Living Healthy

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Look Out for Nasty Flu Season, CDC Says

(Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

(Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

By Rob Stein, NPR

We may be in for a nasty flu season. That’s the warning out today from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC is worried because the most common strain of flu virus circulating in the United States is one called H3N2. In previous years, H3N2 strains have tended to send more people to the hospital than other strains — and cause more deaths, especially among the elderly, children and people with other health problems.

Another concern is that more than half of the H3N2 viruses tested so far this year have “drifted,” meaning they have mutated slightly from the strain used to make this year’s flu vaccine. Continue reading

How Obesity Spills Over Into Our Sex Lives

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Irene Noguchi

Journalist Sarah Varney’s book might make you think twice the next time you step on a scale.

Over two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and that extra weight increases the risk of all kinds of physical health problems.

But Varney looked at an under-reported area — how being significantly overweight contributes to sexual problems, both emotional and physical — in her new book “XL Love: How the Obesity Crisis is Complicating America’s Love Life.”

For starters being overweight or obese leads to riskier sexual behavior for girls and women and erectile dysfunction for men, she described recently on KQED’s Forum. Continue reading

Scientists Show Dogs Really Do Understand What We Say

(emdot/Flickr)

(emdot/Flickr)

By Michaeleen Doucleff, NPR

Scientists — and anyone who lives with a canine — know that dogs pay close attention to the emotion in our voices. They listen for whether our tone is friendly or mean, how the pitch goes up or down and even the rhythms in our speech.

But what about the meaning of the words we say?

Sure, a few studies have reported on super smart dogs that know hundreds of words. And Chaser, a border collie in South Carolina, even learned 1,022 nouns and commands to go with them.

But otherwise, there’s little evidence that dogs differentiate between speech with meaningful words from sounds that contain only inflections, says neurobiologist Attila Andics, at the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Budapest. Continue reading

Statewide Program Delights Schoolkids with California-Grown Produce

(David Gorn/KQED)

California-grown persimmons and pears on the lunch line in Elk Grove. (David Gorn/KQED)

By David Gorn

At Elk Grove Elementary School, just outside Sacramento, it’s lunchtime and kids are doing what kids do when they’re let loose from the classroom: running around, laughing and generally having fun.

Tying farm to school so children understand the connection.

But this day at Elk Grove has a little extra charge to it. It’s “California Thursday,” a program that brings locally-grown food into school lunch rooms. And more.

Out on the playground, there’s a lottery wheel going. Someone is running around in a carrot suit. Volunteer Katie O’Malley, a student from UC Davis, mans the almond-butter booth: whole almonds go in the top and come out below in a thick paste — sending 9-year-olds into fits of giggles.

And that’s the point, O’Malley said, making food fun. Continue reading

FDA to Announce Rules on Calorie Counts for Restaurant Menus

A menu board in New York City, the first city to require calories on chain restaurant menus. (Kevin Harber/Flickr)

A menu board in New York City, the first city to require calories on chain restaurant menus. (Kevin Harber/Flickr)

Washington (AP) — Counting your calories will become easier under new government rules requiring chain restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores — and even movie theaters, amusement parks and vending machines — to post the calorie content of food “clearly and conspicuously” on their menus.

The Food and Drug Administration plans to announce the long-delayed rules on Tuesday. The regulations will apply to businesses with 20 or more locations and they will be given until November 2015 to comply.

The idea is that people may pass on that bacon double cheeseburger at a chain restaurant, hot dog at a gas station or large popcorn at the movie theater if they know that it has hundreds of calories. Beverages are included, and alcohol will be labeled if drinks are listed on the menu. Continue reading

Older Californians’ Outlook for Long Term Care

old and young handsThe way the medical system talks about aging often gets it all wrong.

That’s what Bruce Chernof, a geriatric physician and head of The Scan Foundation in Los Angeles, wants you to know.

“People define themselves by the function they retain, not the function they’ve lost,” he says.

That means there’s a huge disjoint between the words older Americans use most frequently to describe the kind of care they want in later life (words like “choice,” “independence,” “dignity”) and the most common words doctors rely on (“palliative care,” “geriatrics,” “advanced directive,” “donut hole”). Continue reading

Cooking Class Shows Ex-Cons How to Shop and Cook on a Budget

Staff from Transitions Housing Clinic, a health center for former inmates, gathered in San Francisco to learn to cook on a budget with Chef Hollie Greene. (Jeremy Raff/KQED)

Staff from the Transitions Clinic, a nationwide network of health clinics for former inmates, gathered in San Francisco to learn to cook on a budget. (Jeremy Raff/KQED)

The chef has thrown down the challenge. There are five teams, ten people each, that must make their own version of veggie chili. Juanita Alvarado stirs the secret ingredient into the pot for Team 1. They call themselves the SuperHots.

“Let’s let that caramelize,” she says, tapping the wooden spoon on the edge of the saucepan.

This simmering pot of fresh black beans, zucchini, and carrots is a far cry from what Alvarado ate when she was in prison. Late nights in the bunks, inmates would pool their goods from the commissary to make a prison concoction called The Spread.

“It’s a ramen noodle. It consists of pickle juice, tuna, Velveeta cheese. Sausages, hot chips, some hot sauce, pork rinds, mayonnaise,” she says.

Then they mixed it all together and cooked it – sort of. Continue reading

How Likely Are You to Have Heart Surgery? A C-Section? Depends Where You Live

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

“Location, location, location” may be a well-known maxim in real estate, but it applies in health care, too. Where you live matters in terms of what treatment you will receive for a given condition.

A new statewide survey published Tuesday found significant variation in the rate of 13 common elective procedures for several health conditions — including heart disease, childbirth and arthritis of the hip or knee. Treatments for these conditions are considered “elective” because deciding which treatment is best (or deciding on no treatment at all) can depend on someone’s preference.

It would be ideal if the patient was fully informed of all treatment options and made a decision based on his or her own preferences. But often it’s the doctor’s preferences that drive the decision. Continue reading

San Diego Group Has Fun ‘Impact’ on Young Adults with Mental Illness

Ellen Frudakis (left) and Johanna Baker co-founded Impact Young Adults ten years ago. (Kenny Goldberg/KPBS)

Ellen Frudakis (left) and Johanna Baker co-founded Impact Young Adults 10 years ago. (Kenny Goldberg/KPBS)

By Kenny Goldberg, KPBS

The National Institute of Mental Health says about one in five young adults has a diagnosable mental illness.

It’s not uncommon for young people with mental health issues to withdraw from others and to isolate themselves. That can make their situation worse.

A group in San Diego has made it their mission to encourage young adults with mental illness to get out of their shell, make friends and have a good time.

The group is operated by young people. Continue reading

UCSF Initiative Links ‘Sugar Science’ to Your Health

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

These days, sugar is pretty close to everywhere in the American diet. You probably know that too much sugar is probably not great for your health.

Now, a new initiative from UC San Francisco is spelling out the health dangers in clear terms. The  project is called “sugar science,” and science there is.

A team of researchers distilled 8,000 studies and research papers, and found strong evidence showing overconsumption of added sugar overloads vital organs and contributes to three major chronic illnesses: heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and liver disease. Continue reading