Top 10 Health News Stories of 2008
Salmonella, Vaccines, Belly Fat Were Hot Topics in 2008
4. Tim Russert's Heart -- and Ours
The unexpected death of ABC newsman Tim Russert saddened millions and was a wake-up call for many people about heart disease, the No. 1 killer of U.S. men and women. The year also brought new CPR guidelines and new insights about finding clogged arteries.
5. Bisphenol A in Baby Bottles
Bisphenol A, a chemical found in polycarbonate plastic used to make some baby and water bottles, hit the big-time in 2008, with controversy about its health effects hotly debated by two government agencies, academics, and industry. The debate is still going, with the FDA's final word expected by February 2009. Meanwhile, some consumers and major companies, including Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us, are already backing away from baby bottles with BPA.
6. Can Vaccines Cause Autism?
Medical experts say it can't happen. But a number of parents -- most notably celebrity Jenny McCarthy -- say vaccines triggered their children's autism. Adding fuel to the fire, the Department of Health and Human Services said Hannah Poling, a girl with a mitochondrial disorder, was allowed compensation from a vaccine injury compensation fund because the vaccine preservative thimerosal could theoretically have triggered her autistic symptoms. Is there a link between vaccines and autism? Throughout the year, WebMD readers kept up to date with the issue.
7. Cholesterol Drugs: New Questions
A medical mystery emerged at the beginning of 2008: Why did a drug that lowers cholesterol fail to reduce plaque in the arteries?
The FDA has approved drugs based on their ability to lower cholesterol -- but only because this is supposed to cut the risk of clogged arteries and heart disease. But Vytorin, a combination of the cholesterol-lowering statin drug Zocor and the cholesterol-blocking drug Zetia, didn't seem to work better than Zocor alone.
As the year went on, cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins (such as Zocor) looked better and better. Researchers dispelled fears they might raise cancer risk. And they found that statins cut the risk of heart disease in half for people with normal cholesterol levels but high levels of C-reactive protein in the blood.
Here's how WebMD covered these stories: