Health in a Heartbeat Health in a Heartbeat is a daily radio series that features two-minute segments providing consumer-health information and the latest news on medical research, patient-care breakthroughs and health-care industry trends. A production of our staff and WUFT-FM in Gainesville, Health in a Heartbeat airs on public radio stations in more than 55 markets nationwide.
Health in a Heartbeat

Health in a Heartbeat

From WUFT 89.1

Health in a Heartbeat is a daily radio series that features two-minute segments providing consumer-health information and the latest news on medical research, patient-care breakthroughs and health-care industry trends. A production of our staff and WUFT-FM in Gainesville, Health in a Heartbeat airs on public radio stations in more than 55 markets nationwide.

Most Recent Episodes

Blue light might accelerate aging process

The tiny fruit fly is a rock star in the scientific world. Six groups of scientists have received Nobel Prizes for research that used them to make important discoveries leading to groundbreaking insights into human biology. Multiple reasons explain the fruit fly's usefulness in the laboratory. It helps that they share 60% of human DNA. This doesn't mean some Hollywood creature, half human, half fly, will ever buzz around the apples and bananas on your countertop. But that shared genetics makes them handy. When the fruit fly speaks, scientists listen. Their new message to researchers is that exposure to the blue light produced by things like smartphones, TVs and computer screens can impact cells and speed the aging process. A study in fruit flies shows that essential chemicals that cells need to thrive are altered when exposed to that blue glow. Fruit flies and humans share the same cellular signaling chemicals, so this affect could be seen in us, too. Investigators kept one group of fruit flies in total darkness for two weeks while exposing a second group to blue light for the same period of time. Then measurements of critical metabolites were taken for all of them. Perhaps most notably, blue light appeared to lower the levels of a key molecule that helps neurons communicate with each other. And when cells are operating at a suboptimal level, they tend to die, like a car engine low on oil eventually burns out. Scientists say more study is needed to see how blue light impacts humans. Score another one for the fruit fly. Its brain is the thickness of two strands of hair. But when it comes to advancing science, it's beating most of us big-brained amateurs, wings down.

Concerns about telemedicine misplaced, study finds

As the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, some health care providers quickly pivoted to telemedicine. It also gave rise to concerns, for some patients, about the quality of telemedicine. Now, landmark research has concluded that telemedicine is a highly effective and efficient way to receive many kinds of health care. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center used data generated during the COVID-19 pandemic to address three major concerns about telemedicine. Those issues included highly vulnerable patients being unable to access digital health care, reimbursement rates that would encourage its overuse and a generalized concern that it is an ineffective way to provide care. The researchers determined all of those worries are unfounded. The most vulnerable patients were found to be among the most engaged with telemedicine. Patient outcomes did not get worse, costs did not increase and the need for in-person follow-up care never grew. Likewise, there was no evidence of telemedicine overuse by either providers or patients. Using data from more than 3,000 medical providers before and during the pandemic, the group analyzed data that included patient demographics, medical outcomes, the number of visits completed and providers' use of telemedicine. Altogether, the figures showed no negative effects on patients or providers. In fact, there was a demonstrable upside: Patients who have transportation issues were more likely to keep their appointments and make regular telemedicine visits. The findings also reinforce a pandemic-era lesson that will shape medicine for years to come: Telemedicine can be a convenient, effective complement to traditional care.

It's time to focus on healthy skin

Although temperatures tend to drop this time of year, November is the perfect month to look into sun protection products. It is National Healthy Skin Month, after all. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 9,500 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. Step one to preventing this disease is applying — and re-applying — the proper amount of sunscreen. To do this, cover the entire body with enough of the lotion to fill a shot glass. Also, try other products out there that help combat the sun's harmful UV rays. One great way to start is by wearing clothing made with built-in sun protection. This clothing is rated using a UPF, or UV protection factor. A higher UPF rating means better protection. For some clothing, the sunscreen chemical is put directly into the fabric, while other pieces are made with tightly woven fabric. You can also increase the UPF value of clothes already in your closet with laundry detergent-like products that go in the washing machine. The products don't change the texture or color of your clothing. In general, opt for tightly woven fabrics rather than loosely woven ones and dark colors over light. And we can't forget about protecting the face. For outdoorsy adventurers, try using sun protection gear for outdoor sports helmets. UPF 50-rated visors provide 360-degree shade and come in styles specifically designed for cycling, climbing, equestrian, paddling, skiing, snowboarding and just being outdoors. Now that's facing sun protection head on. Remember to celebrate National Healthy Skin month by protecting your skin from the sun. Keep it safe because it's the only skin you get.

Deep frying your turkey: a recipe for disaster

It seems like a solid recipe for a moist and tasty Thanksgiving turkey: Place a large pot over a propane tank and burner, fill it with oil and deep fry your bird. But the National Fire Protection Association calls it a recipe for disaster. The organization cites a slew of safety hazards inherent in this popular cooking technique. First, there are the risks of burns from hot oil — typically about five gallons of it — used to cook the turkey. Splashes of scalding oil are possible when a cook puts the bird into or removes it from the pot or if the unit tips, as they are prone to do. These fryers should never be used indoors, but the outdoors poses risks, too. Rain or snow that falls into hot oil will cause a splatter or turn to steam, both of which are burn hazards. For the same reason, partially or fully-frozen turkeys should never be fried. Then there is the potential for a fire. Vapors and overheated oil can combust. That's especially dangerous with gas-powered burners. Fire that spreads to the gas will cause an explosion, a sure way to set your house ablaze. Determined to get that deep-fried taste on your Thanksgiving table? Find a safer way. Ask a local restaurant if they'll fry your bird, or try another kind of tool. An appliance called an "oil-free turkey fryer" is said to create much the same taste as regular deep fryers, but uses radiant heat in place of oil. It's a method that will make for a healthier turkey. With all the other diet-busting goodies to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day, that's not a bad alternative. So forgo the turkey fryer, help yourself to an extra slice of pie, and be thankful your cooking didn't add the fire department to your guest list.

'Multidirectional' sports better for young athletes' health

Parents of young athletes who participate in multiple sports no doubt yearn for the day when their offspring choose one sport to concentrate on. Beyond the stresses of getting them to their next practice or competition, however, there is more to consider, new research shows. An Indiana University suggests that young athletes who participate in 'multidirectional sports' — such as basketball or soccer, where the athlete moves in many directions — rather than 'unidirectional' sports like running, cycling or swimming, where an athlete moves in a single direction, build stronger bones that may be at lower risk for stress injuries as they age. The researchers looked at female Division I and II cross country athletes. Runners, as a group, are predisposed to bone-stress injuries. They surveyed the women about their history as athletes, including the types of sports they played as children and teens, how intensely they played them and for how long. From there, they separated the athletes into groups: Those who had focused almost exclusively on unidirectional sports and those whose athletic background also included multidirectional sports. Then the athletes underwent detailed bone scans. The researchers found that the collegiate runners who had played multidirectional sports had better bone structure and strength than those who focused more exclusively on running. Their takeaway message is that for developing athletes, there's a health benefit to exploring different sports, and a risk of future injuries if they don't. If your young athlete balks, you can always tell them Usain Bolt played loads of cricket and soccer long before he was known as the world's fastest man.

Nightmares in middle age could lead to dementia

It turns out that nightmares may do more than just interrupt a good night's sleep. For middle-age people, frequent bad dreams can make them more likely to be diagnosed with dementia later in life. That's the main finding from a group of researchers in the United Kingdom, who explored the relationship between distressing dreams, cognitive decline and dementia risk in otherwise healthy adults. To do that, they analyzed about a decade of sleep data from more than 600 people between ages 35 and 64, as well as 2,600 others age 79 and older. Middle-age people — defined as those ages 35 to 64 — who had nightmares at least once a week were four times more likely to have cognitive decline in the following decade than those who had less frequent bad dreams. Among the older study participants, those who experienced weekly or more frequent nightmares were twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia. Gender also appears to make a difference: Older men who had weekly nightmares were five times more likely to develop dementia than older men with no bad dreams. Among women, the increased risk was 41%. Researchers say the gender and age findings are just a start. Next, they want to more fully understand whether nightmares in young people are a harbinger of future dementia risk. There are other factors to consider, including whether the intensity of bad dreams and the ability to remember them ultimately plays a role in the rise of dementia. There is also much to learn about the biological basis of bad dreams, which the researchers plan to explore. Until science has more answers, establish good pre-sleep habits to make sure you're counting sheep and not running from monsters.

Avoid Thanksgiving-induced gastrointestinal reflux disease

This week, Americans will gather around the dinner table to devour slices of succulent oven-roasted turkey, mounds of buttery mashed potatoes doused in gravy and gobs of green bean casserole, finished with a few slices of pie and some glasses of wine. Thanksgiving is our country's favorite eating holiday, but all the noshing can be a nightmare for those who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD [ger-d]. Perhaps not surprisingly, Thanksgiving coincides with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Awareness Week. As the day of gluttony approaches, it's timely to review what GERD is in the first place and which foods at the dinner table are likely to induce frequent heartburn. The trouble with GERD starts in the esophagus, the tube that transports food from throat to tummy. A valve in the esophagus normally closes to keep food in its place, but with GERD, it cracks open and lets stomach acid and juices gurgle back up. The result is heartburn, that burning pain behind the breastbone. Lying down or leaning forward can also bring it on. GERD must be treated to prevent stomach ulcers and damage to the esophagus. But there are some foods to skip to keep the burn at bay this Turkey Day. Garlic and onions may ward off vampires, but they bring on the pain. Peppermint and alcohol relax the sphincter, allowing stomach acids to bubble up. And fatty, spicy foods are always a risk, so go easy on the gravy, dark meat and pecan pie. Caffeine and chocolate can also cause problems. Chewing slowly, limiting alcohol and sipping ginger tea can soothe the tummy, and the good news is baked potatoes, rolls, white meat and pumpkin pie are safe bets. Now that's something to be thankful for.

Your body may rally its immune defenses just by seeing sick people

Look around you. Are coworkers sneezing and coughing? Someone in your family developing a case of the sniffles? Maybe a bug is circulating in your social circle and a friend has a scratchy throat. Your body, it seems, isn't going to take any chances and wait to get sick before mounting its defense against a circulating bug. Researchers say it can initiate a protective immune response just because you see sick people nearby. After all, you don't wait to get drenched before grabbing your umbrella. You make sure it's handy when you first notice storm clouds. A researcher at California's Chapman University says the human brain, a magnificent and intricate machine, follows the same principle. Highlighting research on the topic, she noted this defensive response is seen in different species in the animal kingdom including, of course, humans. The brain, through our senses, is getting information about sick people, the report notes. It then communicates that somehow to our immune defenses, which run to the ramparts to battle invading virus or bacteria. This happens, according to the researcher, when disease risk is high. Potential proof of this involves studies that have found markers of an immune response in the blood of people shown images depicting behavioral cues of disease, such as video of a person sneezing. Precisely why our bodies respond in this way is still shrouded in mystery, and the Chapman scientist calls for more study of the phenomenon. All this, of course, has implications on how diseases spread and the treatment of not just humans, but also of animals as well. Your coworkers might take a sick day. But your immune system is always on the job. ###

Holiday stress affects kids, too

The holidays are supposed to be a joyous time, but for some people, the family gatherings, events and frequent disruptions in daily routines can be stressful. If you're one of those people who are easily stressed out during the holiday season, be careful who is around when you're stressed, especially if you have children. According to American Psychological Association research, children pick up on their parents' stresses. The study reported that 47% of tweens and 33% of teens feel stressed or sad when their parents are upset. How do you keep the festive air in your house and keep your kids happy during the holidays? Start by sticking to their regular routine. It may sound counterintuitive to a child, but constantly staying up past bedtime, eating sugary holiday cookies and going on tiring holiday shopping trips can stress little ones out. Sticking to their regular schedule will add normalcy during the hectic season. Also, keep to your family traditions. If you don't have any, start some. A few traditions that are repeated year after year bring joy to the holidays. Don't set the bar too high. When asking your kids to make their Christmas or Hanukkah gift lists, let them know they may not receive everything they ask for. If you can't get your hands on that latest trendy gift, don't sweat it. The holidays aren't about the gifts. Plan some quiet time. Whether it's staying in to watch a movie or read a book, have some down time to relax. The hustle and bustle can be fun, but if you notice you or your kids getting overly emotional and stressed, take a step back. After all, the holidays are about the memories you make with those you love, not all the crazy things you do.

Surviving the season of weight gain

It happens every holiday season. We attend office parties and family get-togethers and eat loads of food. These festive moments usually offer some of the tastiest and most calorie-packed delicacies. And all that overindulging during the holidays can lead to the inevitable holiday weight gain ... adding inches to waistlines and pounds that can be very hard to lose. But experts say there are ways to avoid gaining weight and still enjoy all those cocktail meatballs, even the occasional fruitcake. First of all, get your body in motion. Exercise is one of the most effective ways to maintain body weight. The more you exercise, the more calories you burn. Another hint: Never go to a party hungry. Experts suggest eating a healthy snack before you go so you can stave off the cravings for the hors d'oeuvres. If you can't avoid the appetizers, use a small plate when serving yourself finger foods and try and limit yourself to veggies and avoid the dips. Don't feel forced to eat just because people keep offering food. It's OK to say no. Avoid hovering around the food table. Just hanging around food can cause people to chow down. Focus your energies on making conversation with others instead of snacking. One more thing: Be aware of the spirits. Those seemingly harmless mixed drinks pack a lot of calories and next thing you know, your self-control has vanished and the Chex Mix bowl is empty. So, the next time you put on your finest sweater to mingle with friends and family around the holidays, remember to stay moving and watch what you nosh ... if you still want to fit into that sweater after the holidays.