Health/Science/Tech | KERA News

Health/Science/Tech

Every week, KERA explores the latest in health, science and technology in North Texas through two main series, Vital Signs and Breakthroughs.

Charts at UNT Health Science Center's Human Movement Performance Lab.
Credit Stephanie Kuo / KERA News

Vital Signs

In Vital Signs, Sam Baker taps into the expertise of local health care leaders to provide insight into your everyday health and well-being.

Breakthroughs

In Breakthroughs, KERA reporters delve into the latest health-related technologies developed in North Texas and across the state. From the Zika virus to fried chicken, no scientific topic is off limits. 

Learn more in-depth multimedia projects: Surviving Ebola, a look at how Ebola made its way to Dallas and the lessons local hospitals and governments learned; Growing Up After Cancer, the journey of one North Texas boy with cancer; and The Broken Hip, an in-depth look at how a fall can change everything. 

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The number of drug overdose deaths related to opioids is on the rise in Texas.

In 2016, more than 2,800 people died from an overdose, resulting in a 7.4 percent jump from the number of fatalities the previous year, according to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Recent studies suggest even moderate consumption of coffee – one to four cups a day – may reduce the odds of colon cancer developing or recurring.

Kerstin Taylor’s home is evidence of a life rebuilt. It’s filled with her grandmother’s paintings, Christian crosses, photos and stuffed animals.

“They all have names,” she said in reference to those stuffed animals. “That has to do with, truly, the family I never had – my broken family.”

Centers For Disease Control

Hospitals in Texas and across the country are doing a better job these days in stopping the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in health care settings.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these so-called "superbugs" still kill up to 23,000 people a year.

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More than eight million people have peripheral arterial disease or PAD, but relatively few know what it is. Ignoring the signs can have serious consequences.

Some of the state’s leading physicians vetted ideas this weekend to reduce the deaths of women while pregnant or shortly after giving birth.

Rachel Ralph works long hours at an accounting firm in Oakland, Calif., and coordinates much of her life via the apps on her phone.

So when she first heard several months ago that she could order her usual brand of birth control pills via an app and have them delivered to her doorstep in a day or two, it seemed perfect. She was working 12-hour days.

"Food was delivered; dinner was often delivered," Ralph says. "Anything I could get sent to my house with little effort — the better."

Government health agencies have spent more than two decades shying away from gun violence research, but some say the new spending bill, signed by President Trump on Friday, will change that.

That is because, in agency instructions that accompany the bill, there is a sentence noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the authority to conduct research on the causes of gun violence.

Sherry Alvarez says she knew there was something different about her son since he was about 9 months old. Back then Sherry says his pediatrician told her there was nothing to worry about, " 'Boys are a little slower than girls, so let's just wait until his second birthday.' " We aren't using Sherry's son's name to protect his privacy.

By her son's second birthday, Sherry says she was getting desperate. She didn't know why he wasn't talking yet or showing affection like other kids. At 2 1/2, he was referred to Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

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Souping, similar to juicing, has been popular in recent years as way to detox the body and to lose weight, but eating only soup for days at a time can cause problems, if you’re not careful.

Abortions in the United States are safe and have few complications, according to a landmark new study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

The report, called "The Safety and Quality of Abortion Care in the United States," examined the four major methods used for abortions — medication, aspiration, dilation and evacuation, and induction — and examined women's care from before they had the procedure through their follow-up care.

The women’s health care program in Texas still has a long way to go.

According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Healthy Texas Women, the state’s family-planning program and the breast exam and cervical cancer screening program served about 250,000 women last year. In 2010, the year before Planned Parenthood was removed from the programs, the state served more than 350,000 women.

Stephanie Kuo / KERA News

Everything from a long commute and local food options to the number of physicians on call and people in poverty affects a community’s overall health.

That’s why the quality of health varies so widely across North Texas.

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Minecraft is a popular video game that's sort of like virtual Lego. Players find and build stuff by themselves, or online with friends.

It's a simple formula that's attracted millions of fans — and Southern Methodist University professors.

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Some blame their weight gain on slow metabolism, which can affect the ability to keep off extra pounds, but other factors play a role.

Eventually it happens to everyone. As we age, even if we're healthy, the heart becomes less flexible, more stiff and just isn't as efficient in processing oxygen as it used to be. In most people the first signs show up in the 50s or early 60s. And among people who don't exercise, the underlying changes can start even sooner.

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Texas health officials are warning athletes and their parents who attended a cheerleading competition in Dallas last month of possible exposure to the mumps.

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The debate over government access to personal and private information dates back decades. But it took center stage after the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, when Apple refused to open a backdoor into an assailant's encrypted cell phone for FBI investigators.

The agency ultimately paid a hacker to unlock the phone instead.

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.

A major medical association today suggested that doctors who treat people with Type 2 diabetes can set less aggressive blood sugar targets. But medical groups that specialize in diabetes sharply disagree.

Half a dozen medical groups have looked carefully at the best treatment guidelines for the 29 million Americans who have Type 2 diabetes and have come up with somewhat differing guidelines.

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Ovarian cancer affects about 1 percent of women, but it has a high mortality rate — about 14,000 deaths each year. Still, new guidelines recommend women who are not at high risk for the disease should avoid screening for it.

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Advancements in medicine have helped improve the overall health of Americans over the past several decades, but they haven’t benefited everyone.

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One option for treating an enlarged prostate in men involves an invasive form of surgery known to have serious side effects. A urologist in North Texas has been certified for a newer, minimally invasive form of treatment called UroLift.

Annie Spratt

On KERA's Think, noted food writer Michael Pollan came to the table to talk about how the things we eat have played a role in the evolution of our societies, economies, and our brains.

Part 3 of a three-part series.

As Texas looks to reduce its maternal mortality rate, there is one aspect of the crisis that is going to be harder to solve: Black women are more likely to die while pregnant or after giving birth than women from other racial or ethnic groups.

Part 2 of a three-part series.

Texas officials have been slow to respond to the state's maternal mortality crisis.

In the last year, lawmakers have passed legislation aimed at improving death certificate data, and they extended the life of a task force investigating why mothers are dying. But advocates are pushing state health officials to do more.

Library of Congress

This flu season is making regular headlines, especially in North Texas, where more than 100 people have died. It doesn't compare to the flu crisis the world endured a century ago, but we can still learn from it. 

Part 1 of a three-part series.

An alarming number of women die while pregnant or shortly after giving birth in Texas. According to national researchers who say the U.S. as a whole has a serious problem, Texas is an “outlier” when it comes to its high rate of maternal deaths.

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A new study has found more stroke victims may be saved from disability or death if doctors can remove blood clots that block circulation to the brain. It also found doctors may have more time than originally thought to perform the treatment.

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A team at the University of Texas at Dallas is developing a new method to treat pain by disrupting how the body processes it. 

Zachary Campbell researches pain on the molecular level at UT Dallas. His team's work describes a new method of reducing pain with RNA-based medicine. RNA stands for ribonucleic acid, which carries out genetic information from DNA to proteins.

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