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. 

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A flu shot's important for people in general, but it's more important for people with weakened immune systems. That includes women who are pregnant.

When Kathy Klute-Nelson heads out on a neighborhood walk, she often takes her two dogs — Kona, a boxer, and Max, a small white dog of questionable pedigree who barrels out the front door with barks of enthusiasm.

The 64-year-old resident of Costa Mesa, Calif., says she was never one to engage in regular exercise — especially after a long day of work. But about three years ago, her employer, the Auto Club of Southern California, made her and her colleagues an offer she couldn't refuse: Wear a Fitbit, walk every day and get up to $300 off your yearly health insurance premiums.

Child receiving a vaccination in the arm
via Texas Tribune

The next vaccine fight could be coming to a day care near you. Texans for Vaccine Choice, a group focused on anti-vaccine policy, says it has received hundreds of calls and emails from parents of children without vaccines who were rejected by private child care facilities. 

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Flu season began last month and continues through March. If you haven't received your flu shot, here's why you should do so as soon as possible.

From Texas Standard:

You've heard of probiotics. They're the live microorganisms that live in your gut and in foods such as yogurt and dietary supplements. In recent years, they've been touted as beneficial to health, especially to ease digestive disorders. But it turns out probiotics – these so-called "good bacteria" – may not actually be good for all people in all cases. As part of our "Spotlight on Health" project, we're highlighting this new finding published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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A new study says milk when consumed with breakfast cereal may provide benefits for those managing diabetes.

A well-balanced breakfast of carbohydrates, protein and fats is considered key to starting the day.

Having a baby in the United States can be dangerous. American women are more likely than women in any other developed country to die during childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications. And while other countries' maternal death rates have gone down, U.S.

When it comes to turning back the clocks on our devices, technology has us covered. Our smartphones automatically adjust.

But our internal clocks aren't as easy to re-program. And this means that the time shift in the fall and again in the spring can influence our health in unexpected ways.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a potent new opioid painkiller, despite warnings from physician critics who say the drug will contribute to the addiction epidemic.

It's time for consumers who buy their own health insurance to start shopping for policies for next year. Open enrollment for Affordable Care Act coverage starts Thursday across most of the country.

But the shopping and buying experience will vary widely, depending on where people live.

In California, for example, where political leaders have always been supportive of the Affordable Care Act, legislators have allocated $100 million for outreach.

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Doctors have suggested one low-dose aspirin a day to help avoid heart attacks and strokes, but a recent study suggests healthy, older people who don’t currently take it shouldn’t start.

In a span of less than 24 hours this past week, the Trump administration took two seemingly contradictory actions that could have profound effects on the insurance marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act.

Health analysts say that at least one of the efforts, coupled with previous changes initiated by the administration, could help transform the insurance market to be much more like it was before the 2010 federal health law took effect — when regulation, coverage and consumer protections varied widely across the United States.

In the not-too-distant future, fully autonomous vehicles will drive our streets. These cars will need to make split-second decisions to avoid endangering human lives — both inside and outside of the vehicles.

Updated at 4:37 p.m. ET

The American opioid crisis is far from over, but early data indicate the number of deaths are beginning to level off, according to Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, citing "encouraging" results in overdose trends.

In a speech on Tuesday at a Milken Institute health summit, Azar walked through statistics suggesting deaths were plateauing and he highlighted efforts he says may be turning the tide in the drug epidemic.

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Health officials across the country are monitoring the latest outbreak of Acute Flaccid Myelitis or AFM — including about a half-dozen reported cases in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Parker counties as of Oct. 18.

Hospitals and health plans are increasingly using the huge amount of medical data they collect for research. It's a business worth billions of dollars, and sometimes those discoveries can be the foundation of new profit-making products and companies.

When a company profits from your data, should you get a cut?

This isn't just a hypothetical question. When Steven Petrow was 26 years old, back in 1984, he was treated for testicular cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

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Working out can make you hungry and thirsty, but what you choose to eat or drink makes a difference in how well your body recovers from exercise.

Over the past year, companies have been rolling out electric scooters by the thousands in cities across the country — from Milwaukee to Washington, D.C., to Lubbock, Texas. People download the app, find a nearby scooter and then just unlock and ride. But as these shared scooters have spread, so have concerns about safety.

Charlie Hinderliter wasn't opposed to the flu shot. He didn't have a problem with vaccinations. He was one of about 53 percent of Americans who just don't get one.

"I figured [the flu] was something that's dangerous to the elderly and the young, not somebody who is healthy and in their 30s," says Hinderliter, who is 39 and the director of government affairs at the St. Louis Realtors association.

"Turns out, I was wrong," he says.

Ensuring that people with pre-existing health conditions can get and keep health insurance is the most popular part of the Affordable Care Act. It has also become a flashpoint in this fall's midterm campaigns across the country.

And not only is the ACA protection, which mostly applies to people who buy their own coverage, at risk. It's also possible that pre-existing condition protections that predate the federal health law could be in play.

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New guidelines in screening for cervical cancer include the option of HPV testing, a move that may soon signal the end for the Pap smear test.

The trauma of sexual assault or harassment is not only hard to forget; it may also leave lasting effects on a woman's health. This finding of a study published Wednesday adds support to a growing body of evidence suggesting the link.

Baylor Scott & White

Two major not-for-profit health care providers in Texas plan to merge with a goal of improved patient care and more cost-effective services.

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

The Tarrant County Health Department is keeping an eye on a recent, small outbreak of mumps at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

Mumps is a virus often spread by close person-to-person contact. It has flu-like symptoms, but swollen salivary glands are the most recognizable.

Mary Altaffer, File / AP

The popularity of video games has skyrocketed in the last decade. People who used to play at home with their friends can now play games — such as Fortnite, Dota 2 and League of Legends — professionally and often at sold-out convention centers. 

Updated at 3:45 pm ET

The Department of Health and Human Services says it is reviewing all medical research involving human fetal tissue.

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Most think a good workout can help you blow off steam, but researchers have found strenuous exercise while angry can raise the risk of a heart attack for some people.

Parde, C. J., Castillo, C., Hill, M. Q., Colon, Y. I., Sankaranarayanan, S., Chen, J. C., and O'Toole, A. J. (2017, May)

The human face conveys our thoughts and emotions, and we seek it out when trying to identify others. It's also a focal point for the future of identification technology. 

Governments, law enforcement and even businesses are interested in being able to identify people at a distance. 

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The Justice Department in June announced charges against more than 600 people responsible for more than $2 billion in health care fraud losses over a 12-month period.

That stems in part from 10 strike forces across the country created to investigate Medicare fraud. The Dallas unit began in 2011.

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Faced with a shortage of donor hearts, transplant centers have had to expand their criteria for acceptable organs. 

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