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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Cancer treatment often involves chemotherapy and other toxic drugs, but a recent study again suggests hope of an organic approach.

In the study, Ajay Goel, director of gastrointestinal research at the Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, found that grape seed extract can fight colon cancer.

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Physical fitness, diet and mental stimulation all contribute to good brain health. But you also need water — and lots of it.

On average, the human body contains about 60 percent water. Nearly all bodily systems depend on it, including the brain.

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A recently published study of 191 women found those who were highly fit in middle age decreased their risk for dementia by 88 percent compared to those who were moderately fit.

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Recent studies suggest even moderate consumption of coffee – one to four cups a day – may reduce the odds of colon cancer developing or recurring.

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More than eight million people have peripheral arterial disease or PAD, but relatively few know what it is. Ignoring the signs can have serious consequences.

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Souping, similar to juicing, has been popular in recent years as way to detox the body and to lose weight, but eating only soup for days at a time can cause problems, if you’re not careful.

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Some blame their weight gain on slow metabolism, which can affect the ability to keep off extra pounds, but other factors play a role.

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Ovarian cancer affects about 1 percent of women, but it has a high mortality rate — about 14,000 deaths each year. Still, new guidelines recommend women who are not at high risk for the disease should avoid screening for it.

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One option for treating an enlarged prostate in men involves an invasive form of surgery known to have serious side effects. A urologist in North Texas has been certified for a newer, minimally invasive form of treatment called UroLift.

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A new study has found more stroke victims may be saved from disability or death if doctors can remove blood clots that block circulation to the brain. It also found doctors may have more time than originally thought to perform the treatment.

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A sedentary lifestyle can lead to problems with heart health, but people with active lifestyles aren’t immune, according to a new study of longtime endurance runners.

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When it's cold outside, alcohol might feel like a way to fend off the winter chill, but health care experts warn alcohol and cold weather can be a bad combination if you’re not careful. 

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For many, a list of New Year’s resolutions tends to include losing weight. Before considering diets, gyms, expensive equipment and tech gadgets, a local dietitian offers some sensible ideas to help with weight reduction.

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A study from cardiologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Resources has found that exercise can reverse damage to the heart in a sedentary adult – if he or she does enough exercise in time. 

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Recently released guidelines have lowered the definition for high blood pressure, which increases the number of people identified as having hypertension and being at risk for serious medical problems because of it.

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When civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson in November announced he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he joined a long list of famous people — and thousands of other Americans — who live with the neurological condition.

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In the midst of cold and flu season, you also want to guard yourself against pneumonia. It’s a common disease with about a million cases a year requiring medical care. But it's also easy to mistake for other medical problems.  

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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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