NPR Health

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

For college freshmen who left home for the first time this year, learning to live with a roommate may be one of the easy challenges. For many, this is also the first time they will schedule medical appointments, fill prescriptions, and make decisions about their own health care. Unfortunately, many students aren't prepared to meet these basic life challenges. But with a little planning and parental guidance, college can be an opportunity for young adults to learn how to stay healthy and figure out how to get the right care when they are ill.

Paul Melquist of St. Paul, Minn., has a message for the people who wrote the Affordable Care Act: "Quit wrecking my health care."

Teri Goodrich of Raleigh, N.C., agrees. "We're getting slammed. We didn't budget for this," she says.

Millions of people have gained health insurance because of the federal health law. Millions more have seen their existing coverage improved.

There is one small field on Michael Sullivan's farm, near the town of Burdette, Ark., that he wishes he could hide from public view.

The field is a disaster. There are soybeans in there, but you could easily overlook them. The field has been overrun by monsters: ferocious-looking plants called pigweeds, as tall as people and bursting with seeds that will come back to haunt any crops that Sullivan tries to grow here for years to come.

"I'm embarrassed to say that we farm that field," Sullivan says. "We sprayed it numerous times, and it didn't kill it."

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Sharelle Klaus says she has always been a foodie.

So she was gutted when she had to pass up an opportunity to dine at The French Laundry, the famous Napa Valley restaurant with three Michelin stars. She was pregnant at the time — and not drinking.

"What would be the point?" she says she remembers thinking.

She didn't want to travel all the way from Seattle — and be stuck drinking water while her dining companions enjoyed an array of Napa wines, carefully chosen to complement and complete each dish.

Which Items In Our Kitchens Contain BPA?

Oct 6, 2017

It's not exactly a secret that many plastic products have an additive called "bisphenol A," or "BPA," for short. NPR has covered the chemical substance many times, including here, here, and here.

Last weekend's massacre in Las Vegas is only the latest reminder of the persistent gun violence in the United States. And a new set of statistics on the rates of gun violence unrelated to conflict underscores just how outsize U.S. rates of gun deaths are compared with those in much of the rest of the world.

Neanderthals died out some 30,000 years ago, but their genes live on within many of us.

About 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. That is a staggering figure.

Where can people expect to live the longest?

The answer to that question is usually pretty predictable and often dependent on wealth: People generally live longer in richer countries. Like Japan and Switzerland, where average life expectancies exceed 83 years.

In lower income countries, expected years of life are often far shorter — hovering below 55 in a number of sub-Saharan countries, including Chad, Mozambique and Sierra Leone.

Every day across Puerto Rico, with its shattered power grid, hospitals are waging a life-and-death battle to keep their patients from getting sicker in the tropical heat. Now two weeks after the storm, about three-quarters of Puerto Rico's hospitals remain on emergency power. This creates dangerous conditions for critically ill patients.

There's about 10 feet between Judge Craig Hannah's courtroom bench and the place where a defendant stands to be arraigned here in Buffalo City Court.

But for 26-year-old Caitlyn Stein, it has been a long, arduous 10 feet.

"This is your first day back! Good to see you!" Judge Hannah says as he greets her.

"Good to see you," Stein says, smiling.

"We've got to do that after picture. We did the before," Judge Hannah reminds her.

The Living Wounded

Oct 4, 2017

In the days to come, the victims whose lives were taken in the Las Vegas shooting massacre will be honored and remembered. But many who survived the tragedy with serious injuries are just coming to terms with difficult days ahead.

Kerri De Nies received the news this spring from her son's pediatrician: Her chubby-cheeked toddler has a rare brain disorder.

She'd never heard of the disease — adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD — but soon felt devastated and overwhelmed.

"I probably read everything you could possibly read online — every single website," De Nies says as she cradles her son, Gregory Mac Phee. "It's definitely hard to think about what could potentially happen. You think about the worst-case scenario."

Dr. Christopher Fisher was working at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center just off the Las Vegas strip on Sunday evening when the patients starting arriving.

"It did look a bit like a war zone, can't say that it didn't," he remembers. "Frantic families, blood in the hallways."

People came in so grievously injured and so many at a time that Fisher, who is the medical head of trauma services for the hospital, and his colleagues used markers, writing directly on patients, to do triage.

This past weekend, basketball players from island nations across the Indian Ocean converged in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, to face off in the regional championships. But no one was to cheer on the teams. The bleachers were empty — because of the plague.

Valerie Green is still waiting to be cured.

The Delaware resident was diagnosed with hepatitis C more than two years ago, but she doesn't qualify yet for the Medicaid program's criteria for treatment with a new class of highly effective but pricey drugs.

The recent approval of a less expensive drug that generally cures hepatitis C in just eight weeks may make it easier for more insurers and correctional facilities to expand treatment.

Fresh evidence that the body's immune system interacts directly with the brain could lead to a new understanding of diseases from multiple sclerosis to Alzheimer's.

A study of human and monkey brains found lymphatic vessels — a key part of the body's immune system — in a membrane that surrounds the brain and nervous system, a team reported Tuesday in the online journal eLife.

Of the 56 million annual abortions performed around the world, nearly half, or 25 million, posed some threat to the health or life of the woman. The vast majority of unsafe abortions – 97 percent — were performed in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

There's a clinic that's right in Kelsey's town of Sioux Falls, S.D., that performs abortions, but she still drove hours away to get one.

Back in 2015, she was going through a difficult time — recently laid off, had to move suddenly, helping a close family member through some personal struggles — when she found out she was also pregnant.

"I kind of knew right away that this was just not the time or place to have a child. I mentally wasn't ready, financially wasn't ready," she says. "The whole situation really wasn't very good."

Dr. Graham Chelius has delivered hundreds of babies. But when a woman comes into his family medicine practice in Waimea, Hawaii, seeking an abortion, he can only advise her to buy a plane ticket.

"There are no abortion providers on our island," Chelius said, "so if one of my patients wants to end her pregnancy, she has to fly to a different island 150 miles away to get this care."

Most people have had some exposure to mercury. Fish is one source. So are mercury vapors from workplaces and factories. That's what the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say.

At very low levels, the mercury isn't likely a problem (although it's hard to say exactly how low is "safe.")

Across the United States, more than one out of every 10 people is "food insecure," which means they don't know where their next meal is coming from. In Trinity County, a sparsely populated area in northwestern California, that number is closer to one in five.

Jeff England, director of the Trinity County Food Bank, is trying to change that.

The sun has barely come up in the tiny town of Douglas City, Calif. England and two other men are almost done packing a couple of trucks with food.

Congress finally seems ready to take action on the Children's Health Insurance Program after funding lapsed Sept. 30.

Before the deadline, lawmakers were busy grappling with the failed repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

CHIP covers 9 million children nationwide. But until Congress renews CHIP, states are cut off from additional federal funding that helps lower- and middle-income families.

Research that helped discover the clocks running in every cell in our bodies earned three scientists a Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday.

Teens and children struggling with anxiety are often prescribed medication or therapy to treat their symptoms. For many, either drugs or therapy is enough, but some young people can't find respite from anxious thoughts. For them, a study suggests that using both treatments at once can help.

Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young are the joint winners of the 2017 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, winning for their discoveries about how internal clocks and biological rhythms govern human life.

The three Americans won "for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm," the Nobel Foundation says.

For most people, buying a "fragrance-free" or "hypoallergenic" moisturizer that turns out to be neither might be frustrating, but not harmful. But for people with sensitive skin or conditions like eczema or psoriasis, it can be a big problem.

"I will start to itch and I have to get it off my body right away," says 62-year-old Kathryn Walter, who lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Walter has a severe case of eczema and chooses moisturizers that claim to be free of fragrance and allergy-causing additives. But more often than not, Walter ends up with a product that clearly isn't.

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