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. 

GABRIEL CRISToVER PeREZ / KUT

In Texas, mothers are dying — and lawmakers and public health officials are trying to figure out why.

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Some things will decline as we get older — that’s inevitable.

Physical strength, balance and endurance erode, our eyesight worsens, women quickly lose bone mass after menopause, and male testosterone levels drop.

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When it's cold outside, alcohol might feel like a way to fend off the winter chill, but health care experts warn alcohol and cold weather can be a bad combination if you’re not careful. 

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Addiction to opioids often begins in the doctor’s office. These drugs are typically the only option to manage pain after an operation or in patients with serious injuries. They’re also frequently prescribed to patients with chronic pain, and it’s these patients who are most at risk for opioid addiction.

UT Southwestern Medical Center

Autism affects about one in 68 children, and the condition poses social challenges, including difficulty processing social interactions, such as facial expressions and physical gestures.

New research out of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas shows those social behaviors could be restored through a process called "neuromodulation," or brain stimulation.

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For many, a list of New Year’s resolutions tends to include losing weight. Before considering diets, gyms, expensive equipment and tech gadgets, a local dietitian offers some sensible ideas to help with weight reduction.

The flu doesn't just make you feel lousy. A study published Wednesday finds it can increase your risk of having a heart attack, too.

"We found that you're six times more likely to have a heart attack during the week after being diagnosed with influenza, compared to the year before or after the infection," says study author Dr. Jeff Kwong, an epidemiologist and family physician with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Public Health Ontario in Canada.

Stephanie Kuo / KERA News

Flu season has been especially severe this year in North Texas. Earlier this month, the Walgreens flu index ranked Dallas-Fort Worth the seventh most active metropolitan area in the country, prompting area hospitals to push flu prevention more than usual.

But those reminders can often miss the most vulnerable in the community – so a roving flu clinic in Fort Worth is closing the gap.

When parts of the federal government ground to halt this past weekend, Linda Nablo, who oversees the Children's Health Insurance Program in Virginia, had two letters drafted and ready to go out to the families of 68,000 children insured through the program, depending on what happened.

One said the federal government had failed to extend CHIP after funding expired in September and the stopgap funding had run out. The program would be shutting down and families would lose their insurance.

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A study from cardiologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Resources has found that exercise can reverse damage to the heart in a sedentary adult – if he or she does enough exercise in time. 

While Texas' infant mortality rate is lower than the national average, a new study shows wide differences in rates across different areas of the state and among different racial groups.

Almost the same number of Texans who signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) during the last enrollment period signed up this time, according to the federal government. The figure took experts by surprise because there were federal cuts in funding for outreach and assistance.

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The horror stories about football and brain damage keep flowing out of the NFL, but surprisingly, little is known about how the sport affects the brains of young players. 

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Recently released guidelines have lowered the definition for high blood pressure, which increases the number of people identified as having hypertension and being at risk for serious medical problems because of it.

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

For years, Ramey Market in Fort Worth’s historic Stop Six neighborhood has been an utterly unremarkable convenience store selling the typical assortment of sundry items, snacks and sodas. It was just the closest place to buy cigarettes or lottery tickets or beer.

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Late last year, a woman gave birth to a baby via a transplanted uterus — the first ever in the United States. And it happened in Dallas: The boy was born at Baylor University Medical Center.

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When civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson in November announced he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he joined a long list of famous people — and thousands of other Americans — who live with the neurological condition.

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Texas is first in flu according to Walgreens, and both the Dallas County and Tarrant County health departments are tracking a steep uptick in the number of positive tests.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year's vaccine is thought to be about 32 percent effective, just like last year's.

Photos provided / Graphic by Molly Evans

In September of 1982, a 12-year-old girl and six adults in and around Chicago died suddenly and mysteriously. Hundreds of investigators looked into the cases and discovered that all the victims had taken Tylenol laced with cyanide.

Texas is over-reporting some of its maternal mortality data, a national study released today found.

The study, from the University of Maryland Population Research Center and published in the journal Birth, is a follow-up to a study released in August 2016 that found the maternal mortality rate in Texas had doubled in a two-year period.

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The value of the digital cryptocurrency bitcoin has been all over the map recently, reaching a high of about $20,000 per coin late last year to nearly $14,000 this week. That's a big leap for something that was worth just a dollar in 2011. 

But what exactly is bitcoin?

Photo: Courtesy of Children's Health System; Graphic: Molly Evans, KERA News

This year was full of breakthroughs in health, science and technology. Telemedicine made its mark in Dallas, "baby boxes" became a thing, and researchers got one step closer to understanding what causes blurry vision for astronauts.

Revisit three of our favorite Breakthroughs stories from the year below.

A day after President Trump said the Affordable Care Act "has been repealed," officials reported that 8.8 million Americans have signed up for coverage on the federal insurance exchange for 2018 — nearly reaching the 2017 number in half the sign-up time.

That total is far from complete. Enrollment is still open in parts of seven states, including Florida and Texas, that use the federal HealthCare.gov exchange but were affected by hurricanes earlier this year.

Molly Evans / KERA News

Images from the moon landing and other major space moments of the 1960s are familiar to many Americans. But what about the sounds? NASA recorded thousands of hours of audio tapes from the Apollo missions that have sat unheard in storage for decades.

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In the midst of cold and flu season, you also want to guard yourself against pneumonia. It’s a common disease with about a million cases a year requiring medical care. But it's also easy to mistake for other medical problems.  

IN OUR OWN VOICE: NATIONAL BLACK WOMEN'S REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE AGENDA

A new survey shows black adults in Texas and around the country have a lot of concerns about reproductive health. Experts met in Dallas this week to talk about the findings and their implications.

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The Trump administration is guaranteeing Texas $135 million to continue helping more than 450,000 uninsured children and pregnant women if Congress doesn’t renew authorization the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Molly Evans / KERA News

Robots are assuming more and more roles in our daily lives. They can ask us about our day, play songs for us and, as one study from the University of Texas Arlington shows, can perform Shakespeare with us, too. 

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A new FDA-approved cell therapy holds promise for treating a form of blood cancer called multiple meyeloma. UT Southwestern Medical Center will soon begin clinical trials of CAR-T therapy to find out if it can succeed where older treatments have failed.

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Herbs and spices definitely enhance the flavor of food, but some believe, on their own, they can do the same for your health. A clinical dietitian at Parkland Hospital says there’s some truth to that, but there are limits.

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