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

Flickr Creative Commons / Pan American Health Organization

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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A recent CDC study found seven out of 10 U.S. adults, ages 65 and older, have hypertension, but nearly half do not have it under control.  A hypertension specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center says the reasons go further than just forgetting to take needed medication.

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It's often used as a major ingredient in sweets: desserts, lattes, even ale. But put all the sugar and cream aside, and pumpkin can also be a healthy food choice. 

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After a mammogram, no one wants to hear the words, “We found a spot on the image.” But it can be a problem for women with high density breast tissue – and it may or may not have to do with breast cancer. 

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Some of the 24 million people in the U.S. with asthma, or inflammation that narrows the airways, suffer severe symptoms: Like persistent shortness of breath. The inability to speak in full sentences. Or a chest that feels closed. Two new studies tout possible new treatments for severe asthma. 

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Women  experience menopause around  51 years old, on average. But combing through 32 studies involving 310, 000 women, researchers in the Netherlands concluded menopause before the age of 45 may increase risk for cardiovascular disease and death. 

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The extra lengths some go to for exercise.  Hot yoga’s grown in popularity over the years.  but exercise in a hot environment can be dangerous if you’re not careful. 

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The old saying goes “it pays to be nice.” Turns out a smile, saying good morning or paying the tab for the person behind you at Starbucks may payoff with  better health. A behavioral health counselor  talks about the health benefits of random acts of kindness. 

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There are more than three million cases of urinary tract infections in the U.S. each year. Antibiotics are the usual treatment. However, some believe cranberry juice can help.  

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The American Heart Association has recommended new limits on kids consuming sugar: Ages 2 to 18 should consume no more than 25 grams of sugar a day. No food or drink with added sugars for children younger than 2. 

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A new study from UT Southwestern Medical Center has found work productivity can be a key factor in measuring a patient’s recovery. The study’s lead author explains.

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A new UT Southwestern Medical Center study of electronic medical records from six Dallas-Fort Worth area hospitals found 20 percent of patients had one or more unstable vital signs when they were released within 24 hours of discharge. Doing so can lead to serious consequences. 

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Results from a recently published study show men twice as likely as women to die from sudden cardiac death. It’s the largest cause of natural death in the U.S., causing about 325,000 adult deaths each year.

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A biopsy involves removing tissue to find out if you have a disease or the extent of it. The FDA recently approved a less-invasive “liquid” biopsy for a certain form of lung cancer. But the possibilities are far greater.  

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It’s estimated more than 24 million Americans, age 40 and older, have cataracts. This painless clouding of the lens of the eye can cause serious problems.  But cataracts can be easily treated, especially if you catch certain symptoms early. 

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A recently-published study shows some weight loss medications actually do help, but they’re not cures. An expert in non-surgical weight loss at UT Southwestern Medical Center says users of the drugs need to be clear about what they’re taking.

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