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UMN Experts: How to talk about dying

Dying is an uncomfortable topic of conversation. No one wants to bring it up, not even our doctors. Unfortunately, this leads to miscommunication about how a person wants to die.

In fact, about 7 in 10 Americans would prefer to die at home, but only about a quarter of them actually do.

“There is a fundamental disconnect between what happens and what we want, and that stems from a lack of communication about dying,” says Frank Bennett, MDiv., senior fellow in the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality & Healing and former hospital chaplain and minister. “Most care providers frame the conversation around therapeutic interventions, because that’s their focus, but patients think in terms of goals, hopes and fears.”

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UMN expert: Prevention and treatment key elements to reduce infant mortality rates

Photo: S.Raj/CC 2.0/

A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found infant mortality rates in the U.S. declined 2.3 percent between 2013 and 2014, reaching a new low of 582.1 infant deaths per 100,000 live births (about 22,000 deaths a year).

In a recent New York Times article, CDC demographer T.J. Mathews said, “This is potentially the best news we’ve had yet.”

Despite the drop in rate, the U.S. has a higher infant mortality rate than many Western or developed countries.

Health Talk spoke with Wendy Hellerstedt, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of epidemiology and community health in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health to better understand infant mortality and what can be done to help decrease infant mortality in the U.S.

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UMN Expert: Antidepressant use later in pregnancy linked to autism

A recent Star Tribune article highlighted a study published in JAMA Pediatrics that found, “Women who took a class of widely used antidepressants during their second and third trimesters of pregnancy were roughly twice as likely as those who did not to have a child who would later receive a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, says a new study.”

Health Talk spoke with Jean Moon, associate professor in the College of Pharmacy, to find out what this means for pregnant women who are taking antidepressants, specifically SSRIs that include medications like Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro.

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UMN experts: New cases of diabetes may be down but more work is needed

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found new cases of diabetes dropped by roughly one-fifth from 2008-2014, from 1.7 million to 1.4 million. And while the investigators are unsure whether prevention efforts are working or if the disease peaked in the U.S., the findings were good news after decades of seeing numbers skyrocket.

According to a recent New York Times article, “there is growing evidence that eating habits, after decades of deterioration, have finally begun to improve. The amount of soda Americans drink has declined by about a quarter since the late 1990s, and the average number of daily calories children and adults consume also has fallen. Physical activity has started to rise, and once-surging rates of obesity, a major driver of type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, have flattened.”

Health Talk spoke with Mark Pereira, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology and community health in the School of Public Health and Elizabeth Seaquist, M.D., professor of medicine in the University of Minnesota Medical School to help understand the numbers.

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UMN expert: New FDA sugar recommendations are lofty but likely necessary

Photo: Uwe Hermann/cc 2.0/

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended a daily limit on sugar intake to no more than 10 percent of a day’s calories. An article in the New York Times does the math: most people, including children, should not have more than 50 grams per day. It is roughly the same amount in a can of Coke.

Cutting out soft drinks won’t be enough to get down to the recommended values. Consumers have to be aware of hidden sugars throughout the American food supply.

Health Talk spoke with Mark Pereira, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology and community health in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, to provide a little more clarity.

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Drop the vitamin C: The truth about colds

Photo: CC, Traci Lawson,

Dripping noses and choruses of coughs can be heard in hallways and homes as fall settles in, a season often considered ripe for colds.

The truth is colds hit year round. In fact, adults probably come down with two or three infections per year. Children, especially those hitting the classroom or settling in at day care, often see up to six colds a year.

“It’s considered one of the most common infectious diseases in humans,” said Mark Schleiss, M.D., co-director of the Center for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology Translational Research at the University of Minnesota. “Colds are generally caused by a virus called rhinovirus, and there are about 100 unique types of rhinoviruses. You can build immunity to them, but there are a lot of different strains so it’s hard to beat it completely.”

Schleiss is a practicing pediatrician and sees plenty of colds, so we checked in for the inside scoop on how to treat – and avoid – the common cold.

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