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 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.More from Health in a Heartbeat »

Most Recent Episodes

Making sense of multivitamin myths

Can a multivitamin a day keep ailments away? Many people think so. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than one-third of Americans take a multivitamin or mineral supplement every day. These products promise to improve health in various ways, including boosting energy, strengthening the immune system and increasing sleep. But do multivitamins and supplements live up to their claims, or are they a waste of money? There's little scientific evidence to support the idea that multivitamins and supplements dramatically improve health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate these products, meaning they don't test the accuracy of these claims. So a supplement claiming to boost energy might be stretching the truth. Health experts do agree it's OK to take a multivitamin daily. It helps avoid vitamin deficiencies, but it's not a cure-all or replacement for eating healthy. People who eat a well-rounded diet full of protein, fruits and vegetables should receive all the nutrients their bodies require. Multivitamins and mineral supplements are designed to fill in any nutritional gaps. For example, postmenopausal women may benefit from calcium and vitamin D supplements, as studies have shown these nutrients help bone density. Vegans and vegetarians may consider taking vitamin B12 supplements because the nutrient is found in animal foods. Women who are or may become pregnant should take folic acid supplements to protect against specific birth defects. Before taking a multivitamin or any supplements, talk with your doctor about your dietary plan. Together, you can ensure any supplements you take are good for your health.

Researchers use mosquito bites to design new microneedle

Mosquitoes have been the bane of humans and other warm-blooded creatures forever. Each year, they spread diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus and Zika to millions of people around the world. But scientists are studying nature's most common bite, and they believe medicine can learn from it. Researchers at The Ohio State University are using mosquitoes to create a microneedle that can pierce the skin and draw blood without causing pain. There hasn't been much innovation when it comes to needle design, researchers said. So, they analyzed the insect's needle-like mouth, called the proboscis [pro-BOS-es]. They used the most common mosquito in North America for their research: the female Aedes vexans. So far, researchers have identified four ways the mosquito gets away with its bites. Its proboscis is softest near the tip, and the edges became stiffer and harder as it goes up. This allows for easier insertion into the skin. Once the proboscis is in, the mosquito injects a numbing agent to lessen the pain. The part of the proboscis that draws blood, called a fascicle [FAS-ick-el], has a serrated design, kind of like a saw. It also vibrates as it pierces the skin. This lessens the force needed to pierce the skin and allowed for easier insertion. Based on these findings, researchers envision a microneedle that has two needles inside — one to inject a numbing agent and the other to draw blood. This needle would probably not be used for big procedures, but rather for children or adults who have a phobia of needles. This invention might mark the first time in human history that anyone has found something good to say about these pesky bloodsuckers.

Researchers use mosquito bites to design new microneedle

When gaming takes over

Dawn is breaking, but you haven't slept all night. It's perfectly understandable when you're battling the Great Dragon of Zorg. Just a few more lives, and you'll surely send him plummeting through misty clouds in his final defeat. Then the kingdom will be yours, and you can catch some ZZZs, or find another quest to begin, whichever seems more pressing at the moment. Wait: When was the last time you slept a full night? Or held a regular job? Or cleaned your room? If this scenario seems a little too familiar, then you might fit the description of one of the World Health Organization's newest defined mental health conditions: gaming disorder. Yes, the WHO is weighing in on video gaming in its latest version of the International Classification of Diseases publication. Telltale signs are prolonged, significant disruption of key life activities — social interaction, academics, physical activity and healthful sleep and eating habits, for example. The definition states that such disruption would last at least a year. WHO also notes that most gamers don't fit the profile. But defining the term could help raise awareness and might promote growth of treatment programs to help gamers who get out of control. However, some mental health experts criticize the move as alarmist and say it will cause unnecessary stigma. For people who do have the disorder, medications and psychological therapy are the best treatments. Obviously, it's better to avoid the condition in the first place. So, remember to sleep, eat, move, work and make friends while you're striving to defeat that Dragon. Don't let the digital Dragon give way to a bigger one, known to the world as gaming disorder.

Brain's reward center lights up for fat-carb combo foods

Gooey pizza, butter-rich chocolate chip cookies, scrumptious cheese fries — the right combo of fats and carbs can be oh-so-delicious! And, oh-so difficult to resist. A study published in the journal Cell Metabolism reveals that delectable fat and carbohydrate combinations can have a strong influence on the striatum, [stry-AH-tum] one of the brain's reward centers. An international group of scientists reached this conclusion by playing a game of sorts with about 200 study participants. They showed the subjects images on a computer screen of various snacks, all containing the same numbers of calories. Snacks included carb-rich foods, fat-heavy foods and combo foods. Then, participants had to select how much money they would pay for their favorites. The snacks comprising both fat and carbs garnered the most "money" from game participants. They also elicited a bigger response from the reward centers of their brains, as shown by brain scans conducted during the game. The researchers found that people had a tough time accurately assessing the calorie content of the combination foods, and tended to overestimate it. In the hunter-gatherer world in which our ancestors lived, where getting enough to eat was a daily challenge, such overestimations would have heightened a food's appeal. These two phenomena — valuing combo foods more than fat- or carb-only items, and overestimating calories in a combo food — help explain modern man's love of processed junk food, which tends to combine both. But many experts say the body is not well-equipped to burn fat and carb calories simultaneously, and will store one or the other. That, unfortunately, is a recipe for weight gain.

Brain's reward center lights up for fat-carb combo foods

Exercise can improve your blood

For obese people, working out can change more than their appearance. Recent research shows it can also reduce inflammation by changing the characteristics of their blood. Many health problems linked to obesity are a result of chronic inflammation, which can lead to tissue damage. Now, researchers at the University of Illinois have found that exercise can fundamentally alter certain blood cells responsible for inflammation and reduce their numbers. The researchers studied two groups of people, separating them according to lean and obese body mass. Their physical traits were measured before and after a six-week exercise program that included three bicycling or treadmill running sessions a week, each one lasting an hour. Blood samples were collected before and after the exercise to measure the number of blood-forming stem cells where inflammation originates. Exercise reduced the number of stem cells that generate the blood cells responsible for damaging inflammation, the researchers found. The study participants also improved their cardiorespiratory fitness and reduced their body fat percentage. The research is significant, the team noted, because it helps explain how and why exercise improves the health of obese people. Next, they want to know whether changes in the makeup of blood cells can improve muscle function and how fat is consumed and stored by people who are obese. They also want to determine if the effects of exercise on blood cells are also seen in other chronic conditions affected by inflammation. So if you're looking to shed some pounds with exercise, keep trying. You're not just improving your appearance, but also bettering your blood.

Man's best friend carries health benefits

There are plenty of pros and cons to consider when thinking of adopting a dog. But have you thought about how it could help your health? Research finds there are several health benefits to dog ownership. A recent study linked canine companionship to a longer life. The study, conducted in Sweden, found dog owners had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and other causes than their peers. What are the other health benefits to owning a dog? It can help keep you fit and active. Because dogs need daily walks, dog owners are more likely to get the recommended 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise per week. One small study from 2010 found public housing residents who walked dogs five times a week lost an average of 14.4 pounds over a year, and they didn't consider the walks as exercise because they enjoyed their time with their buddy. Dogs also improve our mental health. Research shows that spending a few minutes with a pet can reduce blood pressure and anxiety, and increase the brain's production of serotonin and dopamine, which are chemicals that play a large role in maintaining a sense of calm and well-being. Taking care of a dog provides a sense of purpose and responsibility, which can help people feel grounded and fend off feelings of loneliness. Another benefit can extend to your kids. Research shows children who grow up in a house with a dog or cat have fewer allergies or asthma. This occurs because their bodies build a stronger immune system to combat the dirt and bacteria that animals tend to track into houses. Dog ownership is a deep commitment, but if you choose to pursue it, it can lead to a satisfying, healthy and loving relationship.

Drinking coffee may make you live longer

Starting off your day with a freshly brewed cup of coffee might have more benefits than just getting you up and out of bed in the morning. New research by the National Cancer Institute found that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of death compared with those who don't brew the beans. The study looked at information in Britain's U.K. Biobank, a large genetic study that followed nearly a half million people over the course of 10 years. Most of the people who volunteered for the study had different coffee-drinking habits. But whether it was instant coffee, decaf or even Starbucks, those who drank coffee were less likely to die. The team focused on differences in several genes involved in metabolizing caffeine and found that over 10 years, coffee drinkers were less likely to die than their counterparts. They also found that the amount of coffee consumed did not make a difference. Those who drank eight cups of coffee a day still fared better than those who didn't drink any. But it's also important to note that there is no benefit to drinking extra cups of coffee every day. This study adds to others that speak to the benefits of coffee drinking. Coffee is a powerful antioxidant that can help fight damage to DNA, reduce inflammation and improve how insulin is used. There is other evidence that coffee can help people recover from colon cancer. It might also help protect against diabetes and Parkinson's disease. So the next time you find yourself really needing a boost to get through your day, grabbing a cup of coffee might be just the thing for you in that moment — and a healthful habit for the rest of your life.

Brisk walking has a new definition

Brisk walks have long been known to be a path to better health. But how fast is fast enough? About 100 steps a minute, says a new study of walking speed and health. A brisk pace rather than a leisurely stroll has always been recommended, but there hasn't been an agreed-upon definition of what that means. One guideline advised aiming for 70 percent of your target heart rate. Another suggested walking at a pace that would allow for talking but not singing. Finally, there's some clarity. To reach their findings, researchers at the University of Massachusetts and elsewhere analyzed studies that tracked participants' walking pace as well as other key measures such as heart and breathing rates. In all, they reviewed 38 studies that included hundreds of men and women ranging in age from their late teens to their elderly years with many different body-mass indexes. While the participants varied, the data about what defined a brisk walk — considered moderate activity — were remarkably similar. And that makes it much simpler for the average walker: Aim for 100 steps a minute — which is a pace of about 2.7 miles per hour. It's as simple as counting the number of steps taken in six seconds, and multiplying by 10. One-hundred steps a minute is a good rule of thumb for people under age 60 and it's a pace that should not feel strenuous to most healthy people, the researchers noted. Some older people needed more than 100 steps per minute to walk briskly, and researchers plan to do further study to pinpoint an ideal pace for that group. So the next time you hit the road or trail for a brisk walk, remember this easy way to know if you're on the right track.

Treating breast cancer with chemotherapy may not be necessary

Many women with early-stage breast cancer may be able to forgo chemotherapy, according to a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The findings could affect 60,000 women in the United States. Many women with breast cancer undergo a genetic test that analyzes the tumor and looks for the presence of 21 genes associated with a high chance of recurrence. The genetic testing results in a score of 0 to 100. Women who score 0 to 11 can skip chemo, and women who score over 26 are advised to undergo the treatment. The study aimed to determine whether doctors should offer chemotherapy to women whose scores fell in the middle range, or 11 to 25. To conduct the study, scientists followed 10,273 women who had the most common type of breast cancer — known as the estrogen-receptor positive, HER-2 negative form — that had not spread to lymph nodes. Seventy percent of these women had gene test scores of 11 to 25. Patients were randomly assigned to receive chemotherapy and hormonal therapy or only hormonal therapy. The researchers examined the two groups to see how many patients remained cancer-free or had cancer recur, whether in the same location of the body or elsewhere. They also assessed overall survival. The study found that there was no significant difference between the two groups. The findings suggest that doctors can safely tell women who fall into the middle range of genetic test scores to skip chemotherapy. Researchers say this will prevent overtreatment. Avoiding chemotherapy can improve a women's quality of health, as the treatment often has harsh side effects, including nausea, vomiting and hair loss.

Treating breast cancer with chemotherapy may not be necessary

A watch may soon be able to read your blood

Many people today have watches that can monitor their heart rate and other signs, but would you buy a watch that could monitor your blood? The folks over at Google think so, and that's why they've partnered with German hardware company Infineon and engineers from the University of Waterloo in Canada. The Waterloo engineers are working on a system to detect glucose level changes in a liquid without taking a sample of the liquid itself. Basically, like a radar, high-frequency radio waves are sent into the liquid, and based on how the waves are reflected back, a computer can determine how much glucose is in the liquid. If you have diabetes, this would mean no more blood samples and no more pricked fingers. So far, the team's tests have been 85 percent as accurate as the more painful, traditional methods of blood testing, according to results published in The International Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction. The findings indicate that detecting changes in blood accurately with radio waves is possible; putting that technology into a watch is the bigger challenge. The current version of the device is too large to be worn, and they have not developed a portable scanner that can see through human skin. Right now, the machine sends its data to another computer to read. For the proposed smart watch to be practical, it would have to fit on the wrist, scan your blood through skin and interpret the data with no outside help. Sounds complicated? The engineers hope to have a working model on the market within the next five years. And beyond that, who knows? Maybe one day getting blood work will be as simple as telling the time.

A watch may soon be able to read your blood

Back To Top