Health/Science/Tech | KERA News

Health/Science/Tech

Every week, KERA explores the latest in health, science and technology in North Texas through two main series, Vital Signs and Breakthroughs.

Charts at UNT Health Science Center's Human Movement Performance Lab.
Credit Stephanie Kuo / KERA News

Vital Signs

In Vital Signs, Sam Baker taps into the expertise of local health care leaders to provide insight into your everyday health and well-being.

Breakthroughs

In Breakthroughs, KERA reporters delve into the latest health-related technologies developed in North Texas and across the state. From the Zika virus to fried chicken, no scientific topic is off limits. 

Learn more in-depth multimedia projects: Surviving Ebola, a look at how Ebola made its way to Dallas and the lessons local hospitals and governments learned; Growing Up After Cancer, the journey of one North Texas boy with cancer; and The Broken Hip, an in-depth look at how a fall can change everything. 

Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a Republican from Bedford, testifying against House Bill 906 on April 12, 2019.
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The issue of improving mental health care across the state seemed like a unifying theme at the outset of this legislative session. It was also highlighted as an emergency item by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who called for more student mental health screenings in response to last year's Santa Fe High School shooting.

Now, it's become the subject of some controversy at the statehouse. 

Advancing the clock forward each year is out of sync with how our internal clocks actually work.
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Some love that extra hour of sun in the evening, but research suggests daylight saving time is potentially harmful to our health.

Work Stress. Home Stress. Financial Stress.

The toll of chronic stress isn't limited to emotional suffering. High stress can set the stage for heart disease.

In fact, research shows that those of us who perceive a lot of stress in our lives are at higher risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems over the long term.

Steve Sierzega receives a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in Pomona, N.Y., on March 27, 2019. The county in New York City's northern suburbs declared a local state of emergency over a measles outbreak.
Associated Press

The state health services department has confirmed at least 14 cases of measles in Texas this year, more than in all of 2018. The highly contagious disease primarily affects children, but measles can strike adults — and with serious complications.

It's not always easy to find a therapist who meets your mental health needs, is taking new patients, and takes health insurance. The search process can involve some trial and error.
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If you look closely at a therapist’s business card, you’ll usually see a string of letters after the name — something like LPC, or maybe LCSW. Here's a quick guide to what can seem like alphabet soup. 

About 11 million deaths a year are linked to poor diet around the globe.

What's driving this? As a planet we don't eat enough healthy foods including whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. At the same time, we consume too many sugary drinks, too much salt and too much processed meat.

Hospitals and nursing homes in California and Illinois are testing a surprisingly simple strategy to stop the dangerous, antibiotic-resistant superbugs that kill thousands of people each year: washing patients with a special soap.

The efforts — funded with roughly $8 million from the federal government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — are taking place at 50 facilities in those two states.

Heart failure can't be cured, but it can be managed, to live longer and feel better.
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Heart failure — when the heart can’t pump enough blood and oxygen to support other organs — can be deadly. 

But a diagnosis today is far from a death sentence, and while the illness can't be cured, it can be managed.  

Our thoughts and fears, movements and sensations all arise from the electrical blips of billions of neurons in our brain. Streams of electricity flow through neural circuits to govern these actions of the brain and body, and some scientists think that many neurological and psychiatric disorders may result from dysfunctional circuits.

Dallas Zoo visitors watch trainers work with lions at the Wild Gatherings event on Monday, March 25, 2019.
Syeda Hasan / KERA News

On a sunny spring day, families gathered outside the lion enclosure at the Dallas Zoo, where trainers took the big cats through some exercises and rewarded them with meatballs. Sara Salinas came out to see the lions with her uncle Simon, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease about 11 years ago. 

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Concerns about e-cigarettes usually center on youth. But a CDC report using data from Texas and Oklahoma suggests it’s a problem to watch among pregnant women.

 Emma Walters' T-shirt drawer after organizing.
Courtesy Emma Walters

When she moved out of her Collin County apartment last July, 26-year-old Emma Walters began taking stock of her belongings.

From Texas Standard:

The U.S. population is aging, and many older adults have, or will have, some form of dementia. Right now, the health care workforce is not prepared to meet their needs, says sociologist Christopher Johnson. But Johnson is particularly poised to help fix the problem, as professor at the country's first master's of science program in dementia and aging studies, at Texas State University in San Marcos.

Tucked inside a nondescript building in a residential neighborhood in northwest San Antonio is a little cafe. However, here the coffee doesn't come in Italian sizes, and the guests provide the music. Welcome to a memory cafe.

The U.S. surgeon general's office estimates that more than 20 million people have a substance-use disorder. Meanwhile, the nation's drug overdose crisis shows no sign of slowing.

Yet, by all accounts, there aren't nearly enough physicians who specialize in treating addiction — doctors with extensive clinical training who are board certified in addiction medicine.

State senators are considering a bill that would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products in Texas from 18 to 21. 

A decade ago, the U.S. government claimed that ditching paper medical charts for electronic records would make health care better, safer and cheaper.

Ten years and $36 billion later, the digital revolution has gone awry, an investigation by Kaiser Health News and Fortune magazine has found.

Veteran reporters Fred Schulte of KHN and Erika Fry of Fortune spent months digging into what has happened as a result. (You can read the cover story here.)

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Public health departments have put together a voluntary national accreditation system to hold themselves accountable to the public. The director of Tarrant County Public Health explains why the designation’s important.

Personal belongings of a homeless person, including an American flag, in Dallas, Sept. 10, 2016
Associated Press

The number of people without a home continues to rise in Dallas and Collin counties. That includes veterans and people sleeping on the street, according findings from the 2019 homeless count.

If you have a bad reaction to a medicine, it might not be the drug itself, but what are called "inactive ingredients" in the pill or capsule.

An article published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine surveys this field and finds ingredients that are potentially troublesome for some people are ubiquitous.

A group of prominent scientists and bioethicists is calling for a global moratorium on any new attempts to bring gene-edited babies into the world.

"We call for a global moratorium on all clinical uses of human germline editing — that is, changing heritable DNA (in sperm, eggs or embryos) to make genetically modified children," the 18 scientists and bioethicists from seven countries write in an article published Wednesday by the journal Nature.

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A recent study found younger women – 35 to 54 – are having more heart attacks. They accounted for nearly a third of all female heart attack patients in recent years.

From Texas Standard:

A global controversy erupted after a Chinese scientist claimed to have used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to manipulate genes in the embryos of twin girls to try to boost their resistance to HIV. The idea of gene editing goes back to at least the 1960s, and it’s the topic of the new documentary “Human Nature,” which will premiere at the South by Southwest festival in Austin this month.

Instead of eating a typical breakfast every day, Jonah Reeder gulps down a special protein shake.

"The nutrients in it like to sit at the bottom, so I usually have to shake it up and get all the nutrients from the protein and everything," says Reeder, 21, of Farmington, Utah, as he shakes a big plastic bottle.

Steven Senne/Associated Press

Dr. Leana Wen is no stranger to working under pressure. As an emergency physician, she was charged with making life-or-death decisions about her patients' health. Now, as president of Planned Parenthood, she's at the helm of one of the nation's most polarizing health care and advocacy groups. 

Primary care doctors are really good at checking seniors' cholesterol levels and blood pressure but often fail to use tests that could detect dementia.

Fewer than half of primary care doctors surveyed say they routinely test patients 65 and older for problems with memory and thinking, according to a report released Tuesday by the Alzheimer's Association.

There's strong new evidence that a common childhood vaccine is safe.

A large study released Monday finds no evidence that the vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella increases the risk of autism. The study of children born in Denmark is one of the largest ever of the MMR vaccine.

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Energy drinks have been linked to heart, nerve and stomach problems. A recent study suggests consuming even one can might affect how well your blood vessels function, too. 

A measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Associated Press

Nearly 200 immigrants are suffering from mumps at detention facilities across Texas, according to a state health agency.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings speaking at Dallas City Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.
Syeda Hasan / KERA

The city of Dallas has joined forces with nonprofit North Texas Alliance to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy in Teens — or Ntarupt — to try to cut down on its staggering teen birth rate. 

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