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 News.

Ways to Connect

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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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An umbilical cord after birth yields about three to five ounces of cell-rich cord blood. That's not a lot, but enough of it can help treat more than 80 or so diseases. A North Texas oncologist says education's key to boosting limited supply. 

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Another potentially dangerous trend: the "eraser challenge." That's where you vigorously rub an eraser on your skin while reciting a certain phrase or the alphabet. The results can be disfiguring or worse. 

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It hasn’t been scientifically proven as beneficial, but that hasn’t stopped many from trying for the goal of 10,000 steps a day, which is touted as a way to stay in shape. However, a new study finds 15,000 steps might be better.  

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It’s believed a child born premature may be at risk later for heart problems as an adult. But a recent study suggests preterm birth may be an early sign of heart disease later for the mother. 

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Each year, more than 35,000 babies are born with congenital heart defects. Chances for survival were slim not so long ago. But today, more than a million adults live with congenital heart defects. 

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The term "cardiomyopathy" refers to diseases of the heart muscle that make it difficult over time for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. As many as one in 500 people may have the condition. One form of it – dilated cardiomyopathy — contributed to the death of singer George Michael.

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Fish oil is among the most widely used supplements in the U.S. An estimated 20 percent of Americans consume them, but some nutritionists recommend sticking with the real thing – an oily fish like salmon or tuna. 

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Tonsils serve as sort of a filter in your body. Chances are many of you have had them removed, but two recent studies differ on when and if that’s necessary. 

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UT Southwestern Medical Center and the University of Miami are conducting a clinical trial of over-the counter meds – in this case, for people with bipolar disorder who have a drinking problem. 

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An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, which is very treatable, according to the American Thyroid Association. But more than half the people with thyroid disease don’t know they have it.

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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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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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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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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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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. 

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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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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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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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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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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. 

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

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Many of us assume the over-the counter medicines we buy will work for anyone, but you have to read the label to know if they’re really safe for you. A toxicologist explains what you'll see.

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They're two problems that go well beyond mere “tummy trouble.” Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inflammatory Bowel Disease sound similar – and share some similar symptoms – but one can have far greater consequences. Here's the difference between the two.

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