Health Desk

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 Fri May 2, 2014 8:23 am

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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The Salt
12:47 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Chowing Down On Meat, Dairy Alters Gut Bacteria A Lot, And Quickly

Morgan Walker NPR

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 10:24 am

Looks like Harvard University scientists have given us another reason to walk past the cheese platter at holiday parties and reach for the carrot sticks instead: Your gut bacteria will thank you.

Switching to a diet packed with meat and cheese — and very few carbohydrates — alters the trillions of microbes living in the gut, scientists report Wednesday in the journal Nature.

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Shots - Health News
12:37 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Health Exchange Enrollment By State, In 2 Charts

HHS

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 2:48 pm

Numbers released by the Obama administration show enrollment in health exchanges edged up in November, but the uptake remains far short of the administration's initial targets.

Roughly 264,000 people signed up for private insurance coverage last month through the federal and state exchanges, according to data from the Health and Human Services Department. That brings the total to about 364,000 for October and November.

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Health Care
9:10 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Exchange Enrollment Growing But Still Short Of Forecasts

The Obama administration just released the latest sign-up numbers for its troubled health insurance exchange website. Enrollment picked up last month, after a disastrous start in October. Still, the number of people signing up for coverage is below the administration's original forecasts.

Shots - Health News
8:10 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Enrollment Jumps At HealthCare.gov, Though Totals Still Lag

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' shadow appeared behind the lectern as she spoke about the implementation of the federal health law in Detroit in November.
Paul Sancya AP

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 11:56 am

Enrollment in the federal government's new health insurance exchange picked up sharply in November, but the number of people signing up for coverage still trails original forecasts. Officials from the Obama administration say they expect the pace of enrollments will continue to increase now that the insurance website is working more smoothly.

Users have until Dec. 23 to sign up for coverage that begins in January.

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Health Care
5:56 am
Wed December 11, 2013

What's At Stake For States That Reject Medicaid Expansion

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 9:10 am

The Affordable Care Act has produced a surge in the number of people signing up for Medicaid. The ACA offers billions of federal dollars to states to expand Medicaid coverage for the poor. But only 25 states have accepted the federal government's offer, and those that haven't could face economic and budget losses.

Veterans And Other-Than-Honorable Discharges
3:58 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Path To Reclaiming Identity Steep For Vets With 'Bad Paper'

Michael Hartnett was a Marine during the Gulf War and served in Somalia. He received a bad conduct discharge for abusing drugs and alcohol. His wife, Molly, helped him turn his life around.
Quil Lawrence NPR

Originally published on Mon December 16, 2013 10:19 am

When Michael Hartnett was getting kicked out of the U.S. Marine Corps, he was too deep into post-traumatic stress disorder, drugs and alcohol to care as his battalion commander explained to the young man that his career was ending, and ending badly.

"Do you understand what I'm saying to you, son? It's going to be six and a kick," Hartnett recalls the commander telling him.

The "six" was an expected six months of hard labor in the brig. The kick happened at Hartnett's court-martial, and finally woke him up out of the haze.

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The Two-Way
7:39 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Lawmakers In Uruguay Vote To Legalize Pot

A bicycle passes graffiti that reads in Spanish, "Legal pot," in Montevideo, Uruguay, in November 2012.
Matilde Campodonico AP

Uruguay will become the world's first country to approve the growing, selling and use of marijuana, after the country's Senate voted for the change, which the president has promised to sign into law.

Reuters describes the move as "a pioneering social experiment that will be closely watched by other nations debating drug liberalization."

Sen. Constanza Moreira, who voted with the majority, called the vote on Tuesday "an historic day."

"Many countries of Latin America, and many governments, will take this law as an example," she said.

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Shots - Health News
4:44 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Popular Antacids Increase The Risk Of B-12 Deficiency

Drugs that reduce acid production can make it harder for the stomach to absorb vitamin B12.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 3:22 pm

Acid-inhibiting drugs like Zantac and Prilosec have become hugely popular because they're so good at preventing the unpleasant symptoms of heartburn and acid indigestion.

But the drugs also make it more likely that a person will be short on vitamin B-12. And that can contribute to health problems including depression, nerve damage and dementia.

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Shots - Health News
3:49 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

To Fight Meningitis Outbreak, Princeton Tries European Vaccine

The Ivy League school has begun vaccinating nearly 6,000 students to try to stop an outbreak of type B meningitis in an unusual federal government-endorsed administration of a drug not generally approved for use in the U.S.
Mel Evans AP

Princeton University has started vaccinating students against type B meningitis in an effort to stop an outbreak that's infected at least eight people.

The vaccine isn't approved for general use in the United States, though it is available in Europe, Australia and Canada. But the meningitis strain that hit the New Jersey campus isn't fazed by the vaccines typically used in the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration is allowing a Novartis vaccine that's usually sold in other countries to be administered on the Princeton campus.

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Fitness & Nutrition
3:29 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

Study: Organic Milk Contains More Healthy Fatty Acids

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 11:30 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Say you're at the store, and you reach into the dairy case. There's organic milk, or you could go for the regular. There's a big difference in price. So is there any reason to pay more? Well, fresh research published in the journal PLoS ONE could help you make up your mind. NPR's food and health correspondent Allison Aubrey joins us to talk about it. And Allison, what are the results from this new study?

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