Listen

Health

Health

Most hospitals around the country aren't doing a good job of helping new moms who want to breast-feed, researchers report Tuesday in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Several common practices at the institutions may actually prevent moms from sticking with breast-feeding for six months — the duration thought to be most healthful for babies.

Correctional facilities have to provide health services to people who are incarcerated, but that doesn't mean the care is free of charge. In most states, inmates may be on the hook for copayments ranging from a few dollars to as much as $100 for medical care, a recent study finds.

Say you're a Midwestern farmer in a hospital bed, recovering from surgery or a major illness. It's time for the nurse's check-in, but there's no knock on the door.

At Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, a camera attached to the wall over the foot of the bed whirls around, as a video monitor next to the camera lights up to show a smiling face with a headset on.

"Good afternoon, this is Jeff with SafeWatch," the smiling face says. "Just doing my afternoon rounds."

As a doctor who provides medical care to Boston's homeless population, James O'Connell and his colleagues are used to working in unusual locations. "We are basically visiting them in their homes, which are often under bridges, down back alleyways [and] on park benches," O'Connell tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "It's been an education for us over these years."

Before they were removed following an outcry over privacy, backscatter X-ray security scanners at airports also raised worries among some travelers and scientists about exposure to potentially harmful radiation.

Angelina Diaz-Ramirez had no idea a surgeon was about to cut open her chest. The 50-year-old had been rushed to the hospital from the California field where she worked picking green beans. Doctors said she had a heart attack and that they would do surgery to install a pacemaker.

But Diaz-Ramirez, an immigrant from Mexico, doesn't speak Spanish or English. She speaks Triqui, an indigenous language. And the hospital had no one who could translate the doctors' words for her.

"None explained anything to me," said Diaz-Ramirez. "I was scared, but I didn't have a choice."

A mind-altering drug called ketamine is changing the way some doctors treat depression.

Encouraged by research showing that ketamine can relieve even the worst depression in a matter of hours, these doctors are giving the drug to some of their toughest patients. And they're doing this even though ketamine lacks approval from the Food and Drug Administration for treating depression.

If you follow health news, by now you may have heard about a federally funded study that was stopped early because of impressive evidence that aggressively lowering blood pressure saves lives.

Children of anxious parents are more at risk of developing an anxiety disorder. But there's welcome news for those anxious parents: that trajectory toward anxiety isn't set in stone.

Therapy and a change in parenting styles might be able to prevent kids from developing anxiety disorders, according to research published in The American Journal of Psychiatry Friday.

The Food and Drug Administration should gather more information to try to get a better sense of the safety of the Essure sterilization device, a panel of experts assembled by the agency recommended Thursday.

"To be honest, we don't know what we don't know," said Dr. Cheryl B. Iglesia of the MedStar Washington Hospital Center, who chaired the FDA's Obstetrics and Gynecology Devices Panel, summarizing frustration expressed by several members.

We know who we are: women of a "certain age" trying to hold back the assault of menopausal symptoms, and we are often desperate. Some of us remain on hormone replacement therapy. But many of us are unable to use hormones for medical reasons or by choice. As a result, droves of us turn to all sorts of treatments, everything from acupuncture to yoga to antidepressants to herbs. And surveys show most women are completely befuddled as to whether any of these treatments actually work.

As a surgeon who specializes in the care and treatment of patients with breast cancer, Elisa Port says one of the hardest parts of her job is delivering bad news to patients.

"I wish I could say it got easier as it goes along, but it certainly doesn't. ... It affects me every single time," Port tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

Remember Pig-Pen? The little kid from Charles Schulz's Peanuts cartoons who walked around in a cloud of dirt? Well, the human body does spew a cloud, but instead of dirt it contains millions of microorganisms.

"It turns out that that kid is all of us," says James Meadow, a microbial ecologist who led research about the microbes shadowing us during postdoctoral work at the University of Oregon. "It's just a microscopic cloud that's really hard to see."

When Portland resident Doris Keene raised her four children, she walked everywhere and stayed active. But when she turned 59, she says, everything fell apart.

"My leg started bothering me. First it was my knees." She ignored the pain, and thinks now it was her sciatic nerve acting up, all along. "I just tried to deal with it," Keene says.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

After their third son was born, Tisha Scott and her husband decided they were done having kids. So Scott, 34, of Drakesville, Iowa, decided to get her tubes tied.

"As old married people, neither of us was really interested in using condoms for the rest of our life," Scott says. "So that was the decision that we made because we knew that our family was complete."

After the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., advocates for children in the state put a renewed focus on special education and children who need help.

One challenge? Getting parents and school districts to agree on what to do.

At a house in West Hartford, a young man and his grandfather are watching movies. First, it's The Love Bug. Now, it's Aliens.

"There's a lot of action scenes in it," says the young man. He's still a teenager, actually, a big 19-year-old who loves comic books and martial arts.

In this installment of NPR's series Inside Alzheimer's, we hear from Greg O'Brien about his decision to forgo treatment for another life-threatening illness. A longtime journalist in Cape Cod, Mass., O'Brien was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease in 2009.

Millions of Americans take baby aspirin every day to prevent a heart attack or stroke. If they are at high risk of heart disease, they're doing the right thing, according to draft recommendations issued Monday by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

There have been suggestions that low levels of vitamin D might be a factor in cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease, but there's no proof that the lack of D is actually causing the problems.

A study published Monday doesn't prove that link, but it does find that people with low levels of vitamin D lost key thinking skills more quickly than people with enough.

Are you not getting enough sleep, or are you getting too much? If your answer to either of these questions is "yes," you may be at risk of heart disease.

Cutting blood pressure below the currently recommended target can significantly reduce the rate of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and deaths, federal health officials reported Friday.

The findings come from the largest study ever conducted to examine whether reducing systolic blood pressure — the top number patients get when examined — below the currently recommended goal would be beneficial.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The treatment is called Fav-Afrique. It's the only anti-venom approved to neutralize the bites of 10 deadly African snakes, like spitting cobras, carpet vipers and black mambas. And the world's stockpiles of it are dwindling, Doctors Without Borders said Tuesday. The last batch expires next June.

As a medical student, Damon Tweedy noticed that many of the diseases he learned about in class were more prevalent among black people than white people, and that the black patients often fared worse than their white counterparts.

Tweedy, now a psychiatrist and the author of the memoir Black Man in a White Coat, theorizes that those differences spring from the fact that many black patients feel shut out and distrustful of a health care system that has a history of mistreating them.

It may be possible to transmit Alzheimer's disease from one person to another, according to a study published Wednesday in Nature. But this would occur only in highly unusual circumstances involving direct exposure to brain tissue, scientists say.

Why did hospitals binge-buy doctor practices in recent years?

To improve the coordination of care, lower costs and upgrade patient experiences, say hospitals. To raise costs, gain pricing power and steer patient referrals, say skeptics.

Researchers at Stanford University tested those opposing arguments by comparing referral patterns between independent doctors and those working for hospitals.

These are the tiniest babies born. Some weigh only a pound or two. And can fit in the palm of your hand.

Extreme preemies — born somewhere between 22 and 28 weeks — have a better chance of surviving now than they did 20 years ago, doctors report Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association. But many of these babies still have severe health problems.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

If you look at entrepreneurs around the world, there is an inescapable fact. They are overwhelmingly men, and researchers have been trying to figure out why. Our colleague, Steve Inskeep, spoke with NPR social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam.

On the way to his son's baseball game on Long Island, sports writer J.R. Gamble tells me that his son, J.C., is quite a ball player.

"I have a lot of clips and highlights that I show people of him doing amazing things — jumping over catches, hitting balls right-handed, hitting balls left-handed," Gamble says.

Part of the reason his son is so good at baseball, Gamble explains, is that he started at an early age — a very early age.

Pages