Health Desk

We donate to charities for lots of reasons: because we're generally magnanimous people, because we care deeply about certain issues or because it's the only way to get Meg to stop talking about the plight of the endangered proboscis monkey.

And for men, there may be another force at play: a subconscious desire to impress the ladies.

"One day your tragic ordeal will end, you will be reunited with your families and friends, and you will have the chance to finish the education you courageously sought," Malala Yousafzai said Monday to the girls in Nigeria who have been missing for a year.

Earlier this year, Caryn Hoadley received an unexpected letter after a routine mammogram.

The letter said her mammogram was clean but that she has dense breast tissue, which has been linked to higher rates of breast cancer and could make her mammogram harder to read.

"I honestly don't know what to think about the letter," said Hoadley, 45, who lives in Alameda, Calif. "What do I do with that information?"

A common pain medication might make you go from "so cute!" to "so what?" when you look at a photo of a kitten. And it might make you less sensitive to horrifying things, too. It's acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. Researchers say the drug might be taking the edge off emotions — not just pain.

If you're deciding between a candy bar and a fruit-and-nut bar, and health is top of mind, the best choice seems obvious.

But when it comes to companies actually labeling their products "healthy," the Food and Drug Administration is showing it won't pull any punches. In a letter dated March 17 that was released this week, the agency called out the snack food company Kind for violating labeling rules by putting the word "healthy" on the packaging for some of its bars.

C'mon, who doesn't like bugs in a bag? Crunchy little critters that are good and good for you? Panitan Tongsiri is hoping the answer is: no one.

The 29-year-old Thai entrepreneur is trying to change the way Thais eat insects — OK, the way some Thais eat insects — one bag at a time.

Why Knuckles Crack

Apr 15, 2015

Scientists think they may have solved an old question about the cracking of knuckles: Why does it make that sound?

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Pet owners in the Chicago area are hearing messages like this when they check in with their veterinarians.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUTOMATED MESSAGE)

It's becoming routine for cancer doctors to order a detailed genetic test of a patient's tumor to help guide treatment, but often those results are ambiguous. Researchers writing in Science Translational Medicine Wednesday say there's a way to make these expensive tests more useful.

Here's the issue: These genomic tests scan hundreds or even thousands of genes looking for mutations that cause or promote cancer growth. In the process, they uncover many mutations that scientists simply don't know how to interpret — some may be harmless.

Most children with autism get diagnosed around age 5, when they start school. But signs of the developmental disorder may be seen as early as 1 year old.

Yet even if a parent notices problems making eye contact or other early signs of autism, some doctors still dismiss those concerns, a study finds, saying the child will "grow out of it." That can delay diagnosis and a child's access to therapy.

beech-nut.com

Beech-Nut Nutrition is recalling approximately  baby food products that may be contaminated with small pieces of glass,

The following product is subject to recall

  • 4-oz. glass jars containing “Stage 2 Beech-Nut CLASSICS sweet potato & chicken”

The product subject to recall bears the establishment number “P-68A” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The affected product expires in “DEC 2016” and includes product numbers “12395750815” through “12395750821”. These items were shipped to retail locations nationwide.                        

Dana Lam was insured under her parent's health plan until the end of 2014, thanks to a provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows young adults to stay on family health insurance until they turn 26.

The arrangement worked out well until she needed treatment for depression. Lam knew that if she used her parents' health plan to see a psychotherapist or psychiatrist, her visit would show up on their insurance statements.

She wasn't ready to talk to them about her mental health issues. "I was just so afraid of having that conversation with them," she says.

It's just the crumb of a muffin, but Martha Galvis must pick it up. Lips clenched, eyes narrowed, she pushes it back and forth across a slick table, then in circles.

"I struggle and struggle until," Galvis pauses, concentrating all her attention on the thumb and middle finger of her left hand. She can't get them to close around the crumb.

"I try as much as I can, and if I do it, I'm so happy — so happy," she says, giggling.

In South Korea, grim stories of teen suicide come at a regular clip. Recently, two 16-year-old girls in the city of Daejeon jumped to their deaths, leaving a note saying, "We hate school."

It's just one tragedy in a country where suicide is the leading cause of death among teens, and 11- to 15-year-olds report the highest amount of stress out of 30 developed nations.

The Senate gave final passage Tuesday night to a lasting fix for a long-running problem with Medicare reimbursements for doctors, NPR's Giles Snyder reports. Doctors faced a 21 percent reduction in the fees.

Eight senators, all Republicans, voted against the bill because funding has not been fully allocated for its $214 billion cost. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill will add $141 billion to the federal budget deficit in the next decade.

Lina describes herself as strong and independent. Born in Yemen and brought to the U.S. as a toddler, the 22-year-old now works retail at a mall to pay her way through college.

"I was raised very, very Americanized. I did sports, I did community service, I worked," Lina says. (NPR is not using her full name because she fears retribution from her family.)

When people hear her story, she says they tell her, "I never thought that this would ever happen to you."

There's new evidence that the brain's activity during sleep isn't random. And the findings could help explain why the brain consumes so much energy even when it appears to be resting.

"There is something that's going on in a very structured manner during rest and during sleep," says Stanford neurologist Dr. Josef Parvizi, "and that will, of course, require energy consumption."

It's a hectic day at Production Unlimited in Watertown, N.Y. Everyone has to drop his regular work — making plastic binders, safety equipment, office supplies — for a huge order.

Beth Carpenter punches hole after hole into colored plastic tags. She and her co-workers are paid based on how fast they work, usually well below minimum wage. Carpenter has done all different kinds of tasks here for more than 15 years.

"And I like working here every day," she says. "I work here five days a week. That's why I'd like to make sure we fight to keep this place open."

This piece comes from the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organization.

Odds are your employer has a wellness program that prods you to exercise and eat healthy. But that program may not be doing all that much for your health, according to the American Heart Association, and attempts to measure the benefits of wellness programs often fail.

In 1946, a malaria outbreak across the Southern U.S. catalyzed the formation of what would eventually become the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Then in 2002, China's CDC began its operations just as an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, took hold.

Digital Tools For Health Come With 'Hope, Hype And Harm'

Apr 14, 2015

Dr. Robert Wachter has long been an advocate for patient safety and a keen observer of trends in medicine.

Years ago, Wachter coined the term "hospitalist" and predicted the rise of these doctors who specialize in caring for hospitalized patients.

Anne Koller was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer in 2011 and has been fighting it since.

But it's not just the cancer she's fighting. It's the bills.

"Think of those old horror flicks," she says. "The swamp creature ... comes out and is kind of oozy, and it oozes over everything."

When she was able to work, Koller, who just turned 65, was in the corporate world and safely middle-class, with health insurance and plenty of savings.

At first, she was too sick to deal with the bills. They piled up.

I think I knew what was happening even before my head bounced off the hard kitchen counter on its way to the even harder stone floor. I was rapidly losing my connection with reality. My wife, Tabitha, later estimated that I was out for 10 minutes. When I emerged from unconsciousness I heard the sirens on the street in front of the house. It seemed as if half of Tucson's fire department was streaming through the front door.

At 16, Liz was beaten and repeatedly raped, then thrown unconscious into a pit latrine in Busia County, in Western Kenya. The local police doled out their own brand of "punishment": They ordered the assailants to cut the grass at the police station.

But after millions of people around the world petitioned for a stronger punishment, a trial began last year. And on Monday, three of her assailants were sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In February, Medicare announced that it would pay for an annual lung cancer screening test for certain long-term smokers. Medicare recipients between the ages of 55 and 77 who have smoked the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years are now eligible for the annual test, known as a spiral CT scan.

There's no question mammograms can save lives by detecting breast cancer early. But they can also result in unnecessary testing and treatment that can be alarming and costly.

In fact, each year the U.S. spends $4 billion on follow-up tests and treatments that result from inaccurate mammograms, scientists report in the current issue of Health Affairs.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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ARUN RATH, HOST:

Updated at 12:50 p.m. ET

Australia has announced plans to halt welfare payments and child care rebates to families that refuse to have their children vaccinated — an aggressive move aimed at clamping down on a rising number of parents who opt out of immunizations.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday that the government was closing a loophole and would stop payments of up to $11,500 per child (15,000 Australian dollars) for parents who don't get their kids immunized by claiming to be "conscientious objectors."

In a radio interview with WBUR's Tom Ashbrook on March 26 , dinosaur paleontologist Scott Sampson, who's also the author of How to Raise a Wild Child, said that the average child in the U.S. today spends between 4 and 7 minutes outdoors daily — a 90 percent drop from the time spent outside by their parents.

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