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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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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Lead contamination caused a crisis with the water supply in Flint, Michigan. But the CDC says at least 4 million households have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead.

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At some point, many of us will have a case of heartburn that can be easily fixed. However, Dr. Christian Mayorga of Parkland Hospital and UT Southwestern Medical Center explains why heartburn is not always something to take lightly. 

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KERA examines common health issues in our series Vital Signs.

In this edition, a problem common to many – weight gain. A possible solution may lie in how much you sleep. 

Dr. Ryan Hays, Director of Sleep Medicine at Parkland Hospital System and Assistant Professor of Neurology & Neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, explains how one affects the other.

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Although nearly four million people a year sustain concussions, there’s still a lot doctors don't know about them, including Dr. Munro Cullum.  The neuropsychologist is one of the researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center leading a study of several hundred people to eventually come up with better treatment for concussion. 

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Many often associate concussion with contact sports like football. But Dr. Benjamin Newman, a neurosurgeon with Methodist Health System, says a blow to the head in almost any activity can lead to a concussion - even kids riding those new bikes they got for Christmas.

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Some good news for coffee drinkers.

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Choosing-poorly designed toys or toys that aren’t age-appropriate for your child can lead to more harm than fun.  

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KERA looks at real-life health issues in our series, Vital Signs. In this edition: all that rich or sweet food we tend eat more of at holiday time.

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A recent study found diverticulitis has been on the rise in this country since the late 1990s. It now accounts for about 300,000 admissions each year for inpatient care.

Dr. Christian Mayorga, a gastroenterologist with Parkland Hospital System, explains this colon problem that can cause pain, obstruction and fever. 

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Dr. Donna Persaud, ​chief of Pediatric Community Medicine at Parkland Hospital System, talks about potential problems from the types of soap we use – especially anti-bacterial soap.

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We examine real-life health issues in our series, Vital Signs. In this episode, dementia.

Actor and comedian Robin Williams was being treated for Parkinson’s Disease when he committed suicide in 2014, but the autopsy showed signs of Lewy Body Dementia.

Dr. Angela Bentle, a geriatrics specialist at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, talked about the often misdiagnosed disorder.

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