Vital Signs | KERA News

Vital Signs

Vital Signs is a weekly consumer health chat featuring leading North Texas medical figures. Hosted by Sam Baker, topics range from flu to skin cancer to exactly what a New Year’s cocktail does to your body.

Listen every Monday at 8:22 a.m. on KERA 90.1 FM.

Ways to Connect

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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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An estimated 660,000 Texans aren’t aware they have diabetes, and far more don’t know just how at risk they are for the disease. 

Prediabetes means that your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be Type 2 diabetes. Your pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to completely normalize your blood sugars.

The condition has no symptoms.

GlaxoSmithKline via Associated Press

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new vaccine for shingles. Zostavax has been the only product on the market for the last decade. Now, Shingrix appears to be more effective against the painful, viral rash.

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We often think about our diet in terms of what it can do for our heart and our waistline, but the right nutrients also provide the fuel for the brain to operate properly.

Maggy Boyd, a registered dietitian with Parkland Hospital System, explains how to feed your brain.  

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Another good reason to watch your weight: Experts say obesity has likely contributed to a common, but potentially fatal condition called acute pancreatitis.

Breast Health Center

A new state law this year requires commercial insurers to cover 3D mammograms, a more advanced — and expensive — form of screening for breast cancer than the standard 2D version.

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While breast cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death among women, the American Cancer Society recently reported death rates from the disease declined nearly 40 percent between 1989 and 2015.

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Researchers are launching clinical trials into prevention and treatment of kidney stones — hard deposits of minerals and salts that can block the flow of urine — as more Americans are contracting them and enduring their painful symptoms.

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Polycystic kidney disease — or PKD — causes numerous cysts to grow on the kidneys. It's the fourth leading cause of kidney failure. There is no cure, but a researcher at UT Southwestern Medical Center believes treatments are about 10 years away.

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A recent study found 70 percent of Americans binge-watch TV shows, sitting through an average of five episodes per marathon session. But that trend raises some health concerns.

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More than 30 million people wear contact lenses. Studies from the Centers for Disease Control say most users wear and maintain them incorrectly. 

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Falling is a common problem in senior adults that can have serious consequences, including loss of independence, brain traumatic injuries and even death. 

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Despite concerns about addiction and overprescription of opioids, the drugs are still considered an effective choice for acute or short-term pain. But the brain also can produce results just as effective.

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A group of researchers in the United Kingdom argues the standard medical advice of completing a course of antibiotics may do more harm than good. Most doctors believe it's become standard advice for a reason.

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With school back in session, students are having to readjust from their summer sleeping habits. 

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High-intensity interval training involves repeated brief bursts of very intense exercise mixed with longer periods of easy recovery. Sounds like something for younger people, but a new study of mice suggests older people might benefit, too.

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Paramedics can respond to emergencies in minutes. But, an injured person could possibly bleed to death in less time. A government program called Stop the Bleed aims to train bystanders to help in the interim.

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You don't hear about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, too often.

Only about one in 100,000 people contract ALS. That ratio included actor and playwright Sam Shepard, who died from the disease at age 73 late last month. 

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Time spent outside in the heat is often uncomfortable, but as Texas marks more triple-digit days, it can be dangerous, leading to heatstroke and heat exhaustion if you're not careful.

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Spuds, chips or fries, we consume a lot of potatoes in a lot of ways. Some are healthy and some not. It all depends on how you prepare them. But, there are plenty of health benefits in the vegetable itself.

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Those of you wanting to shed some weight this summer might do well to be more mindful of the clock. A recent study suggests when you eat may be as important as what you eat.

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New research by the Environmental Defense Fund using federal data found detectable levels of lead in 20 percent of baby food samples.

While the Food and Drug Administration has determined safe levels of lead that can be ingested, a North Texas toxicologist explains that repeated exposure to small amounts of lead is the greater concern when it comes to kids' health and development.

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The rate of liver cancer has been increasing in the U.S. — 38 percent between 2003 and 2012.

Texas has the highest incidence in the country of the most common form of liver cancer. The reason likely stems from a cluster of risk factors for the disease.

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A new study has found longer survival rates for women with Stage 4 breast cancer, the most severe form. 

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Many of you travelers will reach your summer vacation spot by plane, and for some, that will mean jet lag. And the more time zones you cross, the worse your symptoms can be.

However, there are possible ways to avoid the downsides of a long flight.

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Family members usually have to wait outside when doctors treat someone for a serious injury. But that’s changing with trauma care for children. A new study finds it can be beneficial for the family to be inside the emergency room.  

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Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have been looking into the reasons why patients return to hospitals within 30 days.

Results in 2016 focused on patients discharged with unstable vital signs. The latest study of six North Texas hospitals found a high rate of hospital-acquired anemia or a loss of red blood cells.  

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Even though people sleep less as they age, it doesn’t mean they need less sleep. A geriatrics specialist talks about factors that can impair sleep for seniors and steps they can take to get some needed rest.

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Five years ago, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended against routine blood tests to measure your level of prostate-specific antigens – the PSA test. The task force now recommends men 55 to 69 should talk with their doctor about whether to have the test. 

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