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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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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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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