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. 

The misery of low back pain often drives people to the doctor to seek relief. But doctors are doing a pretty miserable job of treating back pain, a study finds.

Physicians are increasingly prescribing expensive scans, narcotic painkillers and other treatments that don't help in most cases, and can make things a lot worse. Since 1 in 10 of all primary care visits are for low back pain, this is no small matter.

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There’s no cure for dementia. But a study recently published in the journal Neurology found evidence to suggest reading, writing and playing games throughout your life can slow the disease's progress. Dr. Kevin Conner, a neurologist and the director of the Stroke Center at Texas Health Arlington Memorial hospital, explains why in this edition of Vital Signs. 

A new study of 100 private water wells in and near the Barnett Shale showed elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic, according to a team of researchers led by UT Arlington.

It seems like the Midwest is a hotbed for medical mysteries these days.

Earlier this week, scientists traced a brand-new virus to ticks in Missouri. Now disease detectives are hot on the trail of another puzzling pathogen in the heartland.

Come summertime, some of us here at Shots are reminded, as we lounge on decks and venture into overgrown gardens, that we are irresistible to mosquitoes. As we gripe about our itchy, pocked limbs, we can't help but wonder just why they unfailingly devour us and pass over our friends and loved ones. And when it comes to repellent, it's hard to tell just what works best.

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Hormone replacement therapy. Those three words sparked no small amount of controversy a decade ago, when the results of one of the largest clinical studies ever mounted showed women taking a combination of estrogen and progestin hormones had an increased risk for breast cancer

A pediatrician who spent years defending childhood vaccines against the likes of actress/activist Jenny McCarthy has launched an assault on megavitamins and dietary supplements.

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Health officials are trying to find the source of an outbreak in North Texas of cyclosporiasis. Nearly 50 cases have been reported statewide - most of them in Dallas, Denton, Collin and Tarrant counties.  Cyclosporiasis is a foodborne illness that can cause severe diarrhea and other symptoms. Tarrant County Medical Director Dr. Sandra Parker talked about the disease with KERA’s Sam Baker in this edition of Vital Signs.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If you’re nearing the age of 65, and hoping to live a long, healthy life, Minnesota, Idaho, and Washington are looking a lot better than Texas.

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U.S. News & World Report has released its annual hospital rankings, and several North Texas systems can boast nationally recognized specialties. But Children’s Medical Center in Dallas has something special to brag about, a number one ranking in pediatric orthopedics.

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The Food and Drug Administration’s approved a new treatment for the most frequent symptom of menopause: hot flashes. Brisdelle is significant because it doesn’t contain hormones – something many menopausal women have avoided as treatment since a 2002 study linked hormonal replacement therapy to breast cancer. Dr. Jill Waggoner, a family medicine specialist with Methodist Charlton Medical Center, talks about this with KERA’s Sam Baker in this week’s Vital Signs.

Hai-Ting Chinn sings some seriously nerdy, and beautiful, classical music. The mezzo-soprano, who in addition to singing in operas, likes to write tunes with scientific lyrics and has a podcast she co-hosts called Scopes Monkey Choir. Check out her music, courtesy of Phil Plait, the creator of Slate's Bad Astronomy.

The PSA test has been dissed a lot lately. The nation's preventive medicine task force, for one, says the test is so unreliable in figuring out who's at risk for deadly prostate cancer that most men shouldn't bother getting one.

Do Diet Drinks Mess Up Metabolisms?

Jul 10, 2013

It may seem counterintuitive, but there's a body of evidence to suggest that the millions of Americans with a diet soda habit may not be doing their waistlines — or their blood sugar — any favors.

As the consumption of diet drinks made with artificial sweeteners continues to rise, researchers are beginning to make some uncomfortable associations with weight gain and other diseases.

Older men are at high risk of suicide, and they're far more likely to kill themselves if they have access to firearms.

Doctors should ask relatives of older people with depression or cognitive problems if there are guns in the home, much as they might ask about whether it's time to take away the car keys, an academic paper says.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

You already search online for deals on things like plane tickets and hotels -- so why not an MRI or sonagram? That’s the premise of DealWell.com, a site that’s created a marketplace for health and wellness services.

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A dental exam will certainly spot cavities, gum disease and other signs of poor oral health, but research is showing the mouth can also show early signs of health problems elsewhere in the body. Dr. Charles Wakefield is a professor and director of the advanced education in general dentistry residency program at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. He shares some examples in this edition of Vital Signs.

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Since health savings accounts (HSAs) were authorized by congress ten years ago, they’ve been a hit with both employers and employees. The accounts, which are always paired with a high-deductible health plan, allow consumers to put away money for medical expenses without paying income tax on their savings.

How Sunscreen Can Burn You

Jul 5, 2013

That sunscreen you dutifully spray throughout the day could actually get you burned.

We're not talking sunburn. We're talking people bursting into flames because they're wearing sunscreen.

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration recorded five incidents in which people were burned after their sunscreen caught on fire. One person was hurt after lighting a cigarette. Another stood near a citronella candle.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

For someone who has Parkinson’s disease, movement can be the greatest challenge. That’s why doctors are urging Parkinson’s patients to hit the dance floor.

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Health insurance companies aren’t the only ones competing for your money as the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate deadline approaches. Scammers are also trying to get in on the confusion. According to Jim Quiggle, a national spokesman for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. There are a variety of tricks con artists use to get sensitive information – most often they’ll pose as representatives of government agencies.

Connor Industries

The Obama Administration is delaying part of the health-care reform law that requires businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance.  That's good news for Fort Worth small business owner Grady Payne, CEO of Connor Industries.

Since the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, mental health has made headlines nationally and locally. For a time, it seemed like everyone was talking about the importance of mental health care -- from politicians like President Obama and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to stars like Demi Lovato and Bradley Cooper. But spending on mental health is seriously lagging behind when compared to other medical conditions. As Catherine Rampell of the New York Times reports, direct mental health spending in the U.S. has remained roughly 1 percent of the economy since 1986, while total health spending climbed from about 10 percent of gross domestic product in 1986 to nearly 17 percent in 2009.

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The number of prescription painkiller overdose deaths in women increased 400 percent between 1999 and 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden says he’s never seen such a big increase. It’s nearly double the rise in overdose deaths among men during that time.

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Like many American holidays, a Fourth of July celebration for many is tied to food – and usually not the nutritious kind. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In this week’s Vital Signs, Lona Sandon of UT Southwestern Medical Center shares suggestions for healthier eating with KERA’s Sam Baker, beginning with burgers and hot dogs.

Stella Chavez / KERA News

It would be nice if triple digits were limited to paychecks, area codes, and padlocks. But that’s not the case in Dallas-Fort Worth. The summer’s first triple-digit temperature made an early arrival this week, and Friday was even hotter. Here are four tips to beat the heat.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

Hundreds of mental health specialists from across the state are gathered today in Downtown Dallas for the 28th Annual Texas Council of Mental Health Centers Conference.

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As part of National HIV Testing Day, there will be locations across DFW offering free testing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV and almost one in five don’t know they’re infected.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

The leading cause of blindness in adults in is age-related macular degeneration. More than a million Americans have it. And while there are some ways to keep the disease from getting worse, there’s no way to restore sight once it’s been lost. As part of KERA’s Breakthroughs project, Lauren Silverman reports on one North Texas woman who is among the first in the nation to have a new procedure that’s made it possible for her to see details she thought were lost forever.

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has unveiled its new HealthCare.gov website, featuring a 24/7 educational hotline for information about the health insurance marketplace set to open on October 1st. 

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