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Nancy Shute

More than half of people say they've suffered lower back pain in the past year, according to the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll.

That's not a surprise; low back pain is very common, and one of the biggest reasons that people seek medical care. But people told us that they're making very different choices in how they treat that pain, with some stark differences among age groups and income levels.

Getting the flu while pregnant doesn't appear to increase the child's risk of being diagnosed with autism later on, a study finds, and neither does getting a flu shot while pregnant.

Erik Vance didn't go to a doctor until he was 18; he grew up in California in a family that practiced Christian Science. "For the first half of my life, I never questioned the power of God to heal me," Vance writes in his new book, Suggestible You: Placebos, False Memories, Hypnosis, and the Power of Your Astonishing Brain.

Not so very long ago, colonoscopy was the gold standard for colon cancer screening. But times are a-changing. Last month when I went in for a checkup, my primary care doctor handed me a FIT test, a colon cancer test you can do at home without the unpleasantness and risk that turn people off to colonoscopy.

The FIT test, or fecal immunochemical blood test, is a newer and more accurate way to test for blood in stool, which can be a symptom of colon cancer.

Women are less likely to die of breast cancer than they were a decade ago, but not all women are benefiting from that trend.

White women saw more of a drop in death rates than black women — 1.9 percent a year from 2010 to 2014, compared to a 1.5 percent decrease for black women, according to a report published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Women had a lot to say about what works — and what doesn't — for treating morning sickness, after we ran a post summarizing the evidence for home remedies and over-the-counter meds.

NPR's Facebook feed lit up with comments from women saying that ginger, acupressure and other home remedies, which were recommended for mild symptoms in a medical journal article published Tuesday, did nothing to tame their nausea and vomiting.

Many people struggling with opioid addiction can't find a doctor to provide medication-assisted treatment, even though it's highly effective. One reason could be that doctors who are qualified to prescribe the medication typically treat just a handful of patients.

Saline nose spray is becoming increasingly popular as a treatment for allergies and sinus problems. And a study suggests the cheap, simple solution helps with severe nosebleeds, too.

Two studies published Tuesday in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association, used saline nose spray as a control when testing medications to treat severe nosebleeds caused by a rare genetic condition.

A body mass index under 25 is deemed normal and healthy, and a higher BMI that's "overweight" or "obese" is not. But that might be changing, at least when it comes to risk of death.

The body mass index, or BMI, associated with the lowest risk of death has increased since the 1970s, a study finds, from 23.7, in the "normal" weight category, to 27, which is deemed "overweight."

Immunotherapy tablets are starting to edge out shots as a treatment for allergies. And it looks like the pills can help reduce the frequency of asthma attacks, too.

Scientists reported Tuesday that immunotherapy tablets for dust mite allergy reduced the risk of an attack in people with moderate to severe asthma. The results were published in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association.

When it comes to getting old, some of us are a lot better at it than others. If I'm going to live to be 95 I would much prefer to be healthy, cogent and content. So I want to know the secrets of the healthy and very old.

Fortunately, scientists are starting to figure that out, "The good news is that there's a lot we can do about it," says Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, a geriatrician and scientific director at the National Institute on Aging. He wants to see more and more people in that state of "aging grace."

This story was originally published in April 2012.

It all starts with the egg.

In spring, chickens start laying again, bringing a welcome source of protein at winter's end. So it's no surprise that cultures around the world celebrate spring by honoring the egg.

Some traditions are simple, like the red eggs that get baked into Greek Easter breads. Others elevate the egg into an elaborate art, like the heavily jewel-encrusted Faberge eggs that were favored by the Russian czars starting in the 19th century.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told doctors they should really, really think twice before prescribing opioids for chronic pain.

And now the doctors are telling us that meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy often work better than pain meds and other medical treatments for chronic back pain.

Psychologists disagree on whether expecting your marriage to be a deeply fulfilling relationship makes it more likely that the union will thrive, or that it will doom you to disappointment.

So, psychologists, should we just go ahead and expect the worst after the honeymoon?

Eric O'Grey knew he was in trouble. His weight had ballooned to 320 pounds, and he was spending more than $1,000 a month on medications for high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.

In 2010, a physician told him to buy a funeral plot, because he would need it in five years. He was 51 years old.

We all know ancestors give us our hair color, but the roots of gray hair have been less clear. Is it genetics, or stress?

Marie Antoinette supposedly went completely white the night before they lopped off her head. And our presidents seem to go gray much faster than those of us with less weighty roles.

It turns out you can blame Mom and Dad, at least a bit. Scientists say they've identified the first gene for gray hair.

The earlier a child with autism can be identified and get treatment the better, child development specialists say. So there's been a push to have pediatricians give all toddlers screening tests for autism during well child visits.

But the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said Tuesday that there's not yet enough evidence to show that screening all children delivers measurable benefits, a decision sure to frustrate or anger many in the autism community.

The odds of getting Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia are declining for people who are more educated and avoiding heart disease, a study finds. The results suggest that people may have some control over their risk of dementia as they age.

This isn't the first study to find that the incidence of dementia is waning, but it may be the best so far. Researchers looked at 30 years of records from more than 5,000 people in the famed Framingham Heart Study, which has closely tracked the health of volunteers in Framingham, Mass.

If you fall off a curb, bop your head and go to the ER to make sure you're OK, there's a good chance you'll be trundled off for a CT scan.

That might sound comforting, but people with injuries minor enough that they get sent home are increasingly being given computed tomography scans, a study finds. That's despite efforts to reduce the unnecessary use of CTs, which use radiation and increase the lifetime risk of cancer.

Smoking is the #1 cause of premature death and preventable illness in the United States. And since one-third of Medicaid participants smoke, compared to 17 percent of the general population, you'd think the states would be all about helping people in their Medicaid programs to quit.

But just 10 percent of Medicaid participants who smoke are getting medication to help them quit, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Health Affairs. That's 830,000 people in 2013.

Although many people know someone who has abused prescription opioids, people still think of opioid abuse as a criminal justice issue more than a health problem, a study finds.

Illegal drug dealing is mentioned most frequently in news stories as the cause of prescription painkiller abuse, and two-thirds of abusers are shown as being actively involved in crimes, according to an analysis by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The number of people newly diagnosed with diabetes continues to decline after decades of increases that transformed what was once a disease of the old into a public health crisis that affects even children.

That's not to say the crisis is over; 1.4 million people were diagnosed with diabetes in 2014, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's down from 1.7 million new cases in 2009, the fifth straight year of decline.

Two years ago my mom fell at home and ended up being admitted to the ICU with four broken ribs and internal injuries. She was lucky. After two weeks in the hospital and a few more in a rehab unit she was back home, using her new blue walker to get around.

We live in a society where sex is often touted as the secret sauce that keeps a relationship tasty. So more sex must be better for you and your romantic partner, right?

Well, for established couples, having sex once a week hits the sweet spot for happiness and well-being, a study finds. This is either great news or tragic, depending on how you're feeling about your sex life.

It turns out that psychologists are working hard to figure out whether more sex makes us happier.

Almost 20 percent of the people in low-income communities who die of colon cancer could have been saved with early screening. And those premature deaths take a toll on communities that can least bear it.

Lower-income communities in the United States face $6.4 billion in lost wages and productivity because of premature deaths due to colon cancer, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In September, we reported on a charming little study that found people who feel blue after watching sad videos have a harder time perceiving colors on the blue-yellow axis.

Now the researchers may be feeling blue themselves. On Thursday they retracted their study, saying that errors in how they structured the experiment skewed the results.

For decades, African-American women have been less likely to get breast cancer than white women, but that health advantage has now all but disappeared.

"For a while we've seen the increase in black women and stable rates in white women," says Carol DeSantis, an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society who led the study. "Even though we'd seen the trend," she says, "it's sort of shocking."

Women shouldn't drink when they're pregnant — absolutely no alcohol at all, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. But it's been getting a lot of pushback about that edict.

After we reported on it last week, the comment stream exploded with hundreds of people arguing over whether moderate drinking in pregnancy is safe.

Sure, you know you're not supposed to drink while pregnant. But what about those glasses of wine you had before you found out? Is a little OK in the third trimester? Or when you're anxious and can't sleep?

Those are the kinds of questions that women keep asking about pregnancy and alcohol. And science has not been a huge help in providing answers, though that's getting better.

Almost half of teenagers have sex before they graduate from high school. And many high schoolers drink. But drinking can make that first sexual experience less than what a girl might hope, and poses risks for the future, too.

Researchers asked 228 women ages 18 to 20 about their sexual experiences and drinking habits.

One-quarter of the young women had been drinking at the time of their first sexual intercourse, which happened when they were 16, on average.

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