Why You Should Rethink That Daily Dose of Aspirin

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Maanvi Singh, NPR

We’ve all heard that an aspirin a day can keep heart disease at bay. But lots of Americans seem to be taking it as a preventive measure, when many probably shouldn’t.

The chance that aspirin will prevent a first heart attack is about equal to the chance that it will cause harmful side effects   

In a recent national survey, more than half the adults who were middle age or older reported taking an aspirin regularly to prevent a heart attack or stroke. The Food and Drug Administration only recommends the drug for people who’ve already experienced such an event, or who are at extremely high risk.

The survey, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that 52 percent of people age 45 to 75 are taking aspirin daily or every other day. And 47 percent are taking it even though they have never had a heart attack or stroke. Continue reading

In The Entrepreneurial World, Mental Health Problems Can Have Positive Effect, Says Researcher

Dr. Michael Freeman, clinical professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco, whose study suggests a link between mental health conditions and entrepreneurs.  (Beth Willon/KQED)

Dr. Michael Freeman, clinical professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco, whose study suggests a link between mental health conditions and entrepreneurs. (Beth Willon/KQED)

By Beth Willon

The suicides of some techies and hackers inspired two Bay area researchers to try and find out if there’s a link between mental health conditions and entrepreneurs.

Surprisingly, their first-of-a-kind study showed that the positive traits associated with certain mental health conditions may contribute to entrepreneurial success. Still, they acknowledge there are many unanswered questions.

“Those people in the bipolar spectrum can be visionary, innovative, charismatic people that have unlimited energy and inspire the confidence of investors and customers and staff,” said Michael Freeman, a clinical professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco. Continue reading

When Depression And Cultural Expectations Collide: One Teenager’s Story

Wynne Lee and her mother, Maggie Huang. plan their day over tea on Feb. 6, 2015. The mother and daughter rekindled their relationship after Lee started therapy to deal with her depression. (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

Wynne Lee and her mother, Maggie Huang. plan their day over tea on Feb. 6, 2015. The mother and daughter rekindled their relationship after Lee started therapy to deal with her depression. (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN).

by Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

“My time is coming. It’s already time for me to die. I can’t wait. … So yeah I plan to kill myself during spring break, which by the way, starts in two days.”

Wynne Lee wrote that in a March 29, 2012 journal post.Her mind was at war with itself – one voice telling her to kill herself and another telling her to live. She had just turned 14.

She tried to push the thoughts away by playing video games and listening to music. Nothing worked. Then she started cutting herself. She’d pull out a razor, make a small incision on her ankle or forearm and watch the blood seep out. “Cutting was a sharp, instant relief,” she said.

Some days, that wasn’t enough. That’s when she’d think about suicide. She wrote her feelings in a journal in big loopy letters.

At first, Wynne thought she felt sad because she was having a hard 8th grade year. She and her boyfriend broke up. Girls were spreading rumors about her. A few childhood friends abandoned her. But months passed and the feelings of helplessness and loneliness wouldn’t go away.

“I was really happy as a kid and now I was feeling like this,” she said. “It was really unfamiliar and scary.”

Continue reading

Californians With Mental Health Issues Report Discrimination, Stigma

A new study by the RAND Corporation finds that nearly 9 in 10 Californians who reported having a mental health problem in the past 12 months said they had experienced discrimination because of it.

mental health in letterpress typeMost often, respondents reported discrimination in intimate social relationships. But more than 40 percent also reported “high levels of discrimination at school, in the workplace, and from health care providers and law enforcement officials,” the study said,

The study is based on responses to the 2014 California Well-Being Survey. Researchers surveyed 1,066 people who had previously reported mild to serious psychological distress.

Other findings:

  • 81 percent of respondents who had previously suffered a mild to moderate or serious level of psychological distress said the public discriminates against mental illness.
  • Just 41 percent said that people are “caring and sympathetic” to people with mental illness.
  • More than two in three said they would definitely or probably hide a mental health problem from coworkers or classmates.
  • More than one in three said they would hide a problem from family or friends

Continue reading

California Vaccine Bill Approved in Key Hearing

(Craig Miller/KQED)

(Craig Miller/KQED)

A controversial bill that would require vaccination for nearly all California children to attend school — both public and private — cleared the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.

The bill “has a long way to go.”

The committee voted 7-2 on the bill, co-authored by Sens. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica). Both Democrats and Republicans supported the bill.

“It’s a strong sign that people want to be sure that we protect our kids, protect our schools and protect our communities from these preventable diseases,” Pan said of Wednesday’s vote. Continue reading

Ethnic Differences Thwart End-of-Life Conversations

There is a 45% increased risk of death in people who are lonely compared to not lonely, according to a UCSF study.

A new poll shows nearly one in five Hispanics has not discussed the kind of care they want as they get older. (Photo: Getty Images)

Virtually all doctors have difficulty talking to their patients about death, and those conversations are even harder when the patient’s ethnicity is different from the doctor’s, according to a study published Wednesday in the online journal Plos One.

Dr. VJ Periyakoil, author of the study, outlines a typical scenario that’s troubling to doctors. She describes a 65-year-old patient, an Asian woman who is smart and thinking clearly. But whenever the doctor asks her a question, it’s always the patient’s son who answers.

“As a doctor I would really struggle with what to do in a situation like that,” Periyakoil says, “where the patient has no voice, if you will.” Continue reading

Death in Secret: California’s Underground World of Assisted Suicide

When J.D. Arnold was dying of stomach cancer in 2011, his wife says doctors would only talk about death in euphemisms. (Photo: Hope Arnold)

When J.D. Falk was dying of stomach cancer in 2011, his wife says doctors would only talk about death in euphemisms. (Photo: Hope Arnold)

Physician-assisted suicide is illegal in California. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Sick patients sometimes ask for help in hastening their deaths, and some doctors will explain, vaguely, how to do it.

“I remember standing there with syringes in my hand. Just standing there, with my hands shaking, and I was all alone.”

This leads to bizarre, veiled conversations between medical professionals who want to help, but also want to avoid prosecution, and overwhelmed family members who are left to interpret euphemisms at one of the most confusing times of their lives.

That’s what still frustrates Hope Arnold. She says throughout the 10 months her husband J.D. Falk was being treated for stomach cancer in 2011, no one would talk straight with them.

“All the nurses, all the doctors,” says Hope, “everybody we ever interacted with, no one said, ‘You’re dying.’ ” Continue reading

Mammogram in Your 40s Still a Personal Decision, Task Force Says

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Katherine Hobson, NPR 

In 2009, I was among the scrum of reporters covering the controversial advice from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that women in their 40s think twice about regular mammograms. The task force pointed out that the net benefits in younger women were small and said women should weigh the pros and cons of screening before making a decision.

The suggested changes to the updated mammography guidelines are small ones.

Those guidelines kicked off a heated debate about the benefits and harms of mammography that is rekindled with every new study.

I wasn’t yet 40 back then, but what I learned about mammograms stuck with me: I haven’t yet had the test. I took to heart the warnings of the task force and of many other physicians that mammography has minuses as well as pluses. I wasn’t so worried about a false positive result. But I was very concerned about overdiagnosis, or being diagnosed with and treated for a cancer that would never have caused me any harm.

Continue reading

Forget Public Health: The Politics of the California Vaccination Debate

(Craig Miller/KQED)

(Craig Miller/KQED)

Over on the KQED News Politics and Government Desk, John Myers hosts a terrific podcast on California politics. The most recent edition (published last Friday) took a hard look at the political debate in California over SB 277, a bill that would eliminate the state’s vaccine personal belief exemption.

Myers, KQED News’ Marisa Lagos and Anthony York of the Grizzly Bear talk about it starting at 11:20, and their discussion runs about 10 minutes:

We’ve written often (perhaps exhaustively) on State of Health about vaccines, but usually it’s been from a medical perspective or a public health perspective. But the debate around SB 277 has illuminated the politics around trying to change policy when a very loud, very vocal minority swamps the Capitol. Continue reading

San Pablo’s Doctors Medical Center to Close Tuesday

The emergency room at San Pablo's Doctors Medical Center will close permanently Tuesday at 7a.m., ending all patient care at the hospital. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

The emergency room at San Pablo’s Doctors Medical Center will close permanently Tuesday at 7 a.m., ending all patient care at the hospital. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

By Sara Hossaini

As Doctors Medical Center wellness director Tracy Taylor walks down the hospital’s long white halls, the first thing she mentions is just how strange it feels.

“It is very quiet, it feels very eerie and very different,” says Taylor.

DMC reluctantly closes its doors Tuesday after failing to find a solution to its financial woes.

The hospital began shutting things down — department by department — over the past couple of weeks after leaders said they had run out of viable options for bridging a stubborn $18-20 million annual deficit — something they blame on low Medi-Cal and Medicare reimbursement rates.
Continue reading