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 dental exam will certainly spot cavities, gum disease and other signs of poor oral health, but research is showing the mouth can also show early signs of health problems elsewhere in the body. Dr. Charles Wakefield is a professor and director of the advanced education in general dentistry residency program at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. He shares some examples in this edition of Vital Signs.

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Like many American holidays, a Fourth of July celebration for many is tied to food – and usually not the nutritious kind. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In this week’s Vital Signs, Lona Sandon of UT Southwestern Medical Center shares suggestions for healthier eating with KERA’s Sam Baker, beginning with burgers and hot dogs.

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Nearly 160,000 people die of lung cancer each year. Many cases aren’t discovered until the advanced stage. But research since a 2011 trial involving older, heavy smokers indicates low-dose or low radiation CT scans outperform chest X-rays in detecting early signs of lung cancer and reducing its death rate. In this edition of Vital Signs, Dr. Kartik Konduri, co-director of the Lung Cancer Center of Excellence at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, explains why Baylor Health Care recently has expanded its use of low-dose CT scans to screen high risk patients.

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More than 25 million people – nearly a third of them children -  are known to have asthma. The lung disease causes recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing – all of which can be more troublesome on ozone alert days in summer. Dr. Stephen Mueller with Methodist Charlton Medical Center explains why in this week’s edition of Vital Signs.

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Before Angelina Jolie told the world about her decision to have a double mastectomy, you might not have heard of BRCA1 or BRCA2. These are two genes where mutations are known to increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Jolie’s health risk was raised because of a mutation of the BRCA1 gene.  

Scientists say we need to look beyond BRCA – to other genes that also increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. KERA’s Lauren Silverman talks with Linda Robinson, assistant director of the Cancer Genetics Program at UT Southwestern about the future of genetic testing for breast cancer. 

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Seven percent of school-age kids have attention deficient/hyperactivity disorder. And last week, the American Psychiatric Association's Manual of Mental Disorders broadened the criteria for ADHD. The changes will better describe the course of symptoms over a lifetime. In this week’s Vital Signs, KERA’s Sam Baker talks with Dr. James Norcross, a psychiatrist with UT Southwestern Medical Center.

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It’s estimated about one in two women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis – or low bone density. But it’s not just an older woman’s disease. About one in four men over 50 will meet the same fate. And the disease isn’t limited to older people. KERA’s Sam Baker talked with Dr. Joseph Borrelli of Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital about how osteoporosis works in this edition of Vital Signs.

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Recent reports of a so-called "sex superbug" - a drug-resistant strain of gonorrhea - reaching the U.S. turned out to be false. The H041 strain hasn’t been detected since a case in Japan several years ago. But even though gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics, the health community remains concerned about the threat of drug-resistant strains of the sexually transmitted disease. Dr. Cedric Spak, with North Texas Infectious Diseases Consultants and Baylor Medical Center Dallas, explains why in this week’s edition of Vital Signs.

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When medication fails to bring relief to people with chronic sinusitis, the alternative to open the flow of mucus is usually surgery. The traditional type calls for removing bone and tissue to clear sinuses. But there’s also the option of balloon sinuplasty. It’s similar to angioplasty used to open arteries. Dr. Kenny Iloabachie talked about the procedure with KERA’s Sam Baker in this edition of Vital Signs.

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After finding mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus earlier than usual in at least two cities, Dallas County officials have begun urging outdoor use of mosquito repellent containing DEET. But what is DEET? And is there any reason to be concerned about using it any time we’re outdoors? Some answers in this edition of Vital Signs from David Jefferson, Tarrant County’s Environmental Health Manager.

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Be it professional or personal, we spend a lot time in front of computer screens. Too much time can lead to problems. In this edition of Vital Signs, computer vision syndrome or CVS. At least half of us using computers have experienced some form of it – just ask Dr. Edward Mendelson of UT Southwestern Medical Center.

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A recently published study suggests controlling or preventing risk factors like hypertension may limit or delay brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of age-related neurological deterioration. Dr. Karen Rodrigue of the UT Dallas Center for Vital Longevity talked about this in this edition of Vital Signs. She said the medical profession’s been exploring the idea of vascular dementia for decades.

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It’s estimated more than 159-thousand people will die of lung cancer in 2013. The National Lung Cancer Partnership has a announced a new goal to double the five-year survival rate of the disease by 2022. It’s currently 16 percent. Dr. Joan Schiller, chief of the Hematology and Oncology Department of  UT Southwestern Medical Center, is also President of the Partnership. In this week’s “Vital Signs”, Dr. Schiller explained why survival rates are so low.

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It’s one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., but colon cancer's highly preventable if caught early with screening. Yet, for whatever reason, many are apprehensive about colonoscopy - an exam of the colon and rectum. One alternative is virtual colonoscopy. It requires the same laxative and low residue diet beforehand as the conventional procedure. But in this week’s Vital Signs, Dr. Cecelia Brewington of UT Southwestern Medical Center says virtual colonoscopy is less invasive, faster and there’s no sedation.

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It’s been rare in Texas, but the latest so-called superbug resistant to antibiotics has hit more than 200 hospitals across the U-S in a six month period last year.  In this edition of Vital Signs, Dr. Bill Sutker, chief of infectious diseases of Baylor University Medical Center, explains why  CRE is part of a larger, growing problem.

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If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, blue light from various sources – including electronic devices -- might be a problem. Studies suggest even low levels of blue light can delay secretions in the body of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles. In this edition of Vital Signs, the scoop on blue light from sleep specialist Dr. John Herman, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

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Aside from the expense and discomfort, the annoying part of getting a dental crown is the time involved – usually two separate visits to complete the process. Two different companies – one of them in North Texas – have created systems using 3D imaging to reduce the crown procedure to one visit total.

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A new government-funded study published in the online journal Neurology concluded the number of people in the U.S. with Alzheimer's Disease could almost triple by 2050 without some form of prevention or cure. In this week’s Vital Signs, Dr. Bassem Elsawy, a geriatric specialist at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, discusses the reasons why and whether society's prepared for the increase.

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An estimated one in five young people in the U.S. suffers from a diagnosable, treatable mental illness. Yet, most get little or no help because of we don’t recognize the signs and symptoms. Vanita Halliburton is working to change that through a foundation named after her son. She explained why and talked about the signs of mental illness in young people in this edition of “Vital Signs”.

Lupus: A Cruel Mystery

Feb 11, 2013
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Some call it the cruel mystery. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can strike any part of the body, but the wide range of symptoms can be easily mistaken for something else. In this segment of KERA’s Vital Signs, Tessie Holloway, president of the Lupus Foundation of America’s North Texas chapter, discusses the disease and the need for greater awareness.

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Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer found  in various brand-name products you may have at home – Tylenol, NyQuil or prescription drugs like Vicodin or Percocet. But using too much acetaminophen – and some people do – can lead to liver damage. Dr. Shannan Tujios of  UT Southwestern Medical Center talks about the dangers in this week’s edition of “Vital Signs.”

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A health disparity from the 90s holds true: A recent study found African Americans are still at higher risk to die from a heart attack or heart failure than Whites. In this edition of “Vital Signs,” Dr. Tim Isaac, a cardiologist with Methodist Charlton Medical Center talked about the reasons why.

4 Good Ways To Get Rid Of Unused Medication

Jan 7, 2013
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Disposing of unused prescription drugs the wrong way can have serious consequences. Jeena Connor, Director of Pharmacy Services at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, explains in this segment of Vital Signs.

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As we prepare to pop the cork on champagne to welcome the New Year, Bryan Wasson, an internal medicine specialist at Baylor Medical Center in Irving, breaks down the effect of alcohol on the body.

A recent study found even light to moderate smoking (one to 12 cigarettes a day) can increase the risk in women of sudden cardiac death. SCD causes about 325,000 adult deaths in the U.S., and is  responsible for half of all heart disease deaths. In this segment of Vital Signs, Dr. Amir Choudhry, a cardiologist with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, explains sudden cardiac death.

5 Key Questions In The Race Against Flu

Dec 12, 2012
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Health officials say get a flu shot if you haven’t done so. The virus arrived early, hitting Texas and four other southern states harder than other regions. In this segment of Vital Signs, Dr. Shantala Samart, an infectious disease specialist with Methodist Charlton Medical Center, talks about the flu strains being seen in Texas and why the virus showed up early.

Hidden Calories In Alcoholic Drinks

Dec 3, 2012
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Holiday meals and snacks pack on the pounds if you’re not careful, but so can drinking. In this edition of Vital Signs, Dr. Bradley Jones with Baylor Medical Center Irving tells how and why alcohol can add to your waistline.

Blood Donations: The Gift That Keeps Giving

Nov 26, 2012
Carter Blood Care

During the holidays when thoughts turn to gift giving, organizations like American Red Cross and Carter Blood Care tend to see fewer donations. Dr. Lesley Kresie, Carter's medical director of laboratory services, explains why in this week’s segment of “Vital Signs.”

Six Facts About How Blood Donations Are Used:

Whole blood, kept cool in refrigerators, can be transfused for 21 days after the donation.

UT Southwestern Medical Center

Scientists studying cancer cells in humans commonly transplant them to grow human tumors in mice. It’s called a xenograft.  Problem is the tumors don’t always grow in mice as they would in patients. But scientists at U-T Southwestern Medical Center have developed a xenograft model that consistently works in the study of skin cancer. Dr. Sean Morrison authored a study on this subject and talks about it in this week’s edition of KERA's Vital Signs.

Medical City

An alternative for patients who can’t survive open heart surgery replaces the aortic valve without opening the chest or heart. Medical City recently became the first in the country to perform the procedure, just days after it received FDA approval. 

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