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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Many in the medical community favor breastfeeding for the physical benefits it offers both mother and child. But not every woman can do so. In this KERA Health Checkup, Kathy Chaney, a nurse and lactation consultant at Baylor University Medical Center, talks about alternatives for women who can’t or should not breastfeed.

UT Southwestern Medical Center

With Type-2 diabetes, the body’s ability to produce needed insulin declines. Doctors often recommend lifestyle changes and the drug metformin after an early diagnosis. But an eight year study by U.T. Southwestern Medical Center has found early intensive treatment of insulin and a drug regimen may be a better strategy. In a KERA Health Checkup, the author of the study, Dr. Ildiko Lingvay, talks about the results.


Air pollution watches are common this time of year. They’ve been around since 2000, but rarely does anyone say what they mean. In a KERA Health Checkup, Robert Kent, Director of Environmental Programs for the North Texas Commission, explains the alerts are a warning about ozone in the North Texas air.

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Dallas, Tarrant and Denton counties recently confirmed their first human cases of West Nile Virus. Dr. Cedric Spak says most people bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile will never know it. But in this KERA Health Checkup, the infectious disease specialist said West Nile is a potentially serious disease of two variations.

For those suffering from osteoarthritis - a disease resulting from wear and tear on joints - a joint replacement is sometimes needed after all other attempts at pain relief have failed. But a successful replacement depends in part on a proper fit of the implant to the bone. Dr. Bruce Bollinger is an orthopedic surgeon in Fort Worth, and one of two doctors in Texas trained in a recently FDA approved method of custom-fitting knee implants to patients.

It’s a painful, often limiting disease resulting from wear and tear on joints. Osteoarthritis in some form will affect one in two Americans in their lifetime. About 27-million adults have it now. In a KERA Health Checkup, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bruce Bollinger talks about treatments and describes osteoarthritis.

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It’s the second most common cause of missed work in this country after back pain. About 30 million or more people in America suffer from migraine – often in the form of debilitating headaches. But in a KERA Health Checkup, Deborah Friedman of UT Southwestern Medical Center said the types of migraine can vary.


It contributes greatly to a successful pregnancy, but not all moms-to-be receive prenatal care. Those who do sometimes overlook common warning signs during pregnancy. Dr. Wayne Farley is Medical Director of the Advanced Maternal and Newborn Institute at Medical City in Dallas. In a Health Checkup, Dr. Farley described some of those.

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Your medicine chest may contain everything from actual medicine to personal grooming items. But in this KERA Health Checkup, some ideas for what should be in the medicine chest from Dr. Shaun Murphy, a general practitioner and chairman of Dallas Medical Specialists. He told Sam Baker the most important item is a list of your prescription medications.

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Faced with a medical problem, many people opt for the emergency room or they contact their primary physician. But in today’s Health Checkup, we look at when to use a third option: urgent care centers. Sam Baker talked with Dr. Sarah Holder, medical director of the Quick Care Clinic at Methodist Charlton Medical Center in Dallas. 

Most surgeries involve a doctor’s hand working inside the body. But each year more doctors and patients are opting for a robotics-assisted approach. There’s more precision and greater visibility for doctors with 3-D imaging, plus less scarring and faster recovery for patients.  But the approach has its critics.

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Typically, the KERA Health Checkup looks at subjects about maintaining your health. But in connection with National Healthcare Decisions Day, we look at advance planning for terminal illness. Sam Baker talked with Dr. Robert Fine of Baylor Medical Center about advance directives.

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About 150,000 people develop colon or colorectal cancer each year. For about one in five, the disease is hereditary. So your family’s history with colon cancer is vital information when screening for the disease. In our KERA Health Checkup, Dr. Samir Gupta of U.T. Southwestern Medical Center tells Sam Baker your family history determines what type of screening you should have – and when.

Nutrition & Children

Mar 19, 2012

March as National Nutrition Month is being used to raise awareness about healthier eating. In our KERA Health Checkup, Sam Baker talked with Meridan Zerner, a registered dietitian with Cooper Aerobics, about nutrition and children. She said many kids don’t always get the nutrients they need despite their parents’ efforts.

Women And Heart Disease

Feb 13, 2012

The American Heart Association this month is drawing attention to heart disease – particularly in women.  Nearly eight million women in the U.S. live with the disease, but few believe it’s their greatest threat. That shouldn’t include a nurse with the title of E-R Cardiac-Stroke  Coordinator, but in a KERA Health Checkup, Karen Yates of Methodist Mansfield Medical Center told Sam Baker she learned her lesson the hard way.

Fitness Vs. Heart Disease

Feb 13, 2012
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Personal trainer Bobby Whisnand is partnering with the American Heart Association’s campaign to raise awareness about heart disease. He talked with Sam Baker about steps we can take to reduce the chances of developing heart disease.

Basics of Blood Pressure

Feb 6, 2012

Recent study results by researchers at the University of Exeter indicate measuring blood pressure in both arms instead of one can be a useful indicator of the likelihood of heart trouble. In our KERA Health Checkup, Sam Baker talked about this with Dr. Jane Sadler with Baylor Medical Center at Garland.

What Is Stomach Flu?

Jan 30, 2012

Sneezing, coughing and nausea this time of year might prompt you to diagnose yourself as having stomach flu. But it may not be flu at all. Sam Baker talked about this in our KERA Health Checkup with Dr. Melissa Gerdes of Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.

Pros And Cons Of Caffeine

Jan 23, 2012
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It’s estimated as many 90 percent of American consume caffeine at some point during the day: maybe coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks or various foods. Caffeine has benefits, but it can be harmful if we consume too much. Sam Baker talked about this in a KERA Health Checkup with Dr. James Bibb of  UT Southwestern Medical Center.

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January is National Glaucoma Awareness month. More than two million people are believed to have the eye disease. But in a KERA Health Checkup, glaucoma specialist Dr. Linda Fain Hatton explains why some call it a “silent thief of sight.”

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Sleep apnea is a common disorder with potentially dangerous results if left untreated. Sam Baker talked about this with Dr. David Luterman, Medical Director of the Sleep Center at Baylor Medical Center at Dallas.

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Many of us need more sleep than we know. In our KERA Health Checkup, Sam Baker talked with Dr.  Bradley Jones, an internal medicine physician at Baylor Medical Center at Irving, about problems associated with sleep deprivation and what to do about it.

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Tis the season for good cheer. But, for some, the holidays can bring about the opposite. In our KERA Health Checkup, Sam Baker talked with Dr. Randy Basham, an associate professor of social work at U.T. Arlington, about holiday depression and what can be done about it.

Dr. Basham: For the most part, around the holidays, people are concerned about a lot of things: End of the year, comparing themselves to where they were the year before. If they've had any loss in their life, it's become an anniversary season. There's commercialization.

The Food and Drug Administration requires makers of most prepared foods to list nutritional information on the package. In our KERA Health Checkup, Sam Baker talked to a registered dietician with U.T. Southwestern Medical Center about how to make sense of what's on the label. Lona Sandon begins with Percentages of Daily Value.

Dallas, TX –

In a recent report, the American Pediatrics Association and other medical groups advised cholesterol screening for all children nine to 11 years old. In our KERA Health Checkup, Sam Baker talked about this with Dr. Jeff Schussler, a cardiologist with Baylor University Medical Center. He says some nine to 11 year old children already are being screened.

Dallas, TX –

For some it's simply ringing in the ears, but some 40 to 50-million people suffer from chronic or prolonged tinnitus. In a KERA Health Checkup, Sam Baker talked about this with Dr. Kenneth Pugh. The head of audiology at U-T Dallas' Callier Center for Communicative Disorders described what tinnitus is.

Dallas, TX –

Dallas, TX –

It's such a simple act, but washing our hands can make a big difference on health. In our KERA Health Checkup, Sam Baker talked about this with Dr. Anna Bowen, a medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control.

Dallas, TX – In today's KERA Checkup we want to remind you of a statewide service that will help you find low-cost health providers. KERA's Shelley Kofler says the first step is picking up your phone.

Dial 2-1-1 anywhere in Texas and you'll be connected with a trained specialist who knows about the low-cost medical services in your community.

Dallas, TX – naa

Students in Denton and Ellis counties have recently tested positive for tuberculosis. But TB isn't unusual for North Texas. Dallas County, for instance, had 188 cases of the disease last year. In a KERA Health Checkup, Sam Baker talked with Dr. Garry Woo. He's the Medical Director in charge of Tuberculosis Control for Dallas County Health Services.