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.

University of North Texas Ph.D candidate Ethan McBride prepares the precursor to the illegal drug PCP in a trailer.
Credit Lauren Silverman / 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. 

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

A cotton nightgown for your child seems like a pretty simple thing to track down. But it wasn't for John Rodakis, a dad living in Dallas. He’d heard about dangerous chemicals once common in kids pajamas, and out of precaution, he wanted a nightgown that was made from all natural materials. He’s not the only one. There’s a whole underground market for them. 

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Effective screening and prevention have limited deaths from cervical cancer to about 4,000 each year. But a recent study of a dozen states over 10 years found experts may have underestimated the risk of dying from the disease.

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Any hospital stay can be traumatic. But 30 to 80 percent of patients in intensive care units go through a period of profound confusion known as ICU delirium that can have long-term negative health effects. 

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We all need protein — it's an essential nutrient for the body. But consuming too much protein, in regular food or supplements, may have consequences.

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Many have had it: that feeling of dread at the thought of returning to work on Monday. A behavioral science counselor says there’s more to the "Monday workplace blues" than you might think.

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Most adults support routine childhood vaccinations for children. That’s the conclusion of a new, nationwide Pew Research Center survey. Still, in Texas, there’s a growing group of parents who oppose mandatory childhood vaccinations. 

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At one point, a heart surgical procedure required opening your chest. Technology’s now made it possible in some cases to avoid open heart surgery in favor of minimally invasive procedures that are actually better for some patients. 

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A lot of us think rushing from task to task and packing our schedules is a necessary evil. It turns out being busy might be good for your brain. That’s the conclusion of a new study led by North Texas researchers in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

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Most of us experience stress at some point in our lives, personally or professionally. Here's a look at what actually causes that reaction in the body and some steps to relieve stress.

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Spending time in space changes people: not just their outlook on life, but also their eyesight in general. For years, a North Texas doctor has been trying to find out what is causing this vision change among astronauts. His latest research provides some clues — and connects astronauts on the International Space Station, cancer patients on a roller coaster plane flight and high-tech sleeping sacks.

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One of the most common and potentially life-threatening food allergies, peanut allergy tends to develop in childhood and is usually lifelong. But new recommendations offer the chance to reduce the risk of children developing peanut allergy. 

Lauren Silverman / KERA

Traditionally, ambulance crews arrive with sirens blaring — ready to rush someone to the hospital. In Fort Worth, some paramedics are doing the opposite and scheduling visits to treat patients in their homes. It's known as "mobile integrated health care," and a ride along shows it's gaining traction.

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You may remember chlorophyll from biology class as helping plants convert sunlight to energy.  It’s now a popular food supplement and additive, but you need to exercise some caution.

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Texas allows parents to have their kids opt out of vaccinations for measles, mumps and other diseases. Two years ago, California stopped allowing those exemptions; a similar Texas effort fell short. This session in Austin, the sponsor of that bill isn't trying to end the "conscientious" exemption. His allies are using a different strategy.

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This week, President-elect Trump called for a quick repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The majority of Texans get healthcare through their employers, but over the past few years the number of people in Texas who’ve signed up through the Affordable Care Act has grown. Changes in the White House and Congress will affect both groups of Texans.

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The New York Times recently reported on an ongoing health problem: People once vigilant about vaccinating their children aren’t nearly as careful about protecting themselves as they age – even though some diseases are particularly dangerous for older people. 

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In the past few months there have been several outbreaks of mumps — a handful of cases linked to a Halloween party in Dallas and more to cheerleading contests in North Texas. As for measles, there have been fewer cases in Texas. But in 2013, there was an outbreak tied to a church northwest of Dallas. 

With that in mind, some experts predict Texas could soon be at the center of a nationwide debate over highly contagious diseases and vaccinations.

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Eating healthier and smarter is good for us overall. But there’s evidence it helps those with an age-related eye disease. 

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In Texas, the number of adults with diabetes is expected to quadruple over the next 30 years. Currently, about one in 12 adult Texans – about 2 million people – have been diagnosed with diabetes, with more than 700,000 in North Texas alone.

To get a glimpse of where Medicaid may be headed after Donald Trump moves into the White House, it may be wise to look to Indiana.

That's where Seema Verma, Trump's pick to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, comes from. And that's where she put her stamp on the state's health care program for the poor.

Stephanie Kuo/KERA

Doctor-patient interactions are typically routine, with doctors understanding little of their patients’ lives beyond the exam room. But medical schools are ushering in a culture shift in medicine – one that’s focused on more than just a patient’s symptoms.

In a study that is sure to rile male doctors, Harvard researchers have found that female doctors who care for elderly hospitalized patients get better results. Patients cared for by women were less likely to die or return to the hospital after discharge.

Previous research has shown that female doctors are more likely to follow recommendations about prevention counseling and to order preventive tests like Pap smears and mammograms.

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Most years, Texas sees only about 20 cases of mumps statewide. But the current outbreak in North Texas includes more than twice that many in Johnson County alone. Cases also have been reported in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties. 

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When a patient’s heart stops, responding quickly is a matter of life or death. A new study out of UT Southwestern shows some hospitals respond faster than others — with a life-saving medication.

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Tens of millions of Americans currently use statin drugs. Doctors have based that on cholesterol levels and various lifestyle factors. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests age should also figure into the decision. 

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

Last year, a federal judge declared the Texas foster care system broken. That’s no small-scale problem. There are more than 30,000 children in Texas foster care each year, and national studies indicate up to 80 percent of them have at least one chronic medical condition. 

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After a downturn in 2015, a rare disease affecting the nervous system is on the rise again. The CDC says 89 cases of acute flaccid myelitis has been confirmed this year in 33 states, including Texas. Five of those were in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. 

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According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis now kills more people worldwide than HIV/AIDS, and cases of the disease have increased in Texas. In 2015, there were more than 1,300 cases of tuberculosis reported in the state.

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Osteoporosis doesn't only affect older women. Men can also develop the bone-thinning disease, although at a lesser rate.

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Everyone makes mistakes — even doctors in emergency rooms and anesthesiologists during surgery. Despite safety checklists and top-of-the-line technology, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 250,000 Americans die annually due to medical errors. That’s more deaths than from lung and prostate cancer combined.

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