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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Knowing your family history can alert a doctor to potential problems like heart disease, for instance. But getting that information sometimes requires an extra step: genetic testing. In this week’s Vital Signs, Sam Baker talks with Sheryl Walker, a genetic counselor with Baylor Health Care’s Inherited Cardiovascular Disease Clinic.

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Stroke has a large negative impact on society, with women disproportionately affected. An estimated 6.8 million people in the United States are living after having had a stroke, including 3.8 million women and three million men. Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death for men, but the third leading cause for women. So says the American Heart Association this month in its newly released guidelines for prevention of stroke in women.

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As with dieters in general, it’s not uncommon for people who undergo weight loss surgery to gain back the pounds they lost. In the search for a reason why, a study from U-T Southwestern Medical Center found that even after three months of nutritional counseling, many patients failed to follow guidelines after surgery. Dr. Abhimanyu Garg explains in the week’s Vital Signs.

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A UT Southwestern Medical Center study may have uncovered a possible contributor to Alzheimer’s Disease: DDT. The U-S banned the pesticide more than 40 years ago, but a by-product of it called DDE showed up in blood samples of people with Alzheimer’s.

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If you’re buying chocolate for Valentine’s Day, keep in mind a study last year that found dark chocolate healthier than milk or white chocolate – sort of. Sharon Cox, a Registered Dietitian with Parkland Hospital, explains why in this week’s edition of Vital Signs.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended against doctors prescribing combination drugs with more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen. That’s the pain reliever and fever reducer also used in many over-the-counter medications. Too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage.

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A recently-released study has eased fears about whether it’s safe for pregnant women to eat peanuts and tree nuts like walnuts, almonds and pecans. Dr. Sheri Puffer, an OB/GYN at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, discusses the results with KERA’s Sam Baker in this installment of Vital Signs.

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UT Southwestern Medical Center is taking part in clinical trials for treatment of alcohol hepatitis. Dr. Mack Mitchell, Vice Chairman and Professor of Internal Medicine, explains why in this week’s installment of KERA’s Vital Signs.

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Dehydration happens when your body doesn’t have enough water to replace what’s lost during the day. You might associate that more with activity and heat. But Dr. Alexander Eastman, Interim Trauma Medical Director at Parkland Hospital, explains in this week’s installment of Vital Signs how dehydration can be a serious problem in winter.

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Twenty states across the country have legalized marijuana in one form or another, and last week an entire country declared it legal — Uruguay in South America. Meanwhile, 45 states and the U.S. government are moving in the opposite direction when it comes to what’s known as “synthetic marijuana,” or “Spice” or “K2.” It’s a chemical mixture applied to harmless plants, dried and smoked.

All the food preparation and consumption during the holidays unfortunately make a perfect opportunity for food poisoning if we’re not careful. In today’s installment of KERA’s Vital Signs, dietitian Emily Hein of the Heart Hospital Baylor Plano shares tips for food safety, beginning with one of the major sources of foodborne illness – cross contamination.

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Migraine headaches are severe enough to make you reach for anything that might bring relief. And that can lead to serious problems. The American Headache Society (AHS) recently issued recommendations of things NOT to do when diagnosing or treating migraines.

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New guidelines were released earlier this month on who should take statin drugs to reduce cholesterol. It turns out that those cholesterol numbers we’re so obsessed with may be less important than risk factors.

Amid controversy over the recommendations, we take a look at what statins are and how they work. In Vital Signs, KERA’s Sam Baker spoke with Dr. Roberto Wayhs, a cardiologist with Methodist Charlton Medical Center in Dallas.

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Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and its progression largely focuses on plaque buildup in the brain. But researchers at U-T Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian think they’ve hit on another possibility: The role the immune system may play in both Alzheimer’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. Dr. Nancy Monson, an immunologist at UT Southwestern, explains in this week’s edition of KERA’s Vital Signs.

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In this installment of KERA’s Vital Signs, we revisit the subject of stroke. A study last month in the Lancet pointed to an increase in stroke among younger adults. Dr. Ben Newman, an endovascular neurosurgeon at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, talked with Sam Baker about who’s affected and why.

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In this week’s installment of Vital Signs, a new study challenging the idea of simply staying active and engaged to keep aging minds sharp. Researchers at U-T Dallas found activities like reading, socializing or word games aren’t enough. Learning new, mentally challenging skills produced more benefit.

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Numerous stories on the subject mostly focus on women. Men also get breast cancer, but their lack of awareness about that often has serious consequences. Dr. Roshni Rao of UT Southwestern Medical Center talked (with KERA’s Sam Baker) about male breast cancer in this installment of Vital Signs.

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Actor Tom Hanks recently revealed he has the most common form of diabetes – type 2.

Those with type 2 diabetes don’t properly use insulin, which is needed to absorb sugar and starches in the blood.

Hanks has attributed the disease to both lifestyle choices and genetics. In the latest installment of KERA’s Vital Signs, Dr. Saleemah Fahmi, an endocrinologist at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, explains how those factors impact the disease.

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Its symptoms suggest a number of ailments, but doctors have been diagnosing more cases of Chiari (pronounced kee-AH-ree) malformation — a condition where the brain intrudes on the spinal column. In this installment of KERA’s Vital Signs, Dr. Sabatino Bianco, a neurosurgeon with of Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, talks about the two most common forms of Chiari.

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Senior citizens will have some extra protection this flu season: A new “high dose” version of the flu vaccine intended the boost the immune system of people 65 and older. In this installment of KERA’s Vital Signs, Dr. Adam McDaniel, an internist with Centennial Medical Center, explains how the new vaccine works.

It’s the most aggressive and rapid growing form of brain tumors. But researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have identified a protein called RIP 1  that may slow down glioblastomas.

Dr. Amyn Habib, an Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics, is senior author of the study in Cell Reports. In this installment of KERA’s Vital Signs, he explains how the protein works.

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Your own lifestyle habits aside, belly fat and other body changes in middle-aged men has been attributed to low testosterone. But a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests a hormone more associated with women may be the real culprit. In this installment of KERA’s Vital Signs, Dr. Bradley Jones, an internist with Baylor Health Care, explains the value of this new information about estrogen.

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Along with the return to school across the country, each September also brings an annual spike of asthma attacks to emergency rooms. The two are related.  Dr. Stephen Mueller, a pulmonologist with Methodist Charlton Medical Center, explains how in this installment of KERA’s Vital Signs.

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After a natural or manmade disaster, there are emergency responders to help with rescues, injuries and property damage. But a new study by psychiatrists at UT Southwestern Medical Center says disaster response should include mental health.

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When someone’s brought into the emergency room for acute ischemic stroke – or a blocked artery to the brain – a neurologist is called in to determine treatment. But back in 2010, Baylor Healthcare System noticed a problem at a regional center in Waxahachie: speed. The solution was a telemedicine program using laptop cameras and a robotic device to save crucial time in providing treatment. Dr. Dion Graybeal, medical director of the Baylor stroke program, talks about how it’s done  in this installment of KERA’s Vital Signs.

Signs of a stroke require attention as soon as possible. Doctors are using videoconferencing with laptop cameras and a robotic device to save crucial time. Dr. Dion Graybeal, medical director of Baylor's stroke program, talks with KERA's Sam Baker about the latest developments.

Texas students had to get up to date on vaccinations to return to school today – especially the measles shot. An outbreak of the viral disease in North Texas has hit Tarrant County hardest. Many of the 15 cases traced back to a person who traveled out of the country where measles is more common. In this installment of KERA’s Vital Signs, Tarrant County epidemiologist Dr. Russell Jones talks about the importance of getting vaccinated.

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Doctors usually clamp and cut the umbilical cord less than a minute after childbirth. But a study recently published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews suggests waiting longer would benefit a newborn. Dr. Sheri Puffer, an Ob-Gyn with Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, explains why in this edition of KERA’s series Vital Signs.

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Even after federal and local education campaigns, viral hepatitis seems to be surging. The Centers for Disease Control say it’s the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplants.

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Research shows high rates of depression among patients with chronic illnesses. It’s best to treat them both at the same time, but that can present problems for hospitals. Dr. Radha Kambhampati is Medical Director of Behavioral Health for Baylor Health Care System. It opened facilities in Garland and Irving in 2013 to address this issue. He talks about it in this edition of Vital Signs.

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