Health Desk

Shots - Health News
1:03 pm
Wed January 1, 2014

Editing Your Life's Stories Can Create Happier Endings

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 10:49 am

It was a rainy night in October when my nephew Lewis passed the Frankenstein statue standing in front of a toy store. The 2 1/2-year-old boy didn't see the monster at first, and when he turned around, he was only inches from Frankenstein's green face, bloodshot eyes and stitched-up skin.

The 4-foot-tall monster terrified my nephew so much that he ran deep into the toy store. And on the way back out, he simply couldn't face the statue. He jumped into his mother's arms and had to bury his head in her shoulder.

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NPR Story
3:41 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Alarm Clock Sets Off A Real Wake-Up Call

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 10:42 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne. Around New Year's lots of us are thinking about time and how we spend it. Yesterday we heard about an unusual wristwatch that challenged how we look at time and today we bring you a story about an alarm clock designed to help you stick to those New Year's resolutions.

The Chicago based company Fig believes the clock will help keep people motivated to meet their life goals. NPR's Alix Spiegel took a look and found the clock led her into some much deeper issues.

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Shots - Health News
4:46 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Vitamin E Might Help Slow Alzheimer's Early On

Vitamin E has been associated with increased risk of death in some studies, but it may also delay cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease.
iStockphoto

Alzheimer's is a disease without a cure, and the available treatments only slow its progression for a bit. Now there's evidence vitamin E may help hold it at bay, at least for people in the early stages of the disease.

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The Two-Way
1:37 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Sebelius Touts 2 Million Obamacare Enrollees

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius answers questions about HealthCare.gov in Dallas earlier this month.
Larry W. Smith EPA/Landov

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 2:33 pm

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has spent months fending off critics of the Affordable Care Act rollout, is touting the more than 2 million people who have signed up for coverage despite the troubled HealthCare.gov website.

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Shots - Health News
11:50 am
Tue December 31, 2013

Despite Health Law, Many People May Be Left Underinsured

Insurance coverage is only one part of the health puzzle.
iStockphoto

People with chronic conditions will be better protected from crippling medical bills starting in January, as the health law's coverage requirements and spending limits take effect.

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Parenting
11:32 am
Tue December 31, 2013

Parent Resolutions For 2014: Less Telling, More Listening

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but maybe you just need a few moms and dads in your corner. Every week, we check in with a diverse group of parents for their common sense and savvy advice. Today, for our last parenting roundtable of the year, we decided to look back at 2013 in parenting, and we ask some of our regular contributors and you to share some of your best and worst parenting moments of the year.

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Number Of The Year
9:40 am
Tue December 31, 2013

From Pandas To Health Care: The 13 Numbers Of 2013

Johann Balleis / Adam Cole Wikimedia Commons / NPR

0: Twitter collected no profit, Snapchat collected no revenue, and Apple's stock has roughly stayed flat over the past year. But in Silicon Valley, where companies are judged by potential, zero is still something.

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Shots - Health News
2:27 am
Tue December 31, 2013

Nothing Focuses The Mind Like The Ultimate Deadline: Death

Could a countdown to death help you lead a more ecstatic life?
Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 2:38 pm

Ticktock. Ticktock. Ticktock.

The seconds left in 2013 are slipping away. And you know what else is slipping away? The seconds left in your life.

Luckily for you, there's a new product called Tikker, a wristwatch that counts down your life, so you can watch on a large, dot-matrix display as the seconds you have left on Earth disappear down a black hole.

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The Two-Way
7:19 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Brain-Dead Girl Can Stay On Life Support, Judge Orders

Family spokesman Omari Sealey makes a statement to the media regarding the condition of his niece Jahi McMath on Monday, in Oakland, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

A judge has extended life support for a 13-year-old girl who was declared brain dead after complications from a tonsillectomy operation earlier this month.

The order, issued by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo, grants the family's eleventh-hour appeal to keep Jahi McMath on a ventilator at least until Jan. 7. Another judge had ruled that Children's Hospital of Oakland, where McMath has been a patient since the Dec. 9 surgery, could shut off the breathing machine after 5 p.m. ET on Monday.

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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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