<![CDATA[NBC Boston - Health News]]>Copyright 2017https://www.nbcboston.com/news/health http://media.nbcboston.com/designimages/clear.gif NBC Boston https://www.nbcboston.comen-usSat, 16 Dec 2017 13:52:04 -0500Sat, 16 Dec 2017 13:52:04 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[How to Step Up Your Coffee Game With a Chemex]]> Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:55:01 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Coffee+D5+CHEMEX.00_00_06_13.Still002.jpg

Making delicious home-brewed coffee will be easier than you think with these quick and easy steps to make coffee using a chemex. 

<![CDATA[Step Up Your Coffee Game With an Aeropress]]> Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:39:57 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Coffee+D4.00_00_02_04.Still002.jpg

Making delicious home-brewed coffee will be easier than you think with these quick and easy steps to making a cup of coffee with an Aeropress.

<![CDATA[Survey Finds Massachusetts Is the Healthiest State in US]]> Wed, 13 Dec 2017 16:32:33 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/214*120/Boston+city+generic.jpg

A new survey has ranked Massachusetts as the the healthiest state in the United States.

New England states Vermont and Connecticut were also respectively placed in the UnitedHealth Group survey's top five at number three and five, which was rounded out by Hawaii at number two and Utah at number four.

New Hampshire ranked at number eight, while Rhode Island and Maine made number 11 and 23 on the list.

However, despite being the overall healthiest state in the country, the survey found that Massachusetts, along with its New England neighbors New Hampshire and Rhode Island, had experienced large increases in drug death rates, owing much in part to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

In New Hampshire over the past five years, there has been a 118 percent increase in drug deaths, while in Rhode Island, there has been a 56 percent increase. There has been a 69 percent increase in the Bay State, the survey found.

Mississippi ranked 50th for the least healthy state, according to the survey.

Photo Credit: necn]]>
<![CDATA[Families May Lose CHIP Children's Health Insurance]]> Tue, 12 Dec 2017 21:06:12 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Chip-anniversary.jpg

Officials in several states started warning families this week that funding for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is about to run out.

The joint state-federal health plan designed to help uninsured children from low-income households was not renewed by Congress, and, as NBC News reports, for many families that may mean an end to their children’s health coverage.

“I would say most families, their children will go without insurance,” said Linda Nablo, chief deputy director at Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services.

A resolution passed by Congress last week keeps the federal government open for business until Dec. 22 and included a patch for CHIP, but that was just to move money from states that have not yet run out of cash to states whose CHIP programs were about to go broke.

Photo Credit: Keith Srakocic/AP]]>
<![CDATA[Depression, Anxiety Crisis Deepening in America]]> Sun, 10 Dec 2017 17:49:18 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-548183493.jpg

Alex Crotty was just 11 when things started feeling wrong.

“I didn't feel unloved. I just felt numb to the world. Like, I was surrounded by great things, but just I couldn't be happy. And I didn't know why that was,” Alex, told NBC News.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports one in five American children, ages 3 through 17 — some 15 million — have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder in a given year.

Recent research indicates serious depression is worsening in teens, especially girls and the suicide rate among girls reached a 40-year high in 2015, according to a CDC report released in August.

Teens are known for their moodiness, and adolescence — a particularly turbulent time of life — is actually one of the most vulnerable periods to develop anxiety and depression. Some 50 percent of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Photo Credit: ullstein bild via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Studies Show Link Between Sleep, Students' Health]]> Fri, 08 Dec 2017 17:13:37 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/BOST_000000010991246.JPG

Studies show an important link between sleep and a student’s health, safety and learning. Pediatric Sleep Expert Dr. Judy Owens says studies show middle and high school students are chronically sleep deprived. Because of sleep cycle changes at puberty, kids get their best sleep between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.

<![CDATA[Images Reveal Woman's Eye Damage From Staring at Eclipse]]> Fri, 08 Dec 2017 13:32:49 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/solareyedamage_1200x675.jpg

A New York woman suffered from blurred vision and permanent dark spots after staring directly into the solar eclipse in August, according to a case study released Thursday. 

The woman, identified by CNN as 26-year-old Nia Payne of Staten Island, walked into the New York Ear and Eye Infirmary of Mount Sinai with symptoms of vision that was blurred, distorted and could not perceive color well. She also reported seeing a central black spot in her left eye, according to the study published in JAMA Ophthalmology.

She told doctors that she first glanced at the sun during the eclipse for 6 seconds then she borrowed a pair of what she thought were eclipse glasses and looked up at the sun for another 15 to 20 seconds. She said she viewed the eclipse with both eyes. 

Doctors monitored the woman and advised her to use certified eclipse-viewing glasses when looking at the sun. But six weeks after the eclipse, she was still seeing dark spots in her left eye. 

Upon further examination, doctors noticed that the dark spot shape in her eye resembled a partial solar eclipse. They concluded that during a partial solar eclipse, when part of the sun’s core remains visible, viewing the solar rim without eclipse-viewing glasses with special-purpose solar filters can lead to severe solar retinopathy.

Doctors also captured images of the damage.

"It's embarrassing. People will assume I was just one of those people who stared blankly at the sun or didn't check the person with the glasses," Payne told CNN. "It's something I have to live with for the rest of my life. But it could be a whole lot worse, and I try to count my blessings."

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a person whose eyes are damaged by a solar eclipse will begin feeling symptoms within a few hours of the exposure. The young woman sought medical assistance three days after the solar eclipse occurrence. Doctors diagnosed her with a rare case of acute solar retinopathy which occurs when the eye retina is severely damaged by gazing straight into the sun.

Acute solar retinopathy is caused by photochemical toxicity when light can damage the retina and underlying structures. While the eye has several ways to protect itself from such damage, certain exposures to light can still result in temporal or permanent damage, according to the NCBI.

In 1999, there were 14 recorded incidents of eyes damaged after a solar eclipse in the United Kingdom. 

According to NASA, there is a point during the eclipse where the light is the most damaging and it is best to keep eyes protected at all time during an eclipse. 

The New York case study concluded that young adults may be especially vulnerable and need to be better informed of the risks of directly viewing the sun without protective eyewear.

Photo Credit: JAMA]]>
<![CDATA[Thursday Marks Deadline for 2018 Medicare Plan Enrollment]]> Thu, 07 Dec 2017 11:52:29 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/medicarenewcardforseniorss_1200x675.jpg

Medicare's fall open enrollment period ends Thursday.

During the annual seven-week period, which began Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7, beneficiaries can make changes related to Medicare Part C (known as an Advantage Plan) and Part D (prescription drug coverage).

Medicare Advantage coverage is offered by private insurers under contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agencies that oversees these programs. These plans are offered in place of the original Medicare, which is comprised of Part A (in-patient coverage) and Part B (outpatient care).

Seniors with traditional Medicare also can buy supplemental prescription drug plans (Part D) through these companies. However, patients must have original Medicare and live in the plan’s service area in order to join an Advantage Plan.

Over the years, Advantage Plans have grown in popularity among Medicare recipients, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. In 2017, 33 percent of beneficiaries, or 19 million people, were enrolled compared to 13 percent in 2007. The highest enrollment growth — 71 percent — taking place since 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was passed, KFF found.

About 63 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees have health maintenance organization (HMOs) plans and 33 percent are enrolled in preferred provider organization (PPOs) plan, according to Kaiser. The remainder are enrolled in private plans.

HMOs provide coverage to doctors, other medical providers and hospitals that are in the plan's network. This means an HMO typically will cover or reimburse medical costs incurred outside its network except in an urgent or emergency situation, according to Healthcare.gov. Enrollees also could need a referral from their primary-care doctor to see other physicians or specialists.

"It's really about how people want to manage their health care," Josh Norris, senior health insurance agent for Comprehensive Financial Consultants in Indiana told CNBC. "Some people want to visit whatever doctor they want, but for other people it doesn't matter as much."

A PPO costs more monthly and lets patients go to out-of-network providers. However, patients typically pay more in co-pays or co-insurance for that flexibility.

Premium costs for most Medicare Advantage recipients will average $30 a month in 2018, which is two dollars less than in 2017, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The average premium for Part D will go down by $1.20 to about $33.50 a month, the CMS estimates.

The average Medicare Part B premium will be about $134 a month for beneficiaries who make less than $85,000 ($170,000 for joint filing). About 28 percent of Part B enrollees will pay less — about $109 — than the full monthly premium of $134, because the increase in their Social Security benefit will not be large enough to cover the full Part B premium increase, the CMS reported.

But the premium costs for many high earners is slated to rise in 2018. Individuals earning between $133,001 and $160,000 ($267,000 and $320,000 for married couples filing jointly), for example, Part B premiums will jump by $80 a month, according to CMS estimates.

Beneficiaries who are signing up for Medicare for the first time have a window that starts three months before the month in which they turn 65 and ends three months after. To enroll visit the Social Security site's Medicare Benefits page here.

The federal government has extended the last day of open enrollment from Dec. 7 to Dec. 31 for those living in designated disaster areas nationwide.

People affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate, and the California wildfires, qualify for this assistance.

Those eligible may need to provide proof of residency, such as a driver’s license or utility bill. To sign up, or find out if you are eligible for other disaster-related assistance such as extending a premium payment grace period, contact Medicare at 800-633-4227.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Pollution Can Counteract Exercise Benefits, Study Suggests]]> Wed, 06 Dec 2017 10:34:28 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-200009519-001.jpg

Air pollution can hinder the effects of exercise in the body, a new British study suggests.

As NBC News reported, researchers from Imperial College London studied 120 people, aged 60 or older, who walked in lush Hyde Park or along traffic-clogged Oxford Street. Eighty participants had mild heart or lung disease.

Those who walked through Hyde Park experienced increased lung function, as well as a decrease in pulse wave velocity — a measure of stiffened arteries. The benefits lasted a full day. "By contrast, these beneficial responses were attenuated after walking on Oxford Street," Rudy Sinharay and colleagues wrote. 

"Our findings suggest that healthy people, as well as those with chronic cardiorespiratory disorders, should minimize walking on streets with high levels of pollution because this curtails or even reverses the cardiorespiratory benefits of exercise," the researchers wrote.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[2017 Mass. Flu Season Outlook]]> Mon, 04 Dec 2017 17:02:35 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/2017_Mass._Flu_Season_Outlook.jpg

This year's flu season is off to a fast and early start.

<![CDATA[Flu Is Spreading Fast This Season: Officials]]> Sun, 03 Dec 2017 17:25:37 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/214*120/fluGettyImages-665515600.jpg

This year’s flu season is off to a fast start and early indications suggest that it may be more severe than the previous season, NBC News reported.

Widespread flu activity is currently in four states where last year there were none at this time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And Dr. William Schaffner, who is involved in the CDC’s flu surveillance network in Tennessee, has noticed cases of influenza picking up "dramatically" in the last week.

Even worse, it appears the dominant strain will be H3N2, which can produce more severe illness, said Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Unfortunately, the flu vaccine available in the United States this year was only 10 percent effective in preventing illness from H3N2. However, while vaccinated people can still get sick, generally they get a milder and less dangerous form of the illness. Also, the vaccine protects against other flu strains.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[MRSA Found at East Bridgewater School]]> Thu, 30 Nov 2017 23:12:02 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-151060070.jpg

A MRSA case has been detected at the East Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School Thursday, school officials said.

According to the school district's superintendent, the building was cleaned and disinfected Thursday night with industrial-regulated MRSA disinfectant and that after consulting with the Department of Public Health, the school was deemed safe for students and staff to return to class Friday.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aueus, or MRSA, is a bacteria that's resistant to many antibiotics that can cause numerous problems, including skin infections, pneumonia and bloodstream infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anyone with concerns or questions about the situation is asked to call the Department of Health at 508-378-1612 or the East Bridgewater School Department at 508-378-8986.

Photo Credit: Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ambulances Stick Patients With Surprise Bills]]> Mon, 27 Nov 2017 10:50:55 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/ambulance37.jpg

Public outrage over surprise medical bills has prompted some states to pass laws protecting consumers. But such laws largely ignore ground ambulance rides, which can leave patients with up to thousands owed in medical bills and few options for recourse, according to a Kaiser Health News review of hundreds of consumer complaints in 32 states.

Patients are often vulnerable because 911 dispatchers pick the ambulance crews, which then pick the hospitals. The sticker shock comes after patients are taken to hospitals out of their insurance network or when the ambulance service itself hasn't joined an insurance network.

Forty years ago most ambulances were free. Now many are run by private companies and venture capital firms.

According to the advocacy group Consumers Union, at least a quarter of their 700 patient reports about surprise medical bills involve ambulances. 

Photo Credit: File-Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Big Tobacco Finally Tells the Truth in Court-Ordered Ad]]> Mon, 27 Nov 2017 14:28:12 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-476551298.jpg

Smoking kills 1,200 people a day. The tobacco companies worked to make them as addictive as possible. There is no such thing as a safer cigarette.

Ads with these statements hit the major television networks and newspapers this weekend, but they are not being placed by the American Cancer Society or other health groups. They’re being placed by major tobacco companies, under the orders of the federal courts.

“It’s a pretty significant moment,” the American Cancer Society’s Cliff Douglas said. “This is the first time they have had to ‘fess up and tell the whole truth.”

The Justice Department started its racketeering lawsuit against the tobacco companies in 1999, seeking to force them to make up for decades of deception. Federal district judge Gladys Kessler ruled in 2006 that they’d have to pay for and place the ads, but the companies kept tying things up with appeals.

Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[5 Tips to Avoid Belly Bloat]]> Wed, 22 Nov 2017 23:35:07 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/5_Tips_to_Avoid_Belly_Bloat.jpg

There are some steps you can take at night so you can start the next day bloat-free.

<![CDATA[Health System Fires 50 for Refusing to Get Flu Shots]]> Wed, 22 Nov 2017 22:27:51 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/214*120/fluGettyImages-665515600.jpg

About 50 employees of Essentia Health, an upper-Midwest hospital chain, didn’t go to work Wednesday.

But it wasn’t an early start to the Thanksgiving holiday for them. They were fired for refusing to get flu shots, NBC News reported.

It’s part of a growing trend for hospitals to require flu shots for workers.  

“It’s a patient safety issue,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University and a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “It’s so that we do not give flu to our patients.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[When the 'Mommy Juice Culture' Turns Dangerous]]> Tue, 21 Nov 2017 23:40:15 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Mommy++Juice+1121.JPG

Stressed-out moms coping with life by pouring a glass of wine, or two, or three, has become the "mommy juice culture."

You see jokes about it all over social media, but is it good-natured fun or dangerous at a time when the number of women abusing alcohol is rising dramatically?

Ellie Strong of Norwell started drinking heavily after her daughter was born in 2002 and she decided to not return to work.

“I had this profound feeling of sadness and loss that I didn’t have my job and I didn’t really understand my identity in motherhood,” Strong said.

For years, Strong says she hid it well. First wine, then vodka. She hid the bottles in the washing machine, in the trunk or in the water bottle. Strong says her attempts to cut back failed, “and they would work temporarily maybe for a week or two. But the line that I had drawn, the rules that I had made just kept moving.”

Until the time when Strong's husband found her at home passed out on the floor among empty wine bottles. She finally sought help and found it at a 12 step program.

Since her recovery, Strong started a podcast called, “The Bubble Hour.” It's a place where women can learn and share.

Dr. John Kelly of the Center for Addiction Medicine is an expert on alcohol use disorder, formerly called alcoholism. He says while most women can control their drinking, some cannot because of genetic and physiological factors, as well as mental and emotional health issues.

Kelly says in the past 15 years, heavy use or addiction has increased 60 percent among women.

If you suspect you have a program, Kelly suggests the National Institutes of Health self-assessment. He says log on “and get some personalized feedback on the level of alcohol consumption. So that’s anonymous. You don’t have to worry about talking to someone about it. Just get some feedback.”

<![CDATA[Working to Prevent Weight Discrimination]]> Mon, 20 Nov 2017 18:17:54 -0500 https://media.nbcboston.com/images/213*120/Working_to_Prevent_Weight_Discrimination.jpg

The vast majority of overweight children have been teased about their weight. Doctors are weighing in on ways to reduce such discrimination.