Health Desk

Shots - Health News
4:17 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Doctor Helps Iowa Couple Face Illness On Their Own Terms

Dr. Tim Ihrig, a palliative care physician, treats Augie Avelleyra, 93, at his home in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Courtesy of Paula Avelleyra

Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 9:49 am

When Dr. Tim Ihrig crosses the threshold of the Avelleyras home in Fort Dodge, Iowa, he steps over a doormat that says, "One nice person and one old grouch live here."

It doesn't take long to figure out who the nice person is.

Phyllis Avelleyra grew up on a farm in western Iowa and met her husband, Augie, in "the big city," otherwise known as Fort Dodge. Population 25,000. The couple has been married for 60 years. They have five daughters, the oldest of whom is already a grandmother herself.

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Shots - Health News
4:00 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

FDA Asks For Proof That Antibacterial Soaps Protect Health

There's no evidence that triclosan and other chemicals in antibacterial soaps do a better job than plain soap and water, the FDA says.
Kiichiro Sato AP

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 4:32 pm

In hospitals, people are bathed with soaps containing the antibacterial triclosan to reduce the risk of serious infections in surgery. But that doesn't necessarily mean we should be using triclosan soap in the kitchen and the bathroom, the Food and Drug Administration says.

The agency on Monday took a step toward restricting the use of triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals widely used in soap, deodorant, cosmetics and hundreds of other consumer products.

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The Salt
2:45 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

In Florida, A Turf War Blooms Over Front-Yard Vegetable Gardening

Hermine Ricketts says she gardens for the food and for the peace it brings her.
Greg Allen NPR

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 7:06 pm

In tropical South Florida, it's growing season. Temperatures are in the 80s, there's lots of sun and good rain, and normally, Hermine Ricketts' plants would already be in the ground.

"By now, this should be probably Red Sails lettuce, which is a beautiful color lettuce, or purple mizuna, which is a beautiful filigreed purple leaf," she says.

But this year, Ricketts' vegetable planting has been derailed by a legal fight over what she can plant and where she can plant it.

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Shots - Health News
2:40 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Novice Neurosurgeons Train On Brains Printed In 3-D

A simulated patient at the University of Malaya makes use of different materials to mimic the look and feel of human tissue.
Courtesy of Vicknes Waran

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 8:58 am

There's no such thing as too much practice when it comes to brain surgery.

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Shots - Health News
1:27 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

As Far As Mom's Concerned, You'll Always Be The Little One

Being the littlest may mean more protection and care from parents, psychologists say.
Getty Images/Image Source

If you're a youngest child, your mother may call you "the baby," even if you're 6-foot-3. It can be endearing or annoying, depending on how you're feeling about dear old Mom.

But, it turns out, lots of parents think their youngest children are smaller than they really are, Australian researchers have found.

When they asked mothers to mark the height of their youngest child on a wall, they consistently marked it lower than the child's height. And not just by a little bit.

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Health
4:03 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Why A Regular Bedtime Is Important For Children

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 4:15 am

Children who have irregular bed times are more likely to have behavioral issues than children who have a regular bedtime routine. A survey of 10,00 children showed that irregular bedtimes are linked with difficulties such as hyperactivity, acting out and being emotionally withdrawn. Researchers think inconsistent bedtimes probably affect young children like jet lag.

Shots - Health News
1:45 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Healthful Habits Can Help Induce Sleep Without The Pills

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 2:23 pm

About one-third of American adults say they have problems falling asleep. And prescriptions for sleeping medications are on the rise, with about 4 percent of people using the drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But sleep specialists say people should exercise caution before deciding to take medication to help them sleep.

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Global Health
7:23 am
Sun December 15, 2013

They Shot For Zero, But Couldn't Squash Polio In 2013

A polio worker vaccinates a child in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, in October.
Arshad Arbab EPA/Landov

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 1:43 pm

As we near the end of 2013, NPR is taking a look at the numbers that tell the story of this year. Numbers that, if you really understand them, give insight into the world we're living in, right now. Over the next two weeks, you'll hear the stories behind numbers, ranging from zero to 1 trillion.

The lowest number of polio cases ever recorded in the world during one year was 223. And 2013 was on track for an even lower number.

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Shots - Health News
4:50 pm
Sat December 14, 2013

Before The Prescription, Ask About Your Doctor's Finances

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 7:45 am

Last month, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued new guidelines that could double the number of people taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The organizations receive financial support from drug companies, and many of the experts who worked on the guidelines have industry ties.

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Around the Nation
4:12 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

For Many Urban Schools, Gun Violence Remains A Daily Reality

Trevor Watson, 14, says he hears gunshots in his Oakland neighborhood so often that "it doesn't even affect me anymore."
Brett Myers Youth Radio

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 5:56 pm

With its colorful box-style buildings with big windows, Castlemont High in Oakland, Calif., looks like any other school. But inside, teacher Demetria Huntsman and Joseph Hopkins, 16, are deconstructing a shooting that happened out front just 30 minutes before.

"We just, like, heard gunshots," Joseph explains. "We just ... turned around and started running. That's the closest I've ever came to almost, like, actually getting shot."

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Shots - Health News
2:35 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

FDA Warns Against Test Touted As Mammogram Alternative

When it comes to taking care of the girls, mammograms are still the way to go.
iStockphoto

Mammograms are no woman's idea of fun, but if someone suggests that you could skip that aggravation just by vacuuming a little bit of fluid from the breast, think again.

Nipple aspirate tests being offered in doctors' offices are no substitute for mammograms, the Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

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Shots - Health News
12:07 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

A Nasty Fever Called Chikungunya Hits Close To Home

The chikunguyna virus was discovered in 1955 by two scientists in Tanzania.
EMDataBank using UCSF Chimera

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 1:46 pm

Well, look what showed up on our doorstep.

The Western Hemisphere has an unwelcome visitor: a painful tropical illness called chikungunya fever.

And it doesn't look like the hard-to-say illness is leaving anytime soon. (You can hear how to pronounce it here.)

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Fitness & Nutrition
11:21 am
Fri December 13, 2013

This Doc's Miracle Drug? Exercise

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 1:58 pm

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

You know the old adage, an apple a day keeps the doctor away? Well, my next guest might add to that. How about a jog a day keeps the doctor away, or a set of pull-ups? His new book is a prescription pad for a variety of ailments from anxiety and depression to heart disease, diabetes, low libido, arthritis, even cancer. But what's different about this medical book is that there are no drugs recommended, no trips to the pharmacy.

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The Salt
9:08 am
Fri December 13, 2013

How Plastic In The Ocean Is Contaminating Your Seafood

"A lot of people are eating seafood all the time, and fish are eating plastic all the time, so I think that's a problem," says a marine toxicologist.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 9:38 am

We've long known that the fish we eat are exposed to toxic chemicals in the rivers, bays and oceans they inhabit. The substance that's gotten the most attention — because it has shown up at disturbingly high levels in some fish — is mercury.

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TED Radio Hour
8:29 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Does Body Language Shape Who You Are?

James Duncan Davidson TED

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 3:56 pm

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Spoken And Unspoken.

About Amy Cuddy's TEDTalk

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how "power posing" can affect our brains, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

About Amy Cuddy

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Health Care
6:52 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Health Insurance Seekers Find Networks Missing Key Providers

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Across the country, many consumers shopping for health insurance on government-run exchanges are discovering that some of the best known doctors and hospitals will not be part of their health plan.

This is because as insurance companies try to make their plans more affordable, they' re using more restrictive, so-called skinny networks of health care providers.

NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

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Mental Health
6:52 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Does Winter Really Bring On The Blues? Maybe Not

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, it is that time of year again. For millions of Americans, the good cheer of Christmas and all the other festivals is marred by what many call the winter blues. Counselors, therapists, self-help books counsel us on how to beat the onset of depression brought on by wintertime.

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Shots - Health News
4:19 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Promises To Fix Mental Health System Still Unfulfilled

Rheanna Kathleen Morris hugs her mom, Peggy Sinclair-Morris.
Jenny Gold for NPR

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 9:23 am

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., one year ago sparked a national conversation about the country's troubled mental health system. Politicians convened task forces and promised additional funding and new laws. But today, despite those promises, patients and advocates say treatment for mental health is still in shambles.

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Shots - Health News
5:57 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

If You Drank Like James Bond, You'd Be Shaken, Too

James Bond is famous worldwide for his love of martinis and the ladies. But at six or seven drinks a day, the former was likely to hurt his odds with the latter.
Danjaq/ EON Productions

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 9:27 am

We all know James Bond had a hankering for martinis. But it looks like the international spy threw back far more Vespers, his martini of choice, than was good for him.

Dr. Indra Neil Guha, a liver specialist, and his colleagues at Nottingham University Hospital in England spent a year poring over Ian Fleming's James Bond books and tabulating how many drinks the suave spy drank a day.

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Shots - Health News
4:46 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Why Meningitis That Hit Princeton Is Hard To Beat With Vaccines

Developing a vaccine for meningitis B was tricky. Even the existing vaccine doesn't protect against all B strains.
Josef Muellek iStockphoto.com

There's been a lot of talk about meningitis B lately. That's the type responsible for outbreaks at Princeton and the University of California in Santa Barbara.

And it got us thinking. How come this form of the illness isn't fazed by the vaccines given routinely to most young people in the U.S.?

This week, Princeton is administering an imported vaccine not approved for general use in this country, with special permission from the Food and Drug Administration.

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All Tech Considered
1:48 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

A Rush To Reconcile Health Enrollment Data, By Hand

Affordable Care Act navigator Nini Hadwen helps Floridians shop for health insurance in October.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 5:44 pm

With just a few weeks left before a deadline to get health coverage, lingering bugs lurk in the part of HealthCare.gov that you can't see. And since time is running out to get things right, health officials on Thursday urged insurance companies to cover some enrollees even if their premium checks haven't come in.

Under the law's guidelines, consumers have to sign up for a health insurance exchange — and pay their first month's premium — by the end of December if they want coverage in January.

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Shots - Health News
11:15 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Scientists Turn To The Crowd In Quest For New Antibiotics

Yes, you could do this at home. Growing bacteria you find in a pile of dirt or a local pond might reveal the next big antibiotic.
Charlotte Raymond Science Source

Could you dig up the next antibiotic in your backyard? Two scientists would like you and, if they're lucky, millions of other people to give it a try.

The researchers hope that lots of do-it-yourself scientists around the world can come up with the next big idea for much-needed drugs.

There are plenty of precedents. Many blockbuster antibiotics were found in soil, where many bacteria produce chemicals to keep rivals out of their territory.

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Health Care
5:42 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Tagging Along On A Wisconsin Man's Odyssey To Buy Insurance

Doug Normington is 58, self-employed, and has diabetes.
Courtesy of Doug Normington

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 1:47 pm

Enrollment is picking up in new health insurance marketplaces. But the 365,000 who've signed up as of November 30 is a fraction of just one high-visibility group – those whose previous insurance has been cancelled because it didn't meet Affordable Care Act standards.

They're people like Doug Normington, a 58-year-old self-employed videographer in Madison, Wis., who has struggled to buy new insurance since late October.

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Shots - Health News
4:22 am
Thu December 12, 2013

High Insurance Rates Anger Some Ski-Country Coloradans

Early December brought a foot of fresh powder to the resorts of Vail, Colo., but some residents are still steaming.
Zach Mahone, Beaver Creek Resort AP

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 1:36 pm

Some of the biggest ski resorts anywhere lie in U.S. Rep. Jared Polis' Colorado district, dotting the peaks of Summit and Eagle counties, about a hundred miles west of Denver. The area has a high rate of uninsured people and also, it turns out, health plans that are much more expensive than similar plans in surrounding regions. So expensive that Polis, a Democrat, has asked the federal government to exempt some of his constituents from the requirement to buy health insurance.

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Around the Nation
4:22 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Newtown Parents Seek A Clearer Window Into Violent Behavior

Avielle's artwork hangs on the walls and windows of Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel's home.
Craig Ruttle AP

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 10:22 am

The shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December has left families of the 26 victims, most of them children, struggling to heal in different ways.

Jeremy Richman and Jennifer Hensel are one such family. They lost their only child, 6-year-old Avielle, in the shooting. In the year since, they've responded as any parents would: Asking why such a tragedy could have happened.

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Shots - Health News
5:07 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Some Young Athletes May Be More Vulnerable To Hits To The Head

Dartmouth defenders sandwich a New Hampshire wide receiver during a game in Durham, N.H., in 2009.
Josh Gibney AP

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 2:31 pm

Concussions have deservedly gotten most of the attention in efforts to reduce the risk of head injuries in sports.

But scientists increasingly think that hits too small to cause concussions also affect the brain, and that those effects add up. And it looks like some athletes may be more vulnerable than others.

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The Salt
4:23 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Drug Companies Accept FDA Plan To Phase Out Some Animal Antibiotic Uses

Young broilers nibble feed at a chicken farm in Luling, Texas. The Food and Drug Administration has issued new guidance on how drug companies label antibiotics for livestock.
Bob Nichols USDA/Flickr

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 7:07 pm

If drug companies follow guidance issued Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration, within three years it will be illegal to use medically important antibiotics to make farm animals grow faster or use feed more efficiently.

The FDA's announcement wasn't a big surprise; a draft version of the strategy was released more than a year ago.

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Politics
4:23 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Sebelius Faced More Grilling From House, Despite HealthCare.gov Fixes

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 5:26 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

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Shots - Health News
4:21 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Global Malaria Deaths Hit A New Low

Children get tested for malaria at a clinic near the Myanmar border in Sai Yoke, Thailand. Drug-resistant strains of the parasite have appeared in the region over the past few years.
Surkree Sukplang Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 2:33 pm

The death rate from malaria dropped by 45 percent globally between 2000 and 2012, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday. In Africa, the rate fell by almost half.

Despite this progress, the mosquito-borne disease remains a serious problem in the developing world, said Dr. Robert Newman, who heads WHO's global malaria program. There were more than 200 million cases of malaria in 2012, and the disease killed an estimated 627,000 people last year.

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Shots - Health News
3:02 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Staph Germs Hide Out In The Hidden Recesses Of Your Nose

The interior of the nose is like a lush rain forest that's barely been explored.
Courtesy of Sunje Pamp

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 2:33 pm

Otherwise innocuous bacteria can cause deadly infections when people have surgery or fall ill. To prevent trouble, patients sometimes have their bodies scrubbed clean of Staphylococcus aureus.

But it doesn't always work.

That may because the germs thrive in upper recesses of the nose, far from the spots typically tested for staph bacteria, or where antibiotics are applied.

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