Health 2013: What you missed
December 23rd, 2013
At CNN Health, we love to keep you updated on the latest medical news, share inspirational stories and help you make healthier choices in your day-to-day life — all while having a bit of fun! Take a look back at our top stories from 2013.
Are artificial sweeteners used in soft drinks and foods safe? Will they make you fat? How much is too much? Scientists don’t have all the answers yet, but we spoke to researchers who had some clues as we attempted to answer those questions and offer a primer on fake sugar.
The Affordable Care Act dominated headlines again in 2013, from performance issues with Healthcare.gov to canceled policies to open enrollment. If you’re interested in signing up, time is running out fast. Here’s what you need to know.
The Food and Drug Administration in November took a first step toward potentially eliminating most trans fat from the food supply. Trans fat is found in most processed foods including desserts, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, margarine and coffee creamer, and has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. In recent years, many food manufacturers have limited or removed trans fat from their products.
The story of Crystal Kelley captured your hearts and fueled discussion this year. Kelley was offered $10,000 to have an abortion after ultrasounds showed the baby she was carrying for another couple had severe medical problems. She refused and moved from Connecticut to Michigan in the final months of pregnancy so she would legally be the child’s mother when it was born.
In August, Dr. Sanjay Gupta made a splash when he announced he had reversed his previous position on medical marijuana. “It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications,” he wrote. “In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works.”
Zachary Reyna, a 12-year-old Florida boy, died in August after being stricken with a brain-eating parasite. Doctors had given Zachary an experimental drug to treat a rare amoeba, called Naegleria fowleri. The same drug was used to treat 12-year-old Kali Hardig in Arkansas, who became only the third person in the past 50 years known to survive the deadly parasite.
Houston-area teenager Emily Bauer was left fighting for her life after smoking synthetic marijuana. In December 2012, the 17-year-old was on life support after several strokes left her paralyzed, blind and largely unaware of her surroundings. In August, she did something her parents never dreamed she’d be able to do — return to high school. “The high is great,” she says of synthetic marijuana, “but in the long run, it isn’t good.”
Actress Angelina Jolie announced in May that she underwent a preventive double mastectomy after learning she carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which increases her risk of breast and ovarian cancer. She was one of several celebrities whose medical treatments made news. Another is actress Valerie Harper, who said in September she did not have brain cancer, as previously reported, but lung cancer situated in the lining of her brain.
Our “Life’s Work” series examined some of the people and personal stories behind medicine, research and discoveries. One reader favorite was Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, who grew up in an impoverished Mexican village, illegally hopped a fence into California, attended Harvard Medical School and is now a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
January 22 marked the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, in which the justices declared laws prohibiting abortion violated a woman’s constitutional right to privacy. They also said states could regulate abortion procedures in the interest of a woman’s health or in protecting a potential human life starting at the end of a pregnancy’s first trimester. While the debate over the definition of life continues, Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land. Here, a timeline of events leading up to the decision, and what’s happened in the past four decades.
The debate over gun control was fueled by several high-profile shootings in 2013. Similarly, some high-profile incidents raised the issue of mental illness. Critics say loopholes in the federal gun background check system can put guns in the hands of some mentally ill people. Federally licensed gun shops must use the National Instant Criminal Background Check system, or NICS. But information in that system is incomplete, particularly where mental health records are concerned, investigations found.
We couldn’t resist adding cute little Lentil to our year’s top stories. Born with a cleft palate and a cleft lip (the cleft palate was fixed through surgery), the French Bulldog puppy helps raise awareness of craniofacial abnormalities in children and often visits kids with such conditions at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Scientists are getting better and better at predicting your risk for Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms start. However, what to do about that risk remains unknown. Would you want to know if you’re at risk?
We launched our ongoing “Inside the Brain” series in 2013, as the Obama administration dedicated $100 million in funding for the Brain Activity Map proposal. One of our first subjects was Ed Boyden of MIT. By age 33, Boyden had helped invent influential technologies in the study of the human brain. But, he says, “I guess I was always a philosopher at heart.”
Our weekly weight-loss success stories became a staple in 2013. One of our most popular stories was that of Angela and Willie Gillis. They’ve been best friends for more than 10 years, married for three. Their individual strengths balance the other’s weaknesses. They credit this sense of balance with helping them lose a combined 500 pounds.