NPR Health

There's an irony at the heart of the treatment of high blood pressure. The malady itself often has no symptoms, yet the medicines to treat it — and to prevent a stroke or heart attack later — can make people feel crummy.

"It's not that you don't want to take it, because you know it's going to help you. But it's the getting used to it," says Sharon Fulson, a customer service representative from Nashville, Tenn., who is trying to monitor and control her hypertension.

Doctors encounter all nature of odd things in their daily lives. Sometimes the stories end up as more than coffee-room chatter. Consider a case that spills over from the clinical to the culinary: the hot pepper and the horrible headache.

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She was 8 years old and wearing a purple salwar kameez when she disappeared on Jan. 10.

A week later, on Jan. 17, her mutilated and lifeless body was found in a forest near Kathua in the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir. It was a mile away from Rasana, the village where her family was currently living.

Will people drink less sugary soda if the price goes up? A new study suggests the answer is ... yes.

Researchers at Drexel University surveyed residents of Philadelphia both before and after a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sweetened drinks took effect. They also surveyed people in three other cities that don't have a beverage tax. The researchers found Philadelphians were about 40 percent less likely to drink sweetened beverages daily after the tax went into effect, compared with people in the other cities.

Syria Systematically Harasses Medical Aid Convoys

Apr 13, 2018

Amid suspected chemical attacks and shelling, medics treating nearly any injury in a conflict zone in Syria need supplies like anesthetics, IV catheters, syringes and sterile surgical gloves.

These items are routinely included in humanitarian aid shipments. But in February, they were among the 3,810 medical treatments that Syrian authorities removed from aid convoys headed to Nashabiyah, a city in Ghouta, according to the U.N. Security Council.

You can't help but note that of the six winners of the 2018 Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship, five are women.

"I'm the odd man out," jokes Harish Hande, an awardee for his SELCO Foundation, which works to provide solar power systems at low cost to the poor in India.

Canada To Measure Marijuana Use By Testing Sewage

Apr 13, 2018

As a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana works its way through the Canadian Parliament, the government is gearing up to track cannabis consumption more closely than it has before. Statistics Canada has begun to do city-scale drug screening by monitoring what Canadians flush down the toilet.

As she leaves a 12-hour-day on the labor and delivery shift, Dr. Katie Merriam turns off her pager.

"I don't know what I'd do without it, you know? It's another limb. I always know where it is," she says, laughing.

The third-year resident in obstetrics and gynecology at the Carolinas Medical Center hospital in Charlotte, N.C., works in a medical specialty dominated by women, treating women. Merriam says she feels a special connection to her patients.

Last December, Deb Wiese bought hearing aids for her parents, one for each of them. She ordered them online from a big-box retailer and paid $719 for the pair. But her parents, in their 80s and retired from farming in central Minnesota, couldn't figure out how to adjust the volume or change the batteries. They soon set them aside.

"Technology is not only unfamiliar, but unwelcome" to her parents, Wiese says. "I don't know what the answer is for people like that."

It is so common that it likely will have happened at least once somewhere in the United States by the time you finish reading this sentence. But it took more than 230 years for it to happen to a senator in office.

On Monday, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., became the first sitting senator to give birth, challenging Senate leaders to face just how ill prepared they may be to accommodate the needs of a new mother.

When Josephine Majani came to, she was on a hard hallway floor in the Bungoma District Hospital in Bungoma, Kenya.

Majani heard nurses yelling: "I saw them carry the baby away. They screamed at me, 'Why have you delivered on the floor? Who is going to clean up all this blood? Get up. Get your things and go back to the delivery room.' I was helpless."

Majani has no memory of being slapped, she says, but when she regained consciousness her cheeks stung. She did as she was told. She struggled to her feet and followed nurses back to the room to deliver the placenta.

A big part of Washington D.C.'s plan to get its HIV rate down is to get more uninfected people on PrEP, a two-medicine combination pill that's also sold under the brand name Truvada.

An international coalition of brain researchers is suggesting a new way of looking at Alzheimer's.

Instead of defining the disease through symptoms like memory problems or fuzzy thinking, the scientists want to focus on biological changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer's. These include the plaques and tangles that build up in the brains of people with the disease.

But they say the new approach is intended only for research studies and isn't yet ready for use by most doctors who treat Alzheimer's patients.

Updated at 8 p.m. ET

The federal agency that trains, tests and certifies the physicians who read X-rays and diagnose the deadly coal miners' disease black lung said today it was not consulted by Kentucky lawmakers in the 14 months they considered a new law that mostly limits diagnoses to pulmonologists working for coal companies.

Benjamin Hynden, a financial adviser in Fort Myers, Fla., hadn't been feeling well for a few weeks last fall. He'd had pain and discomfort in his abdomen.

In October, he finally made an appointment to see his doctor about it. "It wasn't severe," he says. "It was just kind of bothersome. It just kind of annoyed me during the day."

The doctor, John Ardesia, checked him out and referred him to a nearby imaging center for a CT scan, or CAT scan as it used to be called. The radiologist didn't see anything wrong on the images, and Ardesia didn't recommend any treatment.

Transgender runners who qualify can take part in the Boston Marathon as their identified gender, according to Boston Marathon officials.

The issue has garnered attention following a profile in Canadian Running of three transgender women signed up for the race.

Comments to the article included reservation from readers that the elevated testosterone levels would potentially bump other women from the race, who would otherwise have qualified.

Our tummies are teeming with trillions of bacteria — tiny microbes that help with little things, like digesting food, and big things, like warding off disease.

Those same microbes may have another purpose: waging war against worms.

It took several months and a team of half a dozen doctors, nurses and therapists to help Kim Brown taper off the opioid painkillers she'd been on for two years.

Brown, 57, had been taking the pills since a back injury in 2010. It wasn't until she met Dr. Dennis McManus, a neurologist who specializes in managing pain without drugs, that she learned she had some control over her pain.

"That's when life changed," she said.

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Turning Kids Into Grown-Ups.

About Aala El-Khani's TED Talk

Children in war zones experience unimaginable hardship, says Dr. Aala El-Khani. She says parents must play a major role in helping children survive — even thrive — in the wake of trauma.

About Aala El-Khani

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Turning Kids Into Grown-Ups.

About Peggy Orenstein's TED Talk

Author Peggy Orenstein warns if parents don't educate kids about sex — the media will. She says that leads to risky behavior — and keeps young women from expecting equality in sexual relationships.

About Peggy Orenstein

Our Take A Number series is exploring problems around the world through the lens of a single number.

It's about 7 p.m. on a chilly night, and Sirene Garcia is standing outside an apartment building about an hour's drive from Rochester, N.Y.

Even though Garcia has had a cold for the past few days, she has her laptop perched on the hood of her car, trying to test out the new telehealth program. Once the program kicks off, Finger Lakes Community Health's doctors and nurse practitioners will be able to see patients at their homes through video calls.

The growing momentum for tighter gun control after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., is highlighting the National Rifle Association's history of aggressively confronting challenges to what it regards as Second Amendment rights.

Federal limits on both research into gun violence and the release of data about guns used in crimes are powerful reminders of the lobbying group's advantages over gun control activists. For decades, the NRA pushed legislation that stifled the study and spread of information about the causes of gun violence.

As opioid-related deaths have continued to climb, naloxone, a drug that can reverse overdoses, has become an important part of the public health response.

When people overdosing struggle to breathe, naloxone can restore normal breathing and save their lives. But the drug has to be given quickly.

On Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued an advisory that encouraged more people to routinely carry naloxone.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided that organic food companies can keep using an emulsifier called carrageenan in foods like ice cream and high-protein drinks, despite a vote by an influential organic advisory committee to ban the ingredient.

When the newborn piglets first started getting sick in October 2016, farmers in China's Guangdong province suspected porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) — a disease they'd seen in the pigs before. And, at first, the tests did come back positive for PEDV. But then something strange happened. By January 2017, the pigs stopped testing positive for that virus — but kept getting sick.

Don't mess with other civilizations.

That's the "prime directive" in Star Trek and countless other sci-fi works. Of course, visitors to other planets get it wrong — a lot. Sometimes, they meddle in inappropriate ways and disaster ensues.

So what does this have to do with global health?

Well, here on Earth, doctors and medical students are flocking to programs where they spend a couple of weeks to months volunteering in what's called a "low-resource" country. In these places, medical expertise and technology may lag behind richer nations.

Citing salmonella concerns, the Food and Drug Administration has issued a mandatory recall for kratom products made by a Las Vegas company — and the federal agency says it's the first time it has ever taken such an action after a company ignored a federal request for a voluntary recall.

There is a paradox with living as a human nowadays.

A 2014 article from the United Nations states that about 54 percent of the human population lives in urban areas (more by now), a proportion that is projected to increase to 66 percent by 2050. By 2045, the report says, more than six billion people will crowd cities.

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