If you've been applauding yourself recently for choosing the apple slices over the french fries for your kid's fast food meal, or an apple-laden prepackaged salad for your own dinner, you might want to hit the pause button.

Assuming you can't spend a heat wave bobbing up and down in some cool body of water, the next best option is to hunker down inside with air blowing on you, right?

Preferably it's from an air conditioner set on arctic chill.

But if there's no AC, then an electric fan would be the next best thing, wouldn't you think?

Well, it turns out health experts aren't so sure about electric fans. And they say using one in a really brutal heat wave can sometimes do more harm than good.

It's well-known that exercise is good for our bones, even as we age, but how about that nightly glass of wine?

A new study of women in their 50s and early 60s finds that moderate alcohol consumption may help prevent bone loss. The women in the study consumed about 1 1/2 drinks per day.

Deb Waldin was in agony when she arrived at the emergency room of Fairview Southdale, a nonprofit hospital in suburban Minneapolis. On a scale of 1 to 10, she says her pain was at 12.

She turned out to have kidney stones. But before she got the diagnosis, while she was still lying on a gurney waiting to see a doctor, she was approached by a debt collector from a company called Accretive Health.

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon needs to do a better job at making sure that low-income children are getting the mental health services they’re eligible for. That's the finding of a new audit by the Oregon Secretary of State's office.

The report applauds the Oregon Health Authority for bringing tens of thousands of additional children into the Medicaid-funded Oregon Health Plan over the past three years.

But auditors found that some groups of children were using mental health services at a disproportionately low rate. They include girls under age 13, and Hispanic youth of all ages.

Your chances of surviving a sudden heart attack may depend on where you live; some American cities have survival rates five times higher than others. One difference can be 911 dispatchers.

If they coach someone over the phone to give CPR, the chance of surviving goes up. There's now a push to make it universal, but some cities are slow to implement the necessary training.

Becky Cole was eight months pregnant with her fourth child when she collapsed against the bathroom door. It was January 2011 in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville.

Washington state's worst outbreak of whooping cough in decades has prompted health officials to declare an epidemic.

Don't curse the rain, it depresses allergens

May 7, 2012

Here in the Northwest, you hear lots of complaints about the abundant rain. But this year's cool March weather and above normal rainfall in April may have eased the suffering of people with pollen allergies.

Washington State Climatologist Nick Bond had a personal reason to investigate the correlation between rainfall and pollen.

"I suffer from allergies to alder and birch," he says. "I noticed that when I am usually sneezing and sniffling in mid to late March, there wasn't much of that this year."

The chance of a woman getting ovarian disease may be tied to the toxic chemicals her great-grandmother was exposed to. That’s according to a new study by researchers at Washington State University. The study could help explain the role of environmental factors in inherited diseases.

Here’s how it works. Picture your great-grandmother. Now let’s say, while pregnant with your future grandparent, she was exposed to some toxic chemical. Pesticides, phthalates -- that stuff in plastic -- or maybe jet fuel. Those are some of the things the researchers looked at.

By Claudia Rowe, special correspondent

Despite living in a country with one of the best health-care systems in the world, thousands of American girls will have shorter lives than their mothers, according to new research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

In 661 areas of the country life expectancy for women has stagnated or decreased since 1999.

“It’s tragic,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad, who lead the team of researchers evaluating American health and mortality trends across the country.

Read more on Humanosphere.

Gianmaria Veronese / Flickr

Flu season is hanging on longer than usual in parts of the Northwest say health officials. That’s shown in cases of the flu  and also via web searches.

Google queries for terms like “muscle aches,” ”flu symptoms” and “thermometer” are being used to track where flu is hitting now.

If your OB-GYN doesn't ask you about your sex life, who will?

That's the question that comes to mind on reading about a new survey of the women's health specialists and what they don't talk about with their patients.

Most gynecologists did ask a patient if she was sexually active. A measly 14 percent asked about sexual activity and pleasure. Only 28 percent asked about a patient's sexual orientation. Yet one-quarter of the doctors say they had expressed disapproval of their patients' sexual practices.

Federal health officials unveiled a graphic new anti-smoking campaign featuring testimonials from ex-smokers about the toll of tobacco on their health.

These aren't the usual public service announcements. The $54 million "Tips from Smokers" campaign marks the first time the federal government plans to pay to run anti-smoking ads nationwide, officials said.

WSU Researchers Studying Bears’ Hibernation To Narrow Down A Cure For Diabetes

030712AK_Bears.wav :57 Wrap 3/7/12 Anna King/CF

RICHLAND, Wash. – Hibernating bears do things that doctors tell humans not to do. They eat fatty foods, lay around for months on end and get high cholesterol. Yet they don’t suffer the same ill effects we would.

US EPA image

When you think about Puget Sound, a bathtub might not be the first image to come to mind.

But that’s one way environmentalists and scientists sometimes describe it, because the shape of Puget Sound is an important factor when it comes to keeping it clean.

A long-awaited report from the Environmental Protection Agency on the health effects of dioxin is confirming what many experts have known for a long time. 

There's no quick fix for severe depression.

Although antidepressants like Prozac have been around since the 1970s, they usually take weeks to make a difference. And for up to 40 percent of patients, they simply don't work.

As a result, there are limited options when patients show up in an emergency room with suicidal depression.

The doctors and nurses at Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston say they see this problem every day.

At the rate they're going, those nutritious-looking sprouts may disappear from sandwiches and salads near you in not too long. And that may be a good thing.

This week, the Beaumont, Tex.-based Jason's Deli chain announced that it would no longer serve fresh sprouts, citing frequent recalls due to bacterial contamination.

Obesity epidemic may have peaked in U.S.

Jan 17, 2012

The nation's obesity epidemic appears to have hit a plateau, according to the latest federal data released Tuesday.

Obesity soared in the U.S. during the 1980s and 1990s, doubling among adults and tripling among children. That raised widespread alarm and debate about the causes and possible solutions. Obesity can increase the risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other serious health problems.

Washington schools superintendent Randy Dorn is expected Tuesday to endorse a state takeover of K-12 employee health care. But the union that represents Washington teachers is prepared to defend its decades-long role as a provider of health insurance.

The teachers’ union calls it a taxpayer “rip off” and government “boondoggle.” Fiery language to describe a plan to put the state of Washington in the driver’s seat when it comes to K-12 employee health benefits.

Clinics and hospitals that serve low-income people are holding candle-light vigils in Seattle, Yakima and Spokane this week to draw attention to proposed budget cuts they call devastating. After education, the second biggest slice of the state budget goes to health care, totaling about a third of the general fund.

Some community clinics are taking the desperate step of marketing themselves to people with private insurance. That's a big change for non-profits with a mission to serve the poor.

montchr / Flickr photo

The ability to smoke a cigarette on college campuses is becoming a subject for the history books.

Several colleges in the Pacific Northwest have banned smoking – not only in and around buildings as required by law – but everywhere on school grounds.

Zoe Cooley

Some of the longest relationships are the life-long ties between siblings. But that connection can get complicated when one sibling suffers from a mental illness.

Many support programs don’t focus much on the sibling relationships. Northwest News Network reporter Jessica Robinson recorded the story of two brothers: one in Moscow, Idaho, the other in Anchorage, Alaska. One has schizophrenia. The other grew up in the shadow of it.

Rajah Bose / Northwest News Network

Experts say mental health services for teens are especially inadequate in rural areas. That describes huge swaths of our region.

Michael Clapp / Northwest News Network

The research is clear that the key to keeping a mentally ill teen in treatment and out of trouble is early intervention. Yet, most counties in the Northwest do not offer comprehensive treatment to kids in the initial stages of a mental breakdown.

Every year in the Northwest, thousands of mentally ill teenagers get caught up in the juvenile justice system. In fact, some counties estimate more than half of the kids they place behind bars have a diagnosable mental health condition like schizophrenia, bi-polar or personality disorder. Yet many of these teens do not get the treatment they need. Instead, they cycle in and out of detention.

Idaho National Lab

The Idaho National Lab is monitoring 16 of its workers who were exposed to Plutonium 239. That isotope is used in nuclear weapons.

If you’ve ever wondered why your health insurance rate has gone up, that information is now public. Washington State’s Office of Insurance Commissioner has a new website that can help explain that.

Whenever an insurance company wants to raise rates for individual or small group plans, the Insurance Commissioner's Office reviews those requests. In the past, the agency could approve or reject the new rates, but it couldn't release any information behind the decision.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

There’s a major milestone this week in the cleanup of Seattle’s Duwamish River. Excavators are removing toxic sludge from one of the most polluted spots in the city’s industrial core. Completion of this work will allow cleanup on the rest of the river. 

But critics say there are already signs it won’t go far enough.

"zoomar" /

The state of Washington is limiting Medicaid recipients to three non-emergency Emergency Room visits per year, beginning October 1st.

Visits over the limit won't be covered by Medicaid, and hospitals will be allowed to bill patients for those services.

Robin Cedar / KPLU

A brightly colored totem pole was given a send off celebration at the Seattle Center. The carved cedar log is embarking on a 4,000 mile journey.  It’s headed to the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where it will be the centerpiece of an exhibit on Native American concepts of  healing.