Health Desk

The Salt
2:13 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Could Our Food Supply Be A Target For Terrorists?

Few livestock owners consider their operations targets of terrorism. And that mindset could leave them vulnerable.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 6:51 pm

It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster: Villains bent on chaos set their sights on a food company — an easy target — with plans to lace its products with a chemical or pathogen. The hero finds out in time to save the day.

Sound far-fetched? Not according to U.S. regulators who have been pondering such scenarios.

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Shots - Health News
11:49 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Doctors Say Obamacare Rule Will Stick Them With Unpaid Bills

A checkup might include more pointed questions about insurance status for people with subsidized health coverage.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 1:04 pm

Doctors worry they won't get paid by some patients because of an unusual 90-day grace period for government-subsidized health plans.

So several professional groups for doctors are urging their members to check patients' insurance status before every visit. Consumer advocates say these checks could lead to treatment delays or denials for some patients.

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The Salt
11:31 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Why A Sweet Tooth May Have Been An Evolutionary Advantage For Kids

A new study suggests that a sweet tooth could have evolved as a way to help kids survive by leading them to more calories during key growth spurts.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 1:16 pm

It's no surprise researchers have shown again and again that kids are more likely than adults to spring for something like a bowl of Fruit Loops.

But young kids' preference for extremely sugary foods might be even more biologically ingrained than we thought. Scientists now think that kids' growing bodies may prompt them to crave more sugar — and a child's sweet tooth might be heightened during growth spurts.

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Shots - Health News
5:32 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Flu Drugs Saved Lives During 2009 Pandemic

Part of Nebraska's 2009 stockpile of the anti-viral medicine, Tamiflu.
William Wiley AP

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 12:12 pm

Drugs used to treat the flu really did save the lives of seriously ill people during the influenza pandemic of 2009-2010, a study in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine suggests.

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Around the Nation
4:00 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

With Less Financial Security, Older Workers Stay On The Job

Man signing a contract in his attorney's office.
Lisa F. Young iStockPhoto

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 4:22 pm

The laboratories at The Aerospace Corp. in El Segundo, Calif., look more like a bunch of stuff from the hardware store than the set from Star Trek. But physicist John Hurrell gazes at a nondescript collection of tubes with admiration. It's a transmission electron microscope.

"This is one of the pieces of equipment which will enable us to get down pretty well to atomic-level sensitivity," he says.

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Shots - Health News
3:33 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Teens Say They Don't Text Or Drink While Driving

I'm not really texting. I'm checking my homework assignments.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 10:03 am

Many teen drivers are earnest when they say they know the risks of drinking and driving or texting behind the wheel. But it seems many either ignore those dangers or don't fully understand what it means to drive safely.

About half of teens who say they never text while driving admitted to texting at red lights or stop signs, according to a survey released Tuesday. And while 86 percent of teens consider driving under the influence to be dangerous, one in 10 who say they never drive under the influence actually do drive after drinking.

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Shots - Health News
3:25 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Young People Are Falling Into A Health Insurance Subsidy Gap

Ashante Thurston, John Riascos and Julieth Riascos talk with Mario Ricart, a private insurance agent, about buying health insurance at a kiosk at the Mall of the Americas in Miami last year.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 3:50 pm

Some young people seeking to buy health insurance are finding themselves falling into a subsidy gap that leaves them ineligible for financial assistance that was heavily advertised.

Subsidies in the health law were designed to lower insurance costs for people who make around $11,000 to $46,000 a year.

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The Salt
1:59 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Thank Your Gut Bacteria For Making Chocolate Healthful

Bacteria in your gut can break down the antioxidants in chocolate into smaller, anti-inflammatory compounds.
Meg Vogel NPR

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 1:50 pm

Boy, it's a good time to be a dark-chocolate lover.

We've noted before the growing evidence that a daily dose of the bitter bean may help reduce blood pressure. There also seems to be a link between a regular chocolate habit and lower body weight.

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Shots - Health News
12:11 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Opting Out Of Your Insurance Plan's Network Can Be Costly

A vaccination that would be free inside a health plan's network can result in a bill when administered by an unapproved doctor.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 2:34 pm

Many plans sold on the health insurance marketplaces offer a trade-off: lower premiums in exchange for limited choices of doctors and hospitals. But consumers who opt for these plans with the idea that they'll go out of network when necessary may be taking a big financial risk.

The health law generally limits how much consumers can be required to pay out of pocket for medical care (not including premiums). In 2014, the limit for an individual plan is $6,350 and for a family plan, $12,700.

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Health Care
10:58 am
Tue March 18, 2014

What You Need To Know As Health Care Deadline Looms

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 12:51 pm

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. The Obama administration announced yesterday that 5 million Americans have now enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, and that might be surprising news for some who tried to sign up and were met by major website problems early in the rollout. If you are not one of those 5 million, you still have about two weeks to sign up or figure out if you might be able to stay in a plan you already have.

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Shots - Health News
9:28 am
Tue March 18, 2014

Yes, It's A Headache. No, You Don't Need A Brain Scan

Younger women are most likely to go to the doctor with a headache.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 3:04 pm

Headaches may be the most common human malady, accounting for one-quarter of all doctor visits.

It's almost always just a headache. But what if it's a brain tumor? Shouldn't I get a CT scan or MRI exam just to make sure?

Evidently I'm not alone in that thought. People in the United States get $1 billion worth of brain scans each year because they have a headache, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.

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Shots - Health News
3:44 am
Tue March 18, 2014

Despite Setbacks, Bipartisan Support Remains For Colorado Exchange

Patty Fontneau, executive director and CEO, of Connect for Health Colorado, acknowledged there were problems with the exchange when it opened.
Eric Whitney for NPR

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 6:56 am

Being the first to try something can be rewarding. Remember how amazing it was to have the first iPhone? But then, sometimes there's a downside, like using that early version of the iPhone map tool that led to some wrong turns.

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It's All Politics
7:22 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

GOP's Health Law Alternative Could Be Messy As Obamacare

First lady Michelle Obama at an Affordable Care Act event in March.
Luis M. Alvarez AP

Ever since Republicans began using the words "repeal and replace" back in 2010 to describe their intentions for the Affordable Care Act, they've faced a question: What, exactly, would they replace it with?

While there's currently no clear Republican alternative for the health care law, President Obama's signature domestic achievement, the House Republican leadership is signaling there will be one this year.

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Shots - Health News
5:19 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Big Drop In Colon Cancer Fuels Push To Get More People Screened

Many people think that colon cancer screening is no walk in the park. This giant inflatable colon on display at the University of Miami Health System campus was intended to help them think otherwise.
Suzette Laboy AP

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 2:37 pm

The number of people getting colon cancer has fallen by 30 percent over the past decade in people over 50, and much of that progress is due to screening, a study finds.

But a substantial number of people in that target age group still haven't been screened, and a consortium of organizations say they're pushing to get 80 percent of those people screened at least once by 2018.

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Shots - Health News
2:36 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Scientists Search For Toxins In Cigarette Smoke Residue

Long after the smoke is gone, carcinogenic chemicals remain.
Victoria Alexandrova iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 2:34 pm

Everybody knows smoking is hazardous. Being around someone who smokes isn't such a good idea either. "There's no safe amount of secondhand smoke," the surgeon general has said.

Now thirdhand smoke is getting scrutiny. What's thirdhand smoke? It's the residue from smoke that settles onto clothes, hair, furniture or anything else in a smoker's vicinity.

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Shots - Health News
1:39 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Even If You Don't Have Symptoms, You May Still Have The Flu

Just the sniffles? Could be the flu.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 6:33 pm

Fever, muscle aches, nausea — these are what we usually associate with having the flu.

But just because you don't exhibit these symptoms, it doesn't mean you don't have the flu, researchers say. And you could be just as contagious. In fact, their study found that roughly three-quarters of people with seasonal or pandemic flu show either no symptoms or mild ones that aren't usually linked to flu.

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The Two-Way
11:41 am
Mon March 17, 2014

Attorneys General Ask Big Retailers To Pull Tobacco From Stores

CVS announced last month that it would no longer sell cigarettes and tobacco products in its stores beginning Oct. 1.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 12:53 pm

Attorneys general from 28 states are urging drugstores and large retailers to stop selling tobacco products. In letters sent to Kroger, Wal-Mart, and other store chains, the officials ask companies to follow the example of pharmacy chain CVS, which announced last month that it's going to stop selling tobacco products.

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Shots - Health News
3:18 am
Mon March 17, 2014

Doctors Use 3-D Printing To Help A Baby Breathe

Garrett shares a moment with his mother, Natalie Peterson. "He has been doing so good," she says. "He's been smiling."
Nicole Haley/University of Michigan Health System

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 10:59 am

Ever since the day Garrett Peterson was born, his parents have had to watch him suddenly just stop breathing.

"He could go from being totally fine to turning blue sometimes — not even kidding — in 30 seconds," says Garrett's mother, Natalie Peterson, 25, of Layton, Utah. "It was so fast. It was really scary."

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Shots - Health News
4:04 pm
Sun March 16, 2014

Parenting In The Age Of Apps: Is That iPad Help Or Harm?

With tablet technology still relatively new, pediatricians are trying to understand how interactive media affects children.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 10:32 am

When it comes to media, parents all want to know: How much is too much for my child?

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician, professor and father of two, has spent a lot of time thinking about the effects of media on young children. Christakis tells NPR's Arun Rath that not all TV is bad.

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Shots - Health News
12:39 pm
Sun March 16, 2014

Wife And Mother: 'You'd Never Suspect My Junkie Past'

Maria Fabrizio for NPR

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 5:56 am

It has been seven years and two months since I woke from my coma. My eyelids were taped shut and my arms were cuffed to some unknown object. The first sense that came back was sound. I could hear the voices of doctors and nurses chatting about the weather.

I distinctly remember a doctor poking my bare feet with a scalpel. "Vegetable," I heard him say. Everything was blackness. "God, help me, what have I done?" I thought. I'm in hell, and I put myself here.

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Health
6:51 am
Sun March 16, 2014

Inside The Barely Legal World Of Designer Drugs

Originally published on Sun March 16, 2014 10:32 am

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Health
2:59 pm
Sat March 15, 2014

When Loved Ones Go Missing, Ambiguity Can Hold Grief Captive

Subramaniam Gurusamy holds a portrait of his son Puspanathan, who was onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, on Friday in his home in Teluk Panglima Garang, outside Kuala Lumpur.
Manan Vatsyayana AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat March 15, 2014 4:33 pm

It has been more than a week since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared, and despite a massive search effort, the whereabouts of the plane and the 239 people on board are unknown.

The airline has told the families and friends of those missing to "expect the worst."

But it's tough for families to grieve without knowing the answer to a crucial question: Could my loved one still be alive?

Dr. Pauline Boss works with people in this kind of situation. She's the author of Loss, Trauma and Resilience and a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota.

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Shots - Health News
10:56 am
Sat March 15, 2014

Gay Couples Entitled To Equal Family Health Coverage, Fed Says

The family health insurance rule applies only to married couples and not to those who are in domestic partnerships or civil unions.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Sat March 15, 2014 10:58 am

What insurers offer to spouses in a traditional marriage, they must make available to same-sex couples, the federal government said Friday.

The change means that same-sex couples, who haven't been able to buy family health policies, will be able to do so now.

"It's a big deal," says Katie Keith, director of research at the Trimpa Group, a consulting firm that works on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. "If you identify as married, it's hard to stomach that you can't get family coverage."

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Health Care
8:52 am
Sat March 15, 2014

Under 30? The President Would Like You To Know Health Care Is Hip

The president joined host Zach Galifianakis on the Funny or Die mock talk show, Between Two Ferns this week. Obama was there to promote the Affordable Care Act.
Funny or Die

Originally published on Sat March 15, 2014 10:32 am

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Shots - Health News
5:03 am
Sat March 15, 2014

House Passes Payment Fix For Medicare Docs, But At What Cost?

Medicare's payments to doctors will likely be slashed April 1, unless the U.S. Senate can quickly get a derailed compromise back on track.
iStockphoto

Bipartisan support dissolved this week for compromise legislation that would have fixed a longstanding problem with the way Medicare pays physicians. Though the bill passed the House of Representatives Friday, it now contains a provision almost certain to invite veto unless a Senate version can quickly nudge the ultimate bill back toward compromise.

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The Salt
4:01 am
Sat March 15, 2014

Rethinking The Five-Second Rule: With Carpet, There's No Rush

Bacteria don't wear wristwatches. But they can take their sweet time hopping onto a potato chip.
Greg Williams/Wikimedia Commons

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 4:47 pm

Many of us will happily eat a gummy bear or cookie after it falls on the floor, as long as we snatch it up quickly. Say, five seconds or less, right?

Well, science just gave us another excuse to continue this food-saving habit, especially when it comes to carpet-dusted snacks.

Biology students at the Aston University in Birmingham, U.K., measured how quickly two common bacteria hop aboard foods dropped on tiles, linoleum and carpet.

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The Salt
3:31 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Companies Tap Celebrity Power For Extreme Vegetable Makeover

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 10:31 pm

Marketing to kids may have gotten a bad rap in the past. Especially since children have been the target of so much junk food advertising.

But it's a new day.

Increasingly, companies are seeing profits pushing ultra-healthy stuff. And they're not using a finger-wagging, guilt-ridden, eat-your-veggies-because-they're-good-for-you messaging.

Birds Eye is taking a page from the playbook of other companies that have had success leveraging the power of teen pop stars: The frozen food giant is turning to Disney.

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News
3:06 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Lawmakers Seek To Lay Roadblock To Powerful Painkiller

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 5:33 pm

Sen. Joe Manchin is introducing a bill to force the Food and Drug Administration to ban potent new painkiller Zohydro, backed by a bipartisan effort to get the FDA to remove its approval of the drug.

Shots - Health News
2:26 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

Can Congress Put An End To Annual Medicare Payment Ritual?

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio leaves the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, after House Republicans passed a measure Friday that would overhaul the system Medicare uses to pay doctors.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 7:08 pm

Congress is still searching for money to avoid a 24 percent cut in pay for doctors who treat Medicare patients.

But seniors are already paying their share of the cost in premiums, as if the pay cut — scheduled to kick in on April 1 — won't happen.

Seniors' premiums cover 25 percent of their Medicare Part B outpatient services, including doctor visits, outpatient lab tests and hospital visits, medical equipment and home health care.

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The Salt
2:22 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

See More, Eat More: The Geography Of Fast Food

The density of fast-food joints where we live, work and commute could be a problem for our waistlines.
David McNew Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 4:16 pm

When it comes to avoiding unhealthy food, it might be that out of sight means out of mind.

The more fast-food joints people encounter around their homes and workplaces, the likelier they are to be obese, according to a study published Thursday.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge found that the people who are most exposed to fast food were almost twice as likely to be obese as those who were least exposed.

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