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

Add the flu shot to your to-do list

This time of the year brings new responsibilities and priorities, growing people's to-do lists as the weather cools down. In the midst of the chaos, you may have forgotten about an important annual task: getting your flu shot. If so, don't fear: it's not too late to get your shot. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says now is a great time to make sure you're protecting yourself and those you love from the flu. Every flu season is different, but flu activity most often peaks between December and February each year, with some seasons lasting until May. It takes up to two weeks to inoculate the body after receiving the flu vaccine, so the CDC often recommends people get the shot between October and late November, although it's better to have protection anytime during flu season rather than not receive the shot at all. Who should get a flu shot? Any child or adult older than 6 months should receive the flu vaccine. The vaccine is the safest and most effective way for people to reduce the risk of receiving or passing on flu viruses. It's especially important to receive the shot to protect vulnerable populations, including newborns, seniors and people with immune conditions. It's still possible to get the flu if you have gotten the flu shot, but symptoms will likely be milder. And no, you cannot get the flu from getting a flu shot. Where can you get a flu shot? Health clinics at colleges and workplaces nationwide offer the shots for free, and you can also get one at doctor's offices, pharmacies and some supermarkets. Make getting your flu shot a top priority to protect yourself and your loved ones this busy fall season.

Many patients withhold crucial information from doctors

Silence might be golden, but not in your doctor's office. New research has found that nearly half of all patients who face four difficult topics do not tell their health care providers about them. These include suicidal thoughts, struggling with depression, the threat of domestic violence, and being a sexual assault survivor. The reasons for staying quiet about such issues varies, although they typically include embarrassment about the situation or a fear of being judged. Scientists at the universities of Iowa, Michigan and Utah collaborated on the study, which was published recently in an American Medical Association journal. The researchers analyzed responses from more than 4,500 people in two online polls. The participants in one poll were 36 years old on average, whereas those in the other poll averaged 61. They were given a list of medically relevant information and asked if they had ever withheld such facts from their doctor. They were also asked why they didn't disclose the details.Nearly 48% of the respondents said they had held back information about one or more of the four subjects. Nearly three-fourths of them said it was because they were worried about being judged or embarrassed. Women and younger patients, the researchers found, were more likely to withhold information. How can doctors overcome this lack of disclosure? The authors said helping patients feel more comfortable with their health care providers is crucial. One possible solution is to have patients fill out a questionnaire. Some people might feel more comfortable writing down sensitive information rather than talking about it.

One-third of Type 1 diabetes cases misdiagnosed in adults

November is American Diabetes Month, a great time to learn about a disease that affects over 30 million Americans. Let's start with the basics: Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body regulates blood sugar. There are two types of diabetes that share similar early symptoms, including extreme thirst, weight loss, frequent urination and nausea. People with Type 1 diabetes don't produce insulin, which is how the body regulates blood sugar levels. People with Type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin or don't produce enough of it. Type 1 diabetes is commonly found in children and teens, but it can develop at any age. As a result, it's commonly misdiagnosed in adults. A recent study by the University of Exeter in England found a third of adults over the age of 30 with Type 1 diabetes were initially misdiagnosed as having Type 2 diabetes. Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May is a notable example. She was initially diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and was treated with lifestyle changes and medications that did not work. She was re-tested and found to have Type 1 diabetes. These misdiagnoses are critical because the two types of diabetes have different treatment options, and it's important to treat each type correctly. Type 1 diabetes is managed using self-provided insulin injections to provide the body with the insulin it can't produce. Type 2 diabetes is treated with tablets and weight loss, which often helps the body produce insulin on its own again. An evaluation by your physician that includes a medical history, a physical exam and lab work is the best way to determine what type is present and to ensure you receive the correct counseling and treatment.

New health warnings may be headed to cigarette packs

By now, most people — adults, at least — should be well aware of the health dangers of smoking cigarettes. They've heard it from their physicians, from the media and from their loved ones. Yet, millions of Americans continue to light up. Is there any message that can get through to these smokers? Barring a last-minute challenge, the Food and Drug Administration is poised to begin requiring graphic warnings on cigarette packages that will depict the potential health consequences associated with smoking. The agency has proposed 13 stark images that show harsh effects such as head and neck cancer, cataracts, lung disease — even a photo showing a container of bloody urine as a result of bladder cancer. Such warnings have been used for years in Europe, but tobacco companies in the U.S. have blocked them from being shown here. Now, the FDA is about to order the first significant changes to cigarette labels in 35 years. The head of the FDA acknowledged it's time to update the labels, noting the outdated content now on packages, along with its small size and location, makes the information practically invisible. The proposed warnings would occupy the top half of the front and rear panels of the packages. The FDA noted that over time, warnings lose their impact, and written ones wear out faster than ones with images. If approved, the new warnings would begin showing up on packages sometime in 2021. As vivid as these warnings may be, they still pale in comparison to some used in Europe, such as one that has a harsh image accompanied by these words: Smoking can lead to a slow, painful death. The FDA hopes a splash of cold water in the face like that will get smokers' attention.

Scientists create butter-like spread that's mostly water

If you can't believe it's not butter, that's because it isn't. Food scientists at Cornell University have invented a low-calorie, butter-like spread that is made mostly from water. For the health conscious, here's the tale of the tape: A tablespoon of the new spread has 2.8 grams of fat and 25 calories. Butter, by comparison, weighs in with almost four times more fat and calories. Here's how they found a way to mimic real butter: Using a new process, the scientists combined two ingredients that usually don't like to stick together — water and vegetable oil. The end product is produced by combining large amounts of water and tiny drops of vegetable oil. The findings were published recently in an American Chemical Society journal. The idea of combining oil and water, known as an emulsion, isn't new to scientists. But in the Cornell lab, they used a process known as high-internal phase emulsion that keeps adding water until it accounts for 80 percent of the mixture. And — BAM! — a butter-like product is born in the lab, not the kitchen. But then comes the inevitable questions: How does it taste? Does is feel like butter in the mouth? The project's lead scientist says their invention delivers the consistency of butter along with a similar "mouth feel" and creaminess. It's also highly adaptable, the researchers said. It can be tweaked to adjust for taste and health preferences. Adding in plant- or milk-based proteins as well as vitamins and flavors is also possible — and that could be one way to bring the new spread's taste closer to real butter. That all makes for a potentially healthier butter substitute — but one without all the saturated fat.

High-fiber diet may combat brain aging

Eating more broccoli might be just what you need to combat brain aging. A study in the journal Frontiers in Immunology found that fiber-rich foods, such as broccoli, nuts and beans, could trigger the making of a short-chain fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory qualities. This activation, the researchers say, could help postpone brain aging. A previous study showed that a drug form of butyrate [byoo-tuh-reyt], a short-chain fatty acid produced when fiber is agitated, can improve memory and reduce inflammation in mice. The University of Illinois researchers wondered if increasing fiber intake could produce the same results. To find out, the team fed young and aging mice high- and low-fiber diets. They measured the levels of butyrate in the blood and levels of pro-inflammatory substances in the intestines of the mice. Results from the study showed high-fiber diets raised butyrate in the blood of mice in both age groups. Aging mice consuming high-fiber diets saw such a large decrease in intestinal inflammation that their intestines looked the same as the younger mice. If high-fiber diets had this kind of effect on the gut, the team wondered, what could it do for inflammation in the brain? Inflammation of the brain's microglia, a type of brain immune cell, was found to have decreased on a high-fiber diet. The researchers think that this might be thanks to lower production of a pro-inflammatory chemical that is linked with Alzheimer's disease. What you eat matters in all aspects of your overall health. If you're worried about keeping your brain young, consider adding more fiber into your diet. Your mom was right when she told you to eat more veggies.

More people dying from wasp and bee stings

What's the latest buzz from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? The number of deaths nationwide from hornet, wasp and bee stings are at record levels, and climbing. And global warming may be to blame. According to the CDC, between 2001 and 2017, more than 1,000 people died from stings. In 2001, 43 people died. By 2017, the number had more than doubled to 89. People who die from stings usually are allergic to the poison released by the insect and go into anaphylaxis. Interestingly, more than 80 percent of the victims were men. The agency didn't address this disparity, but it may be that they spend more time outdoors. Gender also plays a role in what some scientists believe is the cause of the increase. Yellowjackets are responsible for most of the stinging deaths because they can sting repeatedly. Plus, they attack in swarms. Yellowjackets usually freeze to death over the winter. But the queens survive because, unlike males, they have a compound in their blood that acts like an antifreeze. This allows the queen to start a new colony in the spring. Here's where climate change comes in: With warmer winters becoming the norm, there are more males and multiple queens in so-called super nests. With each queen capable of producing around 20,000 eggs, the numbers quickly add up. You can avoid attracting stingers by not using perfume or cologne if you plan to be outdoors, especially near flowering plants. If you are attacked, run and get inside fast. Don't jump into water as some species will hover and wait you out. Finally, let's hope that we humans get a handle on climate change before we have to worry about a lot more than killer bees.

Keeping track of blood pressure using your phone

Hold up your smartphone, smile for the camera and let the video roll. Besides capturing one of your life's great moments, you might also be able to monitor your blood pressure someday by taking a selfie. Scientists at the University of Toronto using smartphones equipped with transdermal optical imaging have determined a person's blood pressure with more than 95% accuracy. Experts see this as a major advancement in blood pressure management over the traditional cuff-based method, which can be inconvenient and uncomfortable. Transdermal optical imaging, or TOI, measures blood pressure by detecting imperceptible blood flow changes in facial videos. Ambient light penetrates the skin's outer layer allowing digital optical sensors in smartphones to visualize blood flow patterns. TOI-equipped cellphones can use this information to register blood pressure. The researchers evaluated more than 1,000 adults in Canada and China with normal blood pressure. They took two-minute videos of the participants and used these data to teach the technology how to accurately determine blood pressure and pulse from facial blood flow patterns. They compared the phones' readings with blood pressure numbers using cuff-based measurements and found them to be within the international standards for accuracy. The team noted they recorded the videos in a controlled environment with fixed lighting, so results might be different outside or in homes. Plus, while the participants had a variety of skin colors, they didn't have extremely dark or light tones. But the results indicate a whole new avenue for making blood pressure monitoring as easy as saying "Cheese!''

Repeat after me: It's OK to talk back to the doctor

You know the drill when you visit your doctor: The physician speaks, you listen and nod, perhaps asking a clarifying question along the way. After all, you're the patient and the doctor is the expert. If you knew all the answers, you wouldn't be there. But what happens when, after the doctor finishes speaking, she asks you to repeat back what you just heard? Besides reviving nightmares of being called upon in Mr. Snyder's middle school science class, it forces you to pay closer attention and you have a deeper understanding of this vital information. According to a study by University of Florida researchers, you also could have a significantly less chance of being admitted to a hospital or being repeatedly hospitalized. The researchers examined data from more than 14,000 people with high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease — conditions that can lead to hospital stays if the patient doesn't manage their care at home. When the patients were asked to repeat care instructions back to their doctor in their own words, the number of hospital admissions fell by 15%. The study also found nearly a third of the patients said their doctors never asked them to repeat the instructions. Reasons for this could be that doctors feel they are too busy or that they only do this with certain patient populations. The authors suggest that people initiate the conversations themselves, especially if they are a caregiver for a parent, child or spouse. Better communications leads to better adherence to instructions, and better health outcomes. Don't let fear keep you from speaking up. After all, you're not in Mr. Snyder's science class anymore.

Retirement years can be great for your health

Here's the typical snapshot of retirement: rest and relaxation, along with the possibility of new aches and pains. But a study from the University of Sydney paints a rosier picture: The golden years can be golden for your health, too. A study of more than 25,000 Australian retirees found that seniors actually enjoyed better health after retirement than before it. They sat less, moved more and slept better. The study participants, who quit working at an average age of 63, said they increased their activity time by 90 minutes a week and slashed their sitting time by about an hour each day. They also snoozed an average of 11 minutes more each day, and half the women quit smoking after they retired. The findings were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. All of these factors, especially exercise, are critical to preventing heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of hearty exercise. Another key to a happy retirement is maintaining a sense of purpose. Experts recommend keeping hobbies, volunteering in the community or spending quality time with loved ones. Staying in touch with a social network is important, too. Need another way to keep yourself feeling young and spry? Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and avoid foods with trans fats, processed meats, too much sugar and fatty foods. Don't toast too often to retirement, either — excessive alcohol can accelerate aging. Moderate drinking is considered one drink per day for women or two for men. With a little effort, your retirement years can be golden.

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