Health Desk

Soon after many people fall asleep, they have trouble breathing. Their upper airway constricts and chokes them. They wake, startled, take a deep breath, and fall back to sleep. Then it happens again and again and again.

This condition, obstructive sleep apnea, affects about a fifth of American adults and triples the risk for cardiovascular disease. How exactly has been unclear.

It's not just football players or troops who fought in the wars who suffer from brain injuries. Researchers estimate that hundreds of thousands of ordinary people in the U.S. get potentially serious brain injuries every year, too. Yet they and even their doctors often don't know it.

One such doctor is Bryan Arling, an internist in Washington, D.C. His peers often vote to put him on those lists of "top doctors," published by glossy magazines.

When I was a child growing up in India, once every year my father took my two siblings, my mother and me to the village where he grew up. He thought it was important for us kids to see rural living and to learn how basic life could be. He often said, "City folks are lucky to have cooking gas cylinders. You'll see how food is cooked in the village."

More men are getting colonoscopies to screen for cancer since the Affordable Care Act reduced how much Medicare beneficiaries pay out of pocket for the preventive tests, a recent study found. The change, however, didn't affect women's rates.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, the House of Representatives is now back to work. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has already decided on the first order of business, and it's a pretty big one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

When it comes to dieting, losing weight fast holds some appeal.

Perhaps that's why U.S. News & World Report has added a Fast Weight-Loss Diet category to its annual rankings of best diet plans. And one of the diets that comes out on top is the Health Management Resources program.

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Smoking is the #1 cause of premature death and preventable illness in the United States. And since one-third of Medicaid participants smoke, compared to 17 percent of the general population, you'd think the states would be all about helping people in their Medicaid programs to quit.

But just 10 percent of Medicaid participants who smoke are getting medication to help them quit, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Health Affairs. That's 830,000 people in 2013.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is struggling to convince its customers it's a safe place to eat, after several outbreaks of foodborne illnesses have sickened hundreds of its customers. But no one thinks the task is going to be easy.

In the 10 years he spent driving an ambulance in Atlanta, former paramedic Kevin Hazzard rescued people from choking, overdoses, cardiac arrest, gunshot wounds and a host of other medical emergencies.

From the mundane to the bizarre, everything seemed to include a hashtag in global development this year.

There was #EarthtoParis for the climate change meeting in Paris. There was #WorldToiletDay for you guessed it. And there was #MugabeFalls, which helped turn Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe into a cheeky meme after he literally fell on the red carpet during a rally.

Insurance policies that pay a lump sum if workers get cancer or another serious illness are being offered in growing numbers by employers. Companies say they want to help protect their workers against the financial pain of increasingly high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. But it's important to understand the limitations of these plans before buying.

Critical illness plans have been around for decades, but they've become more common lately as employers have shifted more health care costs onto their workers' shoulders.

One of the great public-health success stories of the past couple of decades can be found in your cereal bowl.

At a warehouse near Dallas, a black Lab named Papi tugs on a rope to open a fridge and passes his trainer a plastic water bottle with his mouth.

Service dogs are often trained to help veterans with physical disabilities. Now, a growing number are being trained to meet the demand from vets with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.

Those dogs learn extra tricks — how to sweep a house for intruders, for example, so a veteran feels safe.

Namala Mkopi always wanted to be a pediatrician. He doesn't know exactly who or what inspired him. He just wanted "to treat kids."

And nothing would stand in his way, not even biology. "It wasn't my thing," he admits. "I never really liked biology."

No one predicted the Ebola epidemic before it burst forth in 2014 and continued to claim lives throughout 2015. And so, as 2016 begins, readers might well wonder what biological culprits — parasites, bacteria and viruses — are lurking out there, ready to unleash another outbreak of something terrible on an unsuspecting world.

We put the question to four infectious disease experts: What are your best educated guesses about the big global health stories in 2016?

When she first heard that California's new aid in-dying law was signed, Dr. Carin van Zyl was relieved to hear that assisted death would be an option for her if she ever needed it herself. But as a palliative care doctor at the University Of Southern California Keck School Of Medicine, she's worried the law might lead people to consider lethal medications over other options that may better accommodate their wishes.

Losing your ability to think and remember is pretty scary. We know the risk of dementia increases with age. But if you have memory lapses, you probably needn't worry. There are pretty clear differences between signs of dementia and age-related memory loss.

After age 50, it's quite common to have trouble remembering the names of people, places and things quickly, says Dr. Kirk Daffner, chief of the division of cognitive and behavioral neurology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

There's growing evidence that a lack of sleep can leave the brain vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease.

"Changes in sleep habits may actually be setting the stage" for dementia, says Jeffrey Iliff, a brain scientist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

The brain appears to clear out toxins linked to Alzheimer's during sleep, Iliff explains. And, at least among research animals that don't get enough solid shut-eye, those toxins can build up and damage the brain.

Medical researchers are in a constant search for truth. Each study is supposed to be another step toward that goal. But it's pretty obvious that many studies just don't hold up. Think about the contradictory advice about what you should eat or drink. We've heard that coffee is bad for you, then sometimes it's good for you. Same goes for soy and even eggs, which have been in and out of favor. Scott Hensley, host of NPR's Shots blog, talked with Rachel Martin about the year in health and medical research.

It's tough to talk about football without talking about concussions. Deep into the NFL season now, viewers continue to hear about these injuries on a near-weekly basis, as they regularly sideline stars and journeymen alike, regardless of position.

How Uganda Came To Earn High Marks For Quality Of Death

Jan 3, 2016

Food coloring, water, a preservative and a pound of morphine powder. These are the ingredients in Dr. Anne Merriman's recipe for liquid morphine.

One thing we've learned here at Goats and Soda is that the world of global health and development is swimming in abbreviations/initialisms. We try not to use them in the blog because let's face it, dear readers, if you saw a story about NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) trying to improve BHS (basic health services), you'd probably click over to a video of RCC (really cute cats).

Global health and development abbreviations do have their defenders. They are a convenient shorthand for people who work in the field.

Although not everyone is a fan.

When East Cleveland's emergency medical squad gets called to treat a man with a severe nosebleed, it's a pretty run-of-the-mill case.

The patient walks woozily out to the ambulance from a tan house on a tree-lined street. Anthony Savoy, the head medic, calls ahead to University Hospitals, which has the closest emergency room. Savoy wants to make sure the ER has space for the patient.

Talking about grief and the loss of a loved one isn't typically dinner conversation. Many people, even those struggling to cope with loss, will avoid talking about such heavy topics, especially over supper.

But a fledgling nonprofit designs dinners specifically for young adults to get together and talk about their experiences with loss.

In cities across the country, the group The Dinner Party advises 20- and 30-somethings on how to arrange these gatherings.

I'm often asked for medical advice by friends, family members, even new acquaintances: What about this diet? What should I do about this symptom? What about this medication?

Butter-flavored popcorn oil is in high demand at Oasis Foods, a manufacturer of cooking oils, mayonnaise and other products that restaurants and distributors often purchase by the ton.

"We get a rush this time of year with all the movie-going at the holidays," says Duke Gillingham, president of Oasis, at his factory in Hillside, N.J., just west of Newark Liberty Airport.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

When a poor country is hit with a sudden catastrophe — say, an earthquake or a tsunami — the world is quick to send aid.

But a slow-moving disaster, the kind that unfolds over weeks or even months, is another story. There are no immediate, dramatic TV images, no screaming headlines.

And that means it's really tough for aid groups to raise the money needed.

Just ask John Graham. He's the head of the aid group Save the Children, and he's watching a slow-moving disaster unfold in Ethiopia as the world remains largely oblivious.

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