Health Highlights: Aug. 28, 2013

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Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Some U.S. Schools Dropping Healthy Lunch Program

Faced with large numbers of students who simply avoid low-fat fare, some U.S. school districts are opting out of new federal healthy lunch programs, which have been in place for only a year.

While exact numbers aren't available, federal officials told the Associated Press that they've had reports of schools dropping out of the National School Lunch Program, which spends $11 billion to help fund school lunches nationwide.

School districts that dropped out of the program said they were forced to do so after too many students stayed away from the school lunch counter and began bringing food from home, or even went hungry. The federal healthy lunch initiative typically serves up lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains.

"Some of the stuff we had to offer, they wouldn't eat," Catlin, Ill., Superintendent Gary Lewis told the AP. He said his district saw a 10 to 12 percent drop in lunch sales, translating to $30,000 lost under the program last year.

"So you sit there and watch the kids, and you know they're hungry at the end of the day, and that led to some behavior and some lack of attentiveness," Lewis said. He said fare from the days before the healthy lunch initiative, such as soups and fish sticks, will return to the cafeteria menu this coming term.

Dr. Janey Thornton, deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services division, said that kids may simply need more time to adjust to new, healthier choices. "Many of these children have never seen or tasted some of the fruits and vegetables that are being served before, and it takes a while to adapt and learn," she told the AP.

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Girl Who Got 2 Lung Transplants Goes Home

The 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl whose lung transplant sparked a national debate over organ-transplantation policy left the hospital and returned home Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

Sarah Murnaghan, of Newtown Square, has end-stage cystic fibrosis and received two transplants of adult-sized lungs, even though current organ-transplant policy states that children only receive child-sized lungs.

However, Sarah's parents took her case to the courts. A federal judge intervened on her behalf, ordering that she be allowed an adult lung transplant.

The first set of adult lungs the child received failed within hours of transplant, but a second set, transplanted three days later, seem to have worked.

Sarah's mother, Janet Murnaghan, said in a Facebook page posting late Monday that Sarah would be leaving Children's Hospital of Philadephia on Tuesday. On Sunday, Janet Murnaghan said her daughter had been taken off oxygen but does get some breathing support from a machine. She is now able to walk around the hospital using a walker, and has gone outside for brief periods, the AP reported.

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Music Star Linda Ronstadt Has Parkinson's Disease

Singer Linda Ronstadt, a music star for more than four decades, has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, which has robbed her of the ability to sing.

"No one can sing with Parkinson's disease," the 67-year-old Ronstadt said in an interview with AARP Magazine. "No matter how hard you try."

Ronstadt said she was diagnosed eight months ago and "can't sing a note." She said she initially experienced symptoms about eight years ago, but thought her singing problems were caused by a tick disease, the Associated Press reported.

She said she was "completely shocked" when a neurologist diagnosed her with Parkinson's disease. "I wouldn't have suspected that in a million, billion years."

Ronstadt sold tens of millions of records starting in the late 1960s. Some of her earlier hits included "You're No Good" and "When Will I Be Loved." She later sang pop standards and mariachi music, the AP reported.

Ronstadt now uses poles to walk on uneven ground and a wheelchair when traveling, the AARP story said.

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says Parkinson's disease is part of a group of conditions called motor system disorders that are caused by the loss of certain key brain cells. Typical symptoms include tremors, or trembling in the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; stiffness of the limbs and trunk; slowness of movement; and problems with balance and coordination. As symptoms become more severe, some patients may have trouble with walking, talking or other simple tasks. The disease usually affects people 50 and older.

There's no cure for Parkinson's, but a variety of medications can provide significant relief from the symptoms, according to the institute.


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