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

From WUFT

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.More from Health in a Heartbeat »

Most Recent Episodes

What to know about the teen trend called JUULing

Have you heard of JUULing? If you're the parent of a teenager, you may want to know about this trend. JUULing describes the use of a specific kind of e-cigarette that has skyrocketed in popularity among teens. A JUUL e-cigarette doesn't look like a cigarette at all. The small and sleek device is shaped like a flash drive and charges through a USB port. A starter kit costs about $40, and its cartridges come in flavors like mango, crème brulee and mint. But here's the problem: Each JUUL cartridge contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. And when used, the device emits only a light vapor, making it easy for teens to hide and use discreetly. By law, you must be 18 to buy a JUUL, but school officials and health groups are seeing teens use the product in middle and high schools. School districts in several states, including Kentucky and California, have implemented policies to address the use. Why should parents be worried? JUUL is marketed toward adults as an alternative to cigarettes, but its popularity among teens is troubling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens are significantly more likely to use e-cigarettes than smoke cigarettes. Vaping is considered safer than smoking cigarettes, but the CDC warns there is not yet enough research to determine the health effects of vaping, and it does expose people to chemicals that cause cancer. Nicotine exposure can harm teenage brain development and cause addiction. If you're a parent, have a conversation with your kids about JUULing and the health effects of using e-cigarettes. If your son or daughter does vape, work with him or her to kick the habit.

What to know about the teen trend called JUULing

Tanning indoors? Be wary of skin cancer signs.

In Florida and other sun-kissed states, tanning is just a part of everyday life. People in these warm-weather locales keep bottles of sunscreen handy in their homes, head to the beach in December and complain about cloudy days. And because so many people not fortunate enough to live in a sunny climate want that glow, too, many tan without stepping foot outside. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 35 percent of American adults have reported using a tanning bed in their lifetime. But indoor tanning can damage skin with wrinkles and age spots as well as lead to skin cancer. And according to a new report, less than half of indoor tanners get screened for skin cancer. By studying over 30,000 U.S. adults who took part in the National Health Interview Survey, researchers found only 30 percent of those who had tanned indoors had been screened for skin cancer. The report concluded that by not being screened, indoor tanners might be putting themselves at greater risk of cancer because they may be more likely to use low-SPF sunscreen that those who have been screened. The American Cancer Society says that of the over 1 million skin cancers diagnosed each year in the U.S., most are sun-related. And the FDA recommends regularly performing skin cancer self-exams to protect yourself against the disease. So, instead of convincing yourself that your skin can handle the effects of indoor tanning, be certain of your safety and health by getting checked regularly for skin cancer if you use the devices. That healthy glow you think you're getting in the tanning bed could be a cover-up for serious skin problems.

Tanning indoors? Be wary of skin cancer signs.

Humor can be good medicine

Did you hear the one about the patient who tells his doctor that he broke his leg in two places? The doctor tells him, "Well, then, stay out of those places." Hopefully, the humor you share with your doctor isn't as groan-inducing as this old chestnut. Turns out, though, encounters between physicians and their patients often contain a few humorous moments. And that might be good for your health. A recent study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic, the University of Florida and other institutions examined a group of clinician/patient interactions and found that about 60 percent of them involved elements of humor. Most often, the humor focused on the patient's medical condition. Pets and spouses often served as targets, too. The study noted that humor can help us navigate difficult topics and bridge the gap between a patient and clinician. It can reduce anxiety and invite warmth, the study said, in what otherwise might be a stilted interaction. And it may decrease a power imbalance between a doctor and a patient, making the patient less reluctant to ask questions about their care. In the 112 encounters the scientists studied, humor wasn't necessarily hilarious slapstick. Instead, it often included a few light words, as when one patient with elevated blood pressure told a doctor, "Oh, that must be because of you." The researchers found humor was introduced about equally between patient and clinician. The study warns it is difficult to draw concrete conclusions about the use of humor in a medical setting. But if sharing a light moment with your doctor makes it easier to discuss a difficult health topic, humor might be the best medicine after all.

Reaper's revenge: hot peppers and thunderclap headaches

This should, of course, go without saying. Foods with "reaper" in their name need to be approached with some caution. Consider the 34-year-old man who entered a hot pepper-eating contest where he ate one Carolina Reaper, which Guinness World Records calls the planet's hottest chili pepper. Like the Richter scale for earthquakes, hot peppers have their own measure of intensity, the Scoville heat scale. On this pungency index, the Reaper comes in at more than 2 million heat units. Compare that to ordinary Tabasco sauce, which measures under 1,000. So, what happened to this brave Reaper-eating man? Yes, he ended up at the local emergency room after developing severe neck pain, dry heaves and, over several days, a series of what physicians call thunderclap headaches. These are extraordinarily painful headaches that come on as quickly as a thunderclap of lightning. It's the type of head pain suffered by many stroke victims. But this man didn't suffer any permanent health ills. As reported in BMJ Case Reports, a scan of his brain showed constricted blood vessels. Soon enough, they returned to normal. Doctors describing the case said they have nothing against the Reaper and aren't telling people to necessarily avoid them. This poor soul may simply have been sensitive to capsaicin [cap-SAY-i-sin], the ingredient which gives a hot pepper its wallop. Pepper aficionados suggest keeping a little citric acid handy to alleviate the pain should you be inclined to chance it. And expect an unpleasant experience if you eat a Reaper or any of a few other tongue-scorching hot peppers, like the Trinidad Moruga [MOR-ah-ga] Scorpion or Naga [NAH-ga] Viper. After all, this isn't angel food cake.

Reaper's revenge: hot peppers and thunderclap headaches

All hail honey, nature's sweet superfood and under-appreciated home remedy

What's all the buzz about honey? It's become a popular item on many roadside vegetable stands and farmers markets around the country and in a growing number of homes. It's a nutritious, natural sweetener, a concentrated energy source and a folk remedy for health and healing as well as an key ingredient in beauty products. But what exactly is this sweet superfood, and how can it help you? Raw honey is rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and antioxidants, all of which combine to make it better for your health than consuming granulated sugar or other kinds of sweeteners. Also, as bees in the hive turn the nectar into honey, one byproduct is a small amount of hydrogen peroxide. The antibacterial qualities of hydrogen peroxide has led honey to be used at time topically to help with skin healing and to prevent infection in wounds, burns, pressure sores and various types of leg ulcers. As more antibiotic-resistant bacteria emerge, researchers are renewing their interest in honey's antibacterial qualities. Beyond its medicinal value, honey can also help with your diet. You can substitute honey for sugar in almost any dish or drink. But because honey is sweeter than sugar, you probably should use less. While animal studies have shown that honey can lower both blood sugar and triglycerides and increase the amount of insulin released into the bloodstream, these benefits occurred while using honey in combination with diabetes medications and have yet to be confirmed in humans. Honey can be a valuable addition to your pantry, but educate yourself on all of the properties of this natural marvel for the best results.

All hail honey, nature's sweet superfood and under-appreciated home remedy

Gluten-free diet associated with higher risk of Type 2 diabetes

Gluten-free diets are becoming increasingly popular, but eliminating gluten might also pose a risk to certain people. Low-gluten diets might be associated with a higher chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, research has shown. Gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, provides elasticity to dough and gives baked goods their chewy texture. While those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity cannot tolerate gluten, many others are choosing to follow gluten-free diets. Harvard University researchers looked at three long-term studies that included a total of about 200,000 participants, each of whom completed food-frequency questionnaires. They calculated the participants' daily gluten intake and found most ate less than 12 grams of gluten per day. Those who ate less gluten also tended to eat less cereal fiber, which is a known protective factor against Type 2 diabetes development. The researchers found those who consumed the highest levels of gluten had a 13 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared with those who ate the least amount of gluten. The major sources of gluten were pasta, cereal, pizza, muffins, pretzels and bread. The scientists also noted that most of the people took part in the study before gluten-free diets became popular, so there is no data from gluten abstainers. Experts say there is little evidence that cutting out gluten provides long-term health benefits, adding that gluten-free foods often lack dietary fiber and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. So, if you haven't been diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity, you may not have to fear the pizza.

Gluten-free diet associated with higher risk of Type 2 diabetes

Exercise beats vitamin supplements as defense against falls for seniors

Geriatric care experts say one-third of Americans over age 65 living at home will have a fall, and nearly two-thirds will fall more than once. It's the leading cause of injury for senior citizens. For seniors, the consequences of a fall can be devastating. Older women are more often injured from a fall, but men are more likely to die. Within a year, more than half of all elderly people who fracture a hip from a fall will require help with activities of daily living, and nearly 30 percent will die. Faced with these sobering statistics, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force — which reviews the effectiveness of preventive care services based on evidence of benefits and harms — has released new guidelines on ways for older adults to avoid, and survive, potentially crippling falls. One of the group's most interesting steps was to reverse its recommendation that those over 65 take vitamin D, calcium or combined supplements daily as a way to strengthen their bones. The group said there is little evidence to show the benefits of the supplements outweigh the risks, such as a higher incidence of kidney stones. The report stressed clinicians should make care decisions based on the patient and situation. The group also said the recommendations do not apply to those with a history of osteoporotic fractures, increased risk for falls, or a diagnosis of osteoporosis or vitamin D deficiency. People over 65, the experts said, should engage in a fall-prevention program that includes strength training, flexibility training, balance exercises and endurance or aerobic exercise. You might not be able to keep from falling, but you can help your body bounce back better.

Exercise beats vitamin supplements as defense against falls for seniors

Relax, your electric car won't short-circuit your pacemaker

With more and more electric cars moving from the drawing board to the highways, their popularity is soaring. While advocates sing the praises of the new technology, some questions have been raised about the price of the vehicles, the scarcity of charging stations and the life of the batteries. Thanks to a recent study by German scientists, one other question appears to have been answered: Electric cars, they found, won't interfere with a person's pacemaker. In the study, reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers recruited people who were using pacemakers, implantable defibrillators and similar devices known as cardiovascular implantable electronic devices, or CIEDs. Altogether, 42 devices from seven manufacturers were tested under three conditions: with patients inside while the vehicle ran on a test bench, with patients in the car as it was being charged, and with patients as passengers while the car was driven on a road. The team found the electromagnetic strength was highest when the cars were being charged, but there was no pacemaker inhibition, no shocks and no devices needed to be reprogrammed. Electric cars are equipped with shielding to prevent electromagnetic interference with on-board computer systems, which the researchers said could explain the low electromagnetic strength inside the cars. This shielding may also be what protected the heart devices from any interference. The results are good news for people with heart-helping devices who would like to go electric without putting their health at risk. The cars themselves won't give you a jolt, but the dealership's numbers could still give you sticker shock.

Relax, your electric car won't short-circuit your pacemaker

Here's how to celebrate the Fourth of July with a healthy menu

Independence Day is all about the four Fs: food, friends, family and, of course, fireworks. But for those who are watching their weight, a traditional Fourth of July barbecue can feel like amber waves of culinary temptation. Here are four ways you can celebrate America's birthday while staying loyal to your health goals. First, fend off the threat of overeating by having a healthy snack before the festivities begin. Eating something nutritious like an apple with peanut butter or carrot sticks with hummus can keep you feeling full longer so you aren't as tempted by all the yummy — and fattening — foods at the barbecue. Next, be picky about your bread when building your hamburger or hot dog platter. Choose whole-wheat buns if available or, better yet, go bun-less. Eating carbohydrates from breads, even wheat bread, can spike your insulin, which makes your body store extra fat. Try your burger on a bed of lettuce instead. If you keep the bun, then survey the rest of the buffet table before loading your plate. Look for healthier options to balance out the carbs. Pick a pickle instead of a bunch of fries or chips. Don't dive head-first into the mountain of homemade potato salad. Finally, be patriotic with your dessert. Offer to bring a fruit salad full of strawberries, blueberries and watermelon to the party. The fruit will satisfy your sweet tooth and keep you hydrated in the hot July sun. It's a great way to enjoy the day without piling on all the unnecessary sugar. Celebrate this Independence Day with loved ones while making healthy food choices. You'll enjoy the Fourth ... without feeling guilty on the fifth.

Here's how to celebrate the Fourth of July with a healthy menu

Cellphones are safe to use, studies find

Despite fears among some people that using cellphones can lead to cancer from exposure to radiation, two recent government studies have found the ubiquitous devices are safe to use. After exposing rats and mice to extremely high doses of cellphone radiation, scientists found only a weak link to a rare type of heart tumor in some male rats. Female rats were unaffected, as were mice in a separate study. Scientists with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found no evidence linking cellphones to brain tumors. The male rat heart tumor issue does not translate to a concern for humans, they added. While the animal studies do not fully represent cellphone use by humans, the researchers noted they did not find any indications that the devices could be linked to higher risks of cancer. Previous studies found no cause for concern, and the researchers did their latest work in order to test higher doses of cellphone radiation than could be experienced by humans. During the research, mice and rats were exposed to nine hours of cellphone radiation. The constant radiation used on the animals was at a level that cellphone users would only experience briefly under transient conditions. The rats exposed to the radiation actually lived longer than those that were not exposed, something that scientists were unable to explain. The research was funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which deemed the current safety limits for cellphones acceptable in light of the latest findings. So, go ahead, make those calls. The biggest hazards of an unlimited calling plan might just be a stiff neck and a sore jaw.

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