Rob Stein

Doctors shouldn't routinely perform electrocardiograms on patients at low risk for heart disease, an influential federal panel is recommending.

While an ECG test of the heart's electrical activity is safe and inexpensive, the benefits for patients at low risk of heart disease are very low and the results can trigger possibly dangerous, unnecessary follow-up testing and treatment, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

On the third floor of a big Soviet-era apartment building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, the mother of one of the world's first babies created with DNA from three different people cracks open her door.

"Hello; my name is Tamara," she whispers, to avoid waking her son from his nap.

Updated at 1:54 p.m.

A prescription painkiller that has been under a cloud for more than a decade is apparently safer than previously believed, a Food and Drug Administration panel concluded Wednesday.

Losing your nest egg is apparently hazardous to your health — very hazardous.

An analysis involving more than 8,000 Americans found that those who suffered a "negative wealth shock" — defined as losing at least 75 percent of their wealth in two years — faced a 50 percent increased risk of dying over the next two decades.

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it wants to sharply reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. The idea is to help wean millions of smokers off their deadly habit and prevent millions more from becoming regular smokers in the first place.

There's more bad news about the nation's devastating opioid epidemic.

In just one year, overdoses from opioids jumped by about 30 percent, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hopes were dashed this week that the United States was finally making progress in the fight against childhood obesity.

Contrary to previous reports, the epidemic of fat has not abated. In fact, there's been a big jump in obesity among the nation's youngest children, according to the latest analysis of federal data, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This year's nasty flu season has become deadly. The virus has spread across the country and shows few signs of slowing down. It's even getting worse in a lot of places. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein joins us. Rob, thanks so much for being with us.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Life expectancy in the U.S. fell for the second year in a row in 2016, nudged down again by a surge in fatal opioid overdoses, federal officials report Thursday.

"I'm not prone to dramatic statements," says Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics. "But I think we should be really alarmed. The drug overdose problem is a public health problem, and it needs to be addressed. We need to get a handle on it."

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