Health Desk

The Salt
4:57 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Was 2013 Really The Year Of The Paleo Diet?

A paleo-inspired breakfast of salmon, egg, cabbage and bacon.
David Leo Veksler Flickr

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 11:52 am

Google Trends has released its annual Zeitgeist list so that we can mull over the burning questions of the day.

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Shots - Health News
3:57 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Doctors And Teens Both Avoid Talking About Sex And Sexuality

Almost half of high-schoolers have had sexual intercourse, but teens almost never ask their doctors about sexual health.
Nicole Young iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 4:09 pm

Many doctors aren't asking teenagers about sex or sexuality, and those who do are spending just 36 seconds on the topic, on average. That's not much time to get into sexually transmitted diseases or birth control, let alone sexual orientation, dating or other big topics.

And teenagers are so bashful when it comes to asking questions about sex and health that they won't bring it up if the doctor doesn't, researchers say.

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Shots - Health News
3:38 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

New York City's Bloomberg Leaves Mixed Results On Health

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg holds a 64-ounce cup, as Lucky's Cafe owner Greg Anagnostopoulos stands behind him during a news conference at the cafe in New York.
Seth Wenig AP

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 10:40 am

On the November day in 2001 when Michael Bloomberg was elected mayor, two things were prominent in New York City's air: fumes from the World Trade Center's smoldering remains, and tobacco smoke in the city's bars, restaurants and other public spaces.

Now they're both gone.

Bloomberg helped the city rebuild after the attack on Sept. 11, 2001. And he led the charge against smoking.

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Shots - Health News
3:22 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Mapping Emotions On The Body: Love Makes Us Warm All Over

People drew maps of body locations where they feel basic emotions (top row) and more complex ones (bottom row). Hot colors show regions that people say are stimulated during the emotion. Cool colors indicate deactivated areas.
Image courtesy of Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari Hietanen.

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 7:08 am

Close your eyes and imagine the last time you fell in love. Maybe you were walking next to your sweetheart in a park or staring into each other's eyes over a latte.

Where did you feel the love? Perhaps you got butterflies in your stomach or your heart raced with excitement.

When a team of scientists in Finland asked people to map out where they felt different emotions on their bodies, they found that the results were surprisingly consistent, even across cultures.

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The Two-Way
1:35 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Official In Charge Of Creating HealthCare.gov Steps Down

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 3:28 pm

Michelle Snyder, the official who oversaw the creation of the problem-plagued HealthCare.gov website, is retiring.

In a statement on Monday, Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, announced Snyder's departure from the agency, saying she had originally planned to retire at the end of 2012 but had stayed on at Tavenner's request to help "with the challenges facing CMS in 2013."

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The Salt
3:52 am
Mon December 30, 2013

Cinnamon Can Help Lower Blood Sugar, But One Variety May Be Best

Studies suggest cinnamon can help control blood sugar, but if you want to incorporate more of this spice in your diet, consider using the Ceylon variety.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 11:47 am

If I say cinnamon, you say ... sugar? It's a popular combination, of course.

But if you're interested in the health-promoting effects of cinnamon, you may want to think anew about the spice.

For instance, says John Critchley, executive chef at Bourbon Steak Restaurant in Washington, D.C., why not add it to savory dishes? He uses cinnamon to create a spice and herb rub for lamb loin. He also whips up a great spinach salad with raisins, pine nuts and cinnamon.

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Shots - Health News
2:22 am
Mon December 30, 2013

$1,000 Pill For Hepatitis C Spurs Debate Over Drug Prices

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 2:43 pm

Federal regulators this month opened a new era in the treatment of a deadly liver virus that infects three to five times more people than HIV. Now the question is: Who will get access to the new drug for hepatitis C, and when?

The drug Sovaldi will cost $1,000 per pill. A typical course of treatment will last 12 weeks and run $84,000, plus the cost of necessary companion drugs. Some patients may need treatment for twice as long.

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Politics
11:03 am
Sun December 29, 2013

Abortion Rights Groups Say It's Time To Stop Playing Defense

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered for 11 hours against sweeping restrictions on abortion back in June, becoming a hero for abortion rights activists.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Sun December 29, 2013 12:08 pm

Abortion rights activists are working on a counterattack to the 200 bills that have passed in states across the U.S. since 2010.

In the past three years, Republican-led legislatures have backed bills to regulate abortions and the doctors and clinics that perform them.

Bills to ban abortions at 20 weeks are among the laws that cropped up three years ago and have now passed in about a dozen states. This year, North Dakota pushed to end abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy.

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Education
4:09 am
Sun December 29, 2013

Closing The 'Word Gap' Between Rich And Poor

In Virginia this summer, Arlington Public Schools transported students in poor neighborhoods to community libraries for group readings. Studies say children from low-income families may hear roughly 30 million fewer words by age 3 than their more affluent peers.
Bill O'Leary The Washington Post/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun December 29, 2013 10:12 am

In the early 1990s, a team of researchers decided to follow about 40 volunteer families — some poor, some middle class, some rich — during the first three years of their new children's lives. Every month, the researchers recorded an hour of sound from the families' homes. Later in the lab, the team listened back and painstakingly tallied up the total number of words spoken in each household.

What they found came to be known as the "word gap."

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Health
8:03 am
Sat December 28, 2013

Helping Families Have The Most Difficult Conversation

Originally published on Sat December 28, 2013 10:35 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. I hope that most of the people listening to us today have been with their families and friends during this holiday season. We've all had nice dinners and nice talks, but maybe there is one more talk we ought to have and the subject maybe won't sound quite right for the holidays.

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Shots - Health News
3:21 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

When Memories Never Fade, The Past Can Poison The Present

Having a perfect memory can put a strain on relationships, because every slight is remembered.
Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 7:08 am

On Feb. 21, Alexandra Wolff ate steak, mashed potatoes and broccoli for dinner. Later that night, sitting in her room, she spent 20 minutes scanning pictures in InStyle magazine.

She remembers those things, just as she remembers that on Aug. 2 she stopped at Target and bought Raisin Bran; and on April 17 she wore a white button-down shirt; and on Oct. 2 she went to TGI Fridays and spoke to the hostess, who was wearing black leather flats with small bows on them.

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Shots - Health News
12:00 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

Concussions May Increase Alzheimer's Risk, But Only For Some

Researchers have only recently been able to use brain scans to detect Alzheimer's risk factors in living people.
iStockphoto

Doctors have long suspected that head trauma boosts the risk of getting Alzheimer's disease later on, but the evidence on that has been mixed.

But it looks like people who have memory problems and a history of concussion are more likely to have a buildup of plaques in the brain that are a risk factor for Alzheimer's, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic.

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Shots - Health News
2:25 am
Fri December 27, 2013

The Number 6 Says It All About The HealthCare.gov Rollout

iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 7:08 am

When it comes to health care, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act was supposed to be measured in the millions. That's how many people were expected to sign up for insurance to begin on Jan. 1.

But for both supporters and opponents of the law, there's one number that sticks out above all others. Six. That's how many people actually managed to enroll through the federal HealthCare.gov website the first day it opened, Oct. 1.

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Shots - Health News
2:22 am
Fri December 27, 2013

Can A Fruit Fly Help Explain Autism?

A newly discovered neural circuit in the brain of the common fruit fly seems to serve as a sort of "volume control," turning up and down the perception of sound and light.
Nicholas Monu iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri December 27, 2013 9:54 am

For President Obama, 2013 wasn't just the year of Obamacare. It was also the year of the brain.

In April, Obama announced his Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative — an effort to unlock "the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears."

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Shots - Health News
3:50 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Iowa Opens The Doors To Medicaid Coverage, On Its Own Terms

iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 4:52 pm

At the Central Iowa Shelter and Services in Des Moines, Iowa, health insurance navigator Andrea Pearce stood in a crowded dining hall on a recent day, shouting instructions on how residents can sign up for Medicaid.

"If you do not have insurance and you want to enroll and you have an e-mail address where you know the password," she said, "come to the computer lab we will guide you through the application."

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Shots - Health News
3:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Experimental Tool Uses Light To Tweak The Living Brain

A technique called optogenetics is being used in the laboratory to observe and control what brain circuits are doing in real time.
Henning Dalhoff Getty Images/Science Photo Library RM

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 7:09 am

When President Obama announced his BRAIN Initiative in April, he promised to give scientists "the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action."

An early version of one of those tools already exists, scientists say. It's a relatively new set of techniques called optogenetics that allows researchers to control the activity of brain cells using light.

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The Two-Way
1:41 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

McDonald's Shuts Down Website That Told Workers To Avoid Fast Food

Protesters demonstrate at a McDonald's in New York on Dec. 5. Protesters staged events in cities nationwide, demanding a pay raise to $15 per hour for fast-food workers and the right for them to unionize.
John Moore Getty Images

McDonald's has decided to shut down a website aimed at providing work and life advice to its employees after it was reported that it had urged workers not to eat the very fast food they are hired to produce.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's said Thursday that information on its McResources Line site had been taken out of context thus generating "unwarranted scrutiny and inappropriate commentary," according to a McDonald's spokeswoman.

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Shots - Health News
12:45 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Common Knee Surgery May Help No More Than A Fake Operation

Knee pain is common, but surgery isn't necessarily the answer, researchers say.
Inna Jacquemin iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 7:09 am

Go to the doctor with knee pain, and they might say you've got a meniscus tear and need surgery to fix it. But surgery for this common problem might not be any better at relieving pain than having no surgery at all, according to researchers who went to the trouble of performing fake surgery to find out.

The gold standard for medical research is a randomized controlled trial, but it's hard to sign people up if they might undergo pretend surgery.

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Around the Nation
9:20 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Struggling Food Banks Find New Ways To Fight Hunger

Food banks are struggling to provide dwindling supplies to a bigger base of recipients. Guest host Celeste Headlee talks with Bloomberg Businessweek contributor Roben Farzad about how food banks are coming up with new ways to feed the hungry.

Shots - Health News
3:47 pm
Wed December 25, 2013

A Texas Social Worker Weighs Her Insurance Options

Tammy Boudreaux (right) with her partner, Laura Perez. Boudreaux is weighing the cost and benefits of purchasing health insurance.
Courtesy of Tammy Boudreaux

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 7:23 pm

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country, with almost 1 in 4 people going without coverage.

One of them is Tammy Boudreaux.

Boudreaux, 43, lives just outside of Houston and works as a freelance psychiatric social worker, with no benefits.

She has been skipping mammograms and other checkups for years. "It's worrisome," she says. "It's like gambling. Gambling with my health, and it is very frustrating."

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Shots - Health News
12:03 pm
Wed December 25, 2013

Diabetes Gene Common In Latinos Has Ancient Roots

The skull of a female Neanderthal, who lived about 50,000 years ago, is displayed at the Natural History Museum in London.
Rick Findler/Barcroft Media Landov

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 10:02 am

When it comes to the rising prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, there are many factors to blame.

Diet and exercise sit somewhere at the top of the list. But the genes that some of us inherit from Mom and Dad also help determine whether we develop the disease, and how early it crops up.

Now an international team of scientists have identified mutations in a gene that suggests an explanation for why Latinos are almost twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as Caucasians and African-Americans.

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The Salt
5:03 am
Wed December 25, 2013

When Is Cinnamon Spice Not So Nice? The Great Danish Debate

Ah, the cinnamon swirl: They're beloved by the Danish, but the traditional recipe for these pastries may be too spice-laden for European Union law.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Sat December 28, 2013 10:15 am

Who doesn't love a Danish pastry?

And in Denmark, they like their pastries sprinkled with plenty of cinnamon.

But now, Denmark's bakers are being told that their time-honored recipe for the beloved kanelsnegle — or cinnamon swirl — may be unhealthy and against the law. Recent testing by the Danish government found that a large number of the rolls had too much cinnamon — more than the recommended limits set by the European Union.

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The Salt
2:21 am
Wed December 25, 2013

Why We Hold Tight To Our Family's Holiday Food Traditions

Mark Karney found the recipe for his mother's Hungarian nut roll in a dusty recipe box after she passed away. After lots of experimentation, he figured out how to make it and has revived it as a Christmas tradition.
Courtesy of Mark Karney

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 8:58 am

Around Thanksgiving, The Race Card Project brought us the story of a woman who grew up in a Filipino family but desperately wanted to be anything but Filipino. When Melanie Vanderlipe Ramil was a child, she shied away from her family's traditional meals, including the rice that's a staple in Filipino cooking.

But recently, she's become committed to keeping those food traditions alive.

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Health
3:35 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

A Vet Finds PTSD Relief With Pot, Though The Law Creates Hurdles

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 9:33 am

Ryan Begin hasn't always been the life-loving pot smoker he is today. Back in 2005, the sergeant nearly lost half his arm to an IED while serving in Iraq and was sent home for reconstructive surgery. Upon his return to Belfast, Maine, Begin was plagued by physical pain and outbursts of aggression. He was prescribed a cocktail of drugs as his treatment.

"They took the soul out of me. All that stuff, it drained my soul, it blackened my soul," Begin says.

Begin's mother, Anna, noticed the prescription drugs seemed to exacerbate his post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

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The Two-Way
3:03 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Teen Daughter Of New NYC Mayor Admits Drug And Alcohol Abuse

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 6:28 am

The teenage daughter of New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio released a video on Tuesday discussing her struggle with clinical depression and substance abuse.

In the nearly five-minute video, Chiara de Blasio acknowledges that she drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, but says she's now clean after being treated at an outpatient center.

"Getting sober is always a positive thing," she says, encouraging others in her situation to also get help.

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Shots - Health News
2:40 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Could Pot Help Veterans With PTSD? Brain Scientists Say Maybe

There's data to support the notion that pot, or a drug based on its active ingredient, could help ease the fears of PTSD.
Ted S. Warren AP

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 10:50 am

Veterans who smoke marijuana to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder may be onto something. There's growing evidence that pot can affect brain circuits involved in PTSD.

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Health
1:06 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

After A Cancer Diagnosis, Lessons In Priorities

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 9:30 am

Teaching high school English came naturally to David Menasche but a terminal brain cancer diagnosis forced him to leave the classroom. So he visited some of his former students to see what impact he's had on them. He writes about the experience in his forthcoming book, The Priority List.

Shots - Health News
11:40 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Drugmaker Names Pill After CEO Who Sought Daughter's Cure

Martine Rothblatt, CEO of United Therapeutics, is the namesake of the company's latest drug, Orenitram.
Ron Levine Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 3:25 pm

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Health Care
10:58 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Healthcare Rollout Mixed On Deadline Day

Another deadline for the Affordable Care Act has been pushed back. Guest Host Celeste Headlee speaks to Kaiser Health News reporter Mary Agnes Carey and Washington Post reporter Sarah Kliff and what the decision means and how the healthcare rollout is going across the country.

NPR Story
4:16 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Administration Extends Health Insurance Deadline Again

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 6:24 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene with Steve Inskeep. There's a lot of last-minute shopping going on today. And that goes for health insurance, too. Yesterday was supposed to be the deadline to sign up on the government's new insurance website for coverage that begins January first.

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