Health

Health
5:05 am
Sun February 24, 2013

Ancient Chompers Were Healthier Than Ours

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 7:55 am

Prehistoric humans didn't have toothbrushes. They didn't have floss or toothpaste, and they certainly didn't have Listerine. Yet somehow, their mouths were a lot healthier than ours are today.

"Hunter-gatherers had really good teeth," says Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. "[But] as soon as you get to farming populations, you see this massive change. Huge amounts of gum disease. And cavities start cropping up."

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Health
1:27 pm
Fri February 22, 2013

Print Me An Ear: 3-D Printing Tackles Human Cartilage

Larry Bonassar shows off an ear that he and his colleagues at Cornell University built out of living cartilage cells with the help of a 3-D printer.
Lindsay France Cornell University Photography

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 7:34 am

An ear, unsurprisingly, is difficult to make from scratch. Ear cartilage is uniquely flexible and strong and has been impossible for scientists to reproduce with synthetic prostheses.

If a child is born without one, doctors typically carve a replacement ear out of rib cartilage, but it lacks the wonderfully firm yet springy qualities of the original ear. And it often doesn't look so good.

So why not print one?

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Health
5:47 pm
Thu February 21, 2013

Morning-After Pills Don't Cause Abortion, Studies Say

Plan B is one of two emergency contraceptives available in the U.S.
UPI/Landov

Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 4:51 pm

The most heated part of the fight between the Obama administration and religious groups over new rules that require most health plans to cover contraception actually has nothing to do with birth control. It has to do with abortion.

Specifically, do emergency contraceptives interfere with a fertilized egg and cause what some consider to be abortion?

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Health
3:06 am
Wed February 20, 2013

Money Replaces Willpower In Programs Promoting Weight Loss

Peggy Renzi (middle) talks with her teammates Erika Hersey (left) and Erica Webster. The three are part of a team of nurses in the Bowie Health Center emergency room in Bowie, Md., who are working together to lose weight.
Gabriella Demczuk NPR

Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 6:23 pm

Sticking to a diet is a challenge for many people, but starting next year, Americans may have an even bigger, financial incentive to keep their weight in check. The new health care law includes a provision that would allow employers with more than 50 employees to require overweight workers who do not exercise to pay more to cover their insurance costs.

Some employers, inspired in part by the success of shows like The Biggest Loser, are already designing weight-loss programs that use money to succeed where willpower has failed.

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Health
2:39 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

Should We Prohibit Genetically Engineered Babies?

Nita Farahany and Lee Silver argue against the motion "Prohibit Genetically Engineered Babies" during an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate.
Samuel LaHoz

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 3:59 pm

What if, before your children were born, you could make sure they had the genes to be taller or smarter? Would that tempt you, or would you find it unnerving?

What if that genetic engineering would save a child from a rare disease?

As advancements in science bring these ideas closer to reality, a group of experts faced off two against two in an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate on the proposition: "Prohibit Genetically Engineered Babies."

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Health
1:27 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Don't Count On Extra Weight To Help You In Old Age

Extra weight is no defense against aging, says a demographer who argues that the apparent benefits from being overweight are a mirage.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 9:47 am

Wouldn't it be great, considering how many of us are overweight, if carrying a few extra pounds meant we'd live longer?

A recent analysis of nearly 100 published studies involving almost 3 million people found, surprisingly, that being a little overweight was associated with a lower risk of death than having a normal weight or being obese.

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Health
3:34 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Traces Of Anxiety Drugs May Make Fish Act Funny

Perch exposed to the anxiety drug oxazepam were more daring and ate more quickly than fish that lived in drug-free water.
Courtesy of Bent Christensen

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 5:40 pm

Many of the drugs we take aren't actually digested — they pass through our bodies, and down through the sewer pipes. Traces of those drugs end up in the bodies of fish and other wildlife. Nobody's sure what effect they have.

Now, a paper being published in Science magazine finds that drugs for anxiety drugs — even at these very low levels — can affect the behavior of fish.

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Health
11:42 am
Thu February 14, 2013

More Women Turn To Morning-After Pill

The Plan B pill, one version of the morning-after pill, is available without a prescription, except for women 17 and younger.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 11:56 am

The number of women who have used emergency contraceptive pills has increased dramatically in the past decade, according to the latest government data.

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Health
2:50 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Fear Of Cantaloupes and Crumpets? A 'Phobia' Rises From The Web

Seeds of fear? To most of us, cantaloupe and horn melon look like a healthy breakfast or snack. But the clusters of seeds can evoke anxiety, nervousness and even nausea for some trypophobes.
Daniel M. N. Turner NPR

Originally published on Sat February 16, 2013 1:40 pm

Four years ago, my husband revealed one of his more peculiar qualities: He's freaked out by the sight of sliced cantaloupe.

The melon seeds, all clustered together, make his skin itch and his stomach churn. Then he gets obsessed and can't stop talking about it.

A bit concerned by his behavior, I started researching it on the Web. Boy, was I in for a treat. My husband was not alone.

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Health
1:54 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

SARS-Like Virus Spreads From One Person To Another

Virologists discovered the new coronavirus after it killed a Saudi Arabian man last summer.
Elizabeth R. Fischer Rocky Mountain Labs/NIAID/NIH

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 5:19 pm

A mysterious illness with a striking resemblance to the one caused by the SARS virus emerged in the Middle East last year.

But the new virus behind the latest cases didn't seem to be contagious – until now.

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Health
11:34 am
Wed February 13, 2013

World's Most Popular Painkiller Raises Heart Attack Risk

The painkiller diclofenac is sold under several brand names in the U.S. and abroad, including Voltaren.
Wikimedia Commons

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 9:35 am

The painkiller diclofenac isn't very popular in the U.S., but it's by far the most widely used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, in the world.

A slew of studies, though, show diclofenac — sold under the brand names Voltaren, Cambia, Cataflam and Zipsor — is just as likely to cause a heart attack as the discredited painkiller Vioxx (rofecoxib), which was pulled from the U.S. market in 2004.

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Health
4:31 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Folic Acid For Pregnant Mothers Cuts Kids' Autism Risk

Despite public health campaigns urging women in the U.S. to take folic acid, many are still not taking the supplements when they become pregnant.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 1:19 pm

A common vitamin supplement appears to dramatically reduce a woman's risk of having a child with autism.

A study of more than 85,000 women in Norway found that those who started taking folic acid before getting pregnant were about 40 percent less likely to have a child who developed the disorder, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Health
3:38 am
Mon February 11, 2013

How Parents Can Learn To Tame A Testy Teenager

Brad McDonald and his 14-year-old daughter, Madalyn, are working to understand each other during her teenage years.
Courtesy of Brad McDonald

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 11:41 am

If you're the parent of a teenager, this may sound familiar: "Leave me alone! Get out of my face!" Maybe you've had a door slammed on you. And maybe you feel like all of your interactions are arguments.

Kim Abraham, a therapist in private practice in Michigan, specializes in helping teens and parents cope with anger. She also contributes regularly to the online newsletter Empowering Parents. Abraham says, for starters, don't take it personally.

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Health
3:33 am
Mon February 11, 2013

Why Even Radiologists Can Miss A Gorilla Hiding In Plain Sight

Notice anything unusual about this lung scan? Harvard researchers found that 83 percent of radiologists didn't notice the gorilla in the top right portion of this image.
Trafton Drew and Jeremy Wolfe

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 9:37 am

This story begins with a group of people who are expert at looking: the professional searchers known as radiologists.

"If you watch radiologists do what they do, [you're] absolutely convinced that they are like superhuman," says Trafton Drew, an attention researcher at Harvard Medical School.

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Health
2:29 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Botulism From 'Pruno' Hits Arizona Prison

If you must make pruno, avoid potatoes.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 5:10 pm

Well, it has happened again. Twice.

Inmates at a maximum security prison in Arizona were stricken with botulism after consuming homemade hooch that's called "pruno" inside the big house.

Eight inmates wound up in the hospital in November after drinking the stuff. In August, four prisoners at the same facility were hospitalized.

The symptoms of botulism include blurred vision, dry mouth and difficulty swallowing and breathing.

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Health
10:06 am
Thu February 7, 2013

Despite Rocky Economy, Money For Global Health Remains Solid

After going through a huge growth spurt, money for global health has plateaued recently. The U.S. government remains the biggest donor, but private charities like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have boosted donations.
Courtesy of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

Given the world's economic troubles, you'd probably expect money to fight HIV and other illnesses around the world to have plummeted in the past few years.

But foreign aid for global health held steady in 2011 and 2012, hovering right around $28 billion a year, a report published Wednesday finds.

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Health
3:31 am
Mon February 4, 2013

Shortage Of Brain Tissue Hinders Autism Research

Jonathan Mitchell is autistic and wants to donate his brain to science when he dies.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Tue February 5, 2013 8:39 am

Research on autism is being hobbled by a shortage of brain tissue.

The brain tissue comes from people with autism who have died, and it has allowed researchers to make key discoveries about how the disorder affects brain development.

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Health
5:45 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

Carrot Juice Instead of Coke? USDA Proposes New School Snack Rules

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's proposed new rules for school snacks promote healthier options, like the fruits and vegetables served in this Palo Alto, Calif., cafeteria.
Paul Sakuma AP

Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 10:24 am

The Department of Agriculture has proposed a new "Smart Snacks in School" rule that aims to promote more healthful options in school vending machines, snack bars and cafeterias across the country.

The USDA's updated regulations, which are open to public comment for 60 days, will set nutrition standards and calorie limits for snack foods that are sold in schools.

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Health
9:05 am
Fri February 1, 2013

Lesson Learned: A Curb On Drugmakers' Gifts To Medical Students

A package of microwave popcorn promoting Johnson & Johnson's antipsychotic drug Invega back in 2008 would have been a no-no at many medical schools.
Nurse Ratched's Place

Originally published on Mon February 4, 2013 7:57 am

It used to be common for drugmakers to ply medical students with meals and gifts as a way to curry favor with America's next generation of doctors.

But times are changing.

To curb the influence of drug companies, most U.S. medical schools have now instituted policies that restrict or ban gifts altogether. The policies appear to have a lasting effect.

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Health
12:43 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

Should Medicare Pay For Alzheimer's Scans?

The loss of contrast between gray and white matter in this brain scan indicates a high uptake of Amyvid and the presence of amyloid plaques.
Eli Lilly & Co. and Avid Radiopharmaceuticals

Originally published on Fri February 1, 2013 4:18 pm

Though increasingly common, Alzheimer's disease still isn't all that easy to diagnose, especially in its early stages.

Forgetfulness and other signs of dementia can be caused by lots of things other than Alzheimer's. Sometimes the symptoms are fleeting or normal in the context of a person's age. But at other times these symptoms mark the dark path of Alzheimer's.

Doctors' standard approach to diagnosis includes taking a medical history of the patient, assessing mental function and administering various neurological and lab tests.

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