocket, and roping an asteroid into the moon's orbit to use as a stepping stone to Mars.

But there are still some serious questions about a manned expedition to Mars. Namely, is it safe? That's where astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly come in. The Kelly brothers are identical twins, and the only siblings ever to both fly in space.

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