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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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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Sales of meat substitutes are soaring because of concerns about personal health and the environment. But not all products are as healthy as advertised. Reading the nutrition label is important. 

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Fever, sneezing, a rash are obvious signals something may be physically wrong. But the body also sends “silent” signs you may ignore - signs of something far more serious. Here are six of them, according to Dr. Sentayehu Kassa, lead staff physician at Parkland Hospital's Vickery Health Center. 

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Sweets laced with marijuana. Police are seeing more cases of pot-laced cookies and candies made and sold in states where recreational use of marijuana is allowed, and then imported into states like Texas where marijuana remains illegal. Moreover, they look like the kind of regular treats kids would consume.

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A study published in 2015 found more than half of American adults had diabetes or pre-diabetes in 2012. Managing the disease usually involves medication, especially insulin. But exercise can also be effective - even preventive at times. 

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The Food and Drug Administration has approved changes to the nutrition facts label on packaged and processed food, beginning with larger, bolder type to make it easier to read. What  you will and won’t find on the label has also changed.

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When they can’t get opioid painkillers, a growing number of addicts turn to anti-diarrhea medication like Imodium for a cheap high,  but with serious consequences. Some call it "the poor man's methadone."

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Epilepsy affects about three million people in the U.S. alone. But while people associate seizures with the disorder, a lot of myths persist about epilepsy. 

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Enlarged prostate is a problem common to men over 50. Doctors usually recommend medication or various forms of surgery to address the problem. However,  the Food and Drug Administration in 2015 approved a quicker, less invasive alternative treatment using steam.

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Millions of people use statins to lower cholesterol, but some have complained about muscle pain after taking the drug. A recent study from the Cleveland Clinic found links between the pain and the medication. 

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Speak too long or too loud and you can end up hoarse or worse if you don’t learn to use your larynx correctly. It's the sound source for the human voice, and it regulates breathing and swallowing. 

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About 50,000 people are diagnosed with some form of head and neck cancer each year, most often older men. But research indicates an increase among younger people - partly because of an rise in cases of the HPV virus.

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Millions of people use various types of fitness trackers (wrist bands, clip-ons and smart watches) to help keep in shape. However, some online product reviews question their reliability.

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Sepsis is the body's overwhelming response to infection. It's potentially life-threatening, and recently killed actress Patty Duke. More than 200-thousand cases of sepsis are reported each year, but you can survive it if it’s caught early. 

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In our series, "Vital Signs,"  living with artificial devices like stents, valves and grafts intended to improve blood flow to the heart. Doctors in the U.S. insert the devices in about a million procedures each year. But after that, the work falls to the patient.

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Sold over-the-counter, activated charcoal can be beneficial when used by a medical professional. But some people use it on their own for such things as high cholesterol, hangovers or stomach pain at serious risk to their health.

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Lactose Intolerance is a common problem - about 65 percent of the human population has it. And while it can’t be cured, it’s rarely dangerous and you can manage lactose intolerance.

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Head lice is a common problem among kids.  The CDC estimates the parasitic insects infest between six and 12-million children, ages three to 11, each year.  But Texas and at least 24 other states have reported cases of so-called super lice, which are harder to eliminate.

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Photographing yourself with a smartphone seems harmless. But a man in Washington state died February 28 after accidentally shooting himself in the face while posing with a gun. And at least 49 others here and abroad have died from selfie-related accidents.

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Congenital heart disease is a structural defect in the heart that occurs at birth. Advancements in medicine have made it possible for more people with the disease to survive into adulthood.  But few of those adult survivors get the specialized care they still need.

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Most cases of colon cancer occur in people over 50 - about the time recommended to begin screening for the disease.  But results of research over 15 years found an increase in colon cancer in those younger than 50.

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Atrial fibrillation, a irregular heartbeat, affected more than 33-million people globally in 2010.

A new study says atrial fibrillation appears to be a stronger risk factor for heart disease and death in women than in men.

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The term "broken heart" is usually just a figure of speech. However, the emotional pain or loss involved can contribute to a potentially serious physical condition called Broken Heart Syndrome.

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