Health Desk

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? And does eating a morning meal help us maintain a healthy weight?

The breakfast-is-best dogma is based on a blend of cultural tradition and science (and more than a little cereal marketing.)

Hillary Clinton is floating a proposal to let people over the age of 50 "buy in" to Medicare, the federal government's health insurance for those 65 and older.

The Democratic presidential contender mentioned the idea earlier this week at a campaign event in Stone Ridge, Va. She was responding to a woman who said her health insurance premiums — which she bought on the individual market — rose more than $500 last year.

"What you're saying is one of the real worries that we're facing with the cost of health insurance," Clinton said. "The costs are going up in many markets."

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

Companies like Google and Fitbit gather all kinds of data on how people behave. Why couldn't scientists use an app to do the same thing?

Two years ago, mathematicians at the University of Michigan released an app called Entrain to help people get over jet lag. Users entered data on their time zone, when they sleep, what kind of light they're exposed to, and the app gives them an ideal schedule to recover.

Scientists have found a microbe that does something textbooks say is impossible: It's a complex cell that survives without mitochondria.

Mitochondria are the powerhouses inside eukaryotic cells, the type of complicated cell that makes up people, other critters and plants and fungi. All eukaryotic cells contain a nucleus and little organelles — and one of the most famous was the mitochondrion.

One aspect of the downfall of Theranos is the blood-testing company's leveraging of the Do-It-Yourself ethos to promote its product. Theranos provides consumers with a menu of more than 200 low-cost diagnostic blood tests for an array of drugs, ailments, deficiencies and diseases.

Presidential candidates like to float solutions to long-standing problems. Making those solutions stick is another thing altogether.

When it comes to health care, the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, rather than tamping down chatter about how to insure people, seems only to have spurred more of it.

But you know what? There's a reason some problems are long-standing. They may have no easy solution. Or the solution isn't politically feasible. Or there's a solution that sounds good on the campaign trail but isn't likely to actually work.

Gaby remembers the first time she threw up while taking a test. It was a few months ago, early on in her freshman year at Marblehead High School in Massachusetts.

She was sitting in biology class when, she recalls, she got so anxious that she excused herself to the bathroom.

Gaby typically starts her day at 6 a.m. and gets to school at 7:15. On Mondays she runs a government club called Junior State of America. She's also running for class president, sits on the women's rights awareness group, and helps out at the school's rotary club.

Courtney Griffin was addicted to heroin and ready to get help. She packed up her things, and her mom drove her to a residential treatment facility about an hour from their home in New Hampshire. There was a bed waiting for her.

Suicides Cast A Pall Over Marine Reunions

May 12, 2016
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

A few weeks ago, Dr. James Bale saw a series of MRI images in a medical journal of MRI scans of babies infected with Zika in the womb.

They scans showed something Bale had seen only a few times in his 30-year career: a phenomenon called fetal brain disruption sequence.

As the fetus's brain starts to grow, it creates pressure, which pushes on the skull and causes it to grow. But if something stops brain growth — such as a virus — pressure on the skull drops. And the skull can collapse down onto the brain.

Amir Attaran, a professor in the School of Public Health and the School of Law at the University of Ottawa, isn't afraid to take a bold stand.

He has written a commentary for the Harvard Public Health Review, published this week, with the headline, "Why Public Health Concerns for Global Spread of Zika Virus Means that Rio de Janeiro's 2016 Olympic Games Must Not Proceed."

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

Keo Motsepe has made Dancing With The Stars history in many ways.

In 2014, he became the first black dancing professional on the show (they're the ones who teach the "stars" how to cha-cha-cha) and the first from South Africa.

The image of refugees crammed in a boat crossing the Mediterranean was one of the iconic pictures of 2015. Some 13 million people were tallied as refugees last year by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, fleeing violence or disaster in their home countries.

But another 27.8 million people were displaced from their homes in 2015: 8.6 million because of armed conflicts and another 19.2 million due to natural disasters.

With the weather warming, it's the season for spring cleaning. But before you reach for the broom and mop, consider who else is sharing your home. The variety of uninvited guests in your dustpan may surprise you.

Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books requiring health insurers to cover autism treatments. But research evaluating these insurance mandates suggests the efforts are failing to help many children get needed therapy.

The state requirements have increased the number of children by about 12 percent, according to the research presented Wednesday at a major conference on autism spectrum disorder.

Michael Burghardt couldn't sleep. His legs were shaking, his bones ached and he couldn't stop throwing up.

Burghardt was in the Valley Street Jail in Manchester, N.H. This was his 11th stay at the jail in the last 12 years. There had been charges for driving without a license, and arguments where the police were called. This time, Burghardt was in after an arrest for transporting drugs in a motor vehicle.

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

For decades, the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders has been known for going places many other aid groups won't. But several times over the past two years its facilities have been hit by airstrikes in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. And now the group must adapt to a more threatening world.

The Food and Drug Administration is re-evaluating its definition of what counts as a "healthy" food.

The change comes as healthful fats — including fats found in nuts — are increasingly recognized as part of a good diet.

Currently, if a food company wants to put a "healthy" claim on its label, regulations stipulate that it must be very low in fat. The specific rules are complex, but, for instance, a snack food can contain no more than 3 grams of fat for a regular-size serving.

This means that many snacks that include nuts don't qualify as healthy.

Our friend and colleague Peggy Girshman, a longtime NPR editor and co-founder of Kaiser Health News, died in March. But her passion for health journalism survives her. She made sure of that.

Beyond the many journalists whose careers she launched and nurtured, Girshman wrote her own eulogy, complete with some hard-earned advice on matters of personal health and how to cover health and medicine.

Doctors' scrawls on prescription pads and medical folders are so analog.

These days, they're prescribing and keeping track of patients' records using digital devices connected to wireless networks, sometimes remotely. More medical devices are also becoming increasingly small and wearable; they often connect with a hand-held controller or even your smartphone through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, sometimes sending the data directly to physicians.

A body mass index under 25 is deemed normal and healthy, and a higher BMI that's "overweight" or "obese" is not. But that might be changing, at least when it comes to risk of death.

The body mass index, or BMI, associated with the lowest risk of death has increased since the 1970s, a study finds, from 23.7, in the "normal" weight category, to 27, which is deemed "overweight."

The National Institutes of Health is overhauling the leadership of its world-renowned Clinical Center, after an independent task force found the center was putting research ahead of patient safety.

The United States is only just starting to get periods — or, at least, acknowledging that products for "that time of the month" aren't optional for menstruating women.

In 40 states, plus the District of Columbia, pads and tampons are subject to sales tax. Earlier this year, when President Obama was asked why they haven't been exempted like other necessities, he said, "I suspect it's because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed."

American Heart Association

This is American Stroke Month.  It's a good time to review the signs of a stroke, signs that many people may not recognize.

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

Private Medicare Advantage plans treating the elderly have overbilled the government by billions of dollars, but rarely been forced to repay the money or face other consequences for their actions, according to a congressional audit released Monday.

When you're settling in to watch a movie, and the music starts playing, it's hard to ignore the names that flash first in the opening credits: The Director. The Big Stars.

Name placement matters in academia, too. A recent study reveals there's a gender gap in who gets top billing on medical studies published in several of the most prestigious research journals.

Pages