Health in a Heartbeat show

Health in a Heartbeat

Summary: 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 the University of Florida Health Science Center News & Communication staff and WUFT-FM in Gainesville, Fl, Health in a Heartbeat airs on public radio stations in more than 55 markets nationwide.

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 Extended space travel can cause eye, brain changes in astronauts | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2:00

Being an astronaut must be one of the coolest jobs there is. Blasting into space to explore new worlds, floating around weightlessly and viewing earth from afar … in the realm of invigorating work experiences, could it get much better? But NASA doctors are learning more about a recently discovered drawback to the job. Turns out extended time spent in conditions with very little gravity, known as microgravity, affects many astronauts’ eyes and certain parts of the brain. A recent article in the journal Radiology details what doctors found after performing M-R-Is on astronauts who’ve spent at least 30 days in microgravity. The scans showed many of these astronauts have at least one of the following differences in their anatomy: eyeballs that are somewhat flattened on the back, enlarged optic nerves with cerebral spinal fluid reservoirs around them, and alterations in the pituitary gland and its connection to the brain. Some of these conditions can lead to vision problems. Changes like these are normally seen in people who have increased pressure inside their heads, but NASA doctors say they aren’t absolutely sure astronauts are experiencing that heightened pressure in space. Past studies have reported vision changes and different alterations to the eyes in some astronauts as a result of space missions. For now, they’ll keep watch on these issues in space travelers and hope to learn more. What they uncover could help not only other astronauts, but also people who experience similar problems here on Earth. More information also will help NASA evaluate whether living in outer space or on other planets will ever be possible for humans. For now, NASA doctors say these issues won’t keep astronauts … not even those already exhibiting the changes … from going into space. Three, two, one … liftoff!  

 Daily dose of aspirin could avert cancer | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2:00

It’s known to soothe headaches, keep heart attacks and stroke at bay and even help heal the heart after cardiac arrest. But can aspirin cure cancer? New research from the University of Oxford shows a daily dose of aspirin might not only reduce the risk of developing a slew of cancers, but could even shrink the chances that these diseases will spread. A recent study found that patients who regularly pop a low-dose aspirin had a nearly 25 percent less risk of developing cancer than people who did not take aspirin. Down the road, that statistic made for a 15 percent decreased risk of dying from cancer. Folks who were still taking aspirin five years later had a 37 percent reduced risk of death. Other studies have shown that taking aspirin reduced the risk of developing metastatic cancer by more than a third, especially for patients with colorectal cancer. Daily aspirin use also alleviated the risk of developing adenocarcinomas by nearly half. Adenocarcinomas are a type of cancer that’s common in the colon, lung and prostate. The results are nothing to scoff at considering aspirin is readily available and affordable. It does carry some risks, though, like gastrointestinal bleeding. Doctors often only advise taking it daily if the risk of heart attack or stroke outweighs the risk of stomach bleeding. But its ability to ward off cancer quickly could make it a boon for those at risk of developing the disease. Aspirin’s anti-inflammatory abilities make it a venerable drug for stroke treatment, too. More research is needed to determine exactly why aspirin seems to cull cancer, so make sure you adopt other ways to stay healthy. Avoid smoking and too much alcohol, sun and sodium. Eat colorful organic fruits and veggies and keep a healthy body weight. And if your doctor O-Ks it, pop a low-dose aspirin every day to increase the odds you keep cancer away.  

 There’s a health app for that | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2:00

Could the right app keep you out of the emergency room or doctor’s office? It’s a theory doctors in England are about to test. Soon, general practitioners in Great Britain will start prescribing free smartphone apps to their patients to help them manage their health conditions. The initiative is aimed at giving patients more control over their own health and save them unnecessary visits to the doctor. In 2011, Great Britain’s Department of Health invited people to name their favorite health apps and received nearly 500 entries and more than 12,600 votes and comments. And recently, Minister of Health Andrew Lansley announced a list of nearly 500 approved apps, which family doctors can now prescribe to their patients. One of these is a food allergy app that allows a person to scan bar codes on supermarket products to see if they contain dangerous ingredients. Another app that has already been tried out by British physicians, nurses and hospitals is called Patients Know Best. It allows patients to get all their records from their clinicians and control who gets access to them. Patients can also use the app to have online consultations with a physician, get explanations of their results and work with their providers on a personalized care plan. There's also an app from the charity Diabetes U-K to help the nearly 3 million Britons with diabetes manage their condition better. Patients can enter their blood glucose, diet and insulin information into the app, which helps them adjust their eating accordingly. Last year, an Imperial College London study found that a quarter of people who use health apps and the government’s health information website said they visited their general practitioner less frequently as a result. Looks like an app a day could keep the doctor away.  

 Pop an ibuprofen to ease altitude sickness | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 1:54

Is a fear of altitude sickness keeping you from that summer skiing, hiking or climbing adventure? A quarter of people who venture into the heights experience the uncomfortable symptoms of altitude sickness, such as trouble sleeping, headache, fatigue and loss of appetite. Severe cases can even lead to confusion and an inability to walk straight. Altitude sickness happens when you climb too high too fast to areas where the air is thinner and your body doesn’t get the oxygen it needs. Also known as acute mountain sickness, it can be dangerous … and even fatal. But the solution could be as simple as popping a pill. Research published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that taking ibuprofen could reduce the likelihood of developing altitude sickness by up to 26 percent. Scientists gave a group of hikers four doses of 600-milligram ibuprofen throughout a 24-hour period as they ascended to 12,570 feet in California’s White Mountains. Only 43 percent of the hikers who popped ibuprofen developed symptoms of altitude sickness, compared with 69 percent of those in the control group. Among those who did get sick, taking ibuprofen didn’t did not help ease all the symptoms of altitude sickness, but it did reduce nausea and vomiting. Ibuprofen was about as effective as prescription-only medicines, and it yielded fewer unpleasant side effects. It works by reducing inflammation in the brain, which occurs as a result of lower pressure and thinner air. As wilderness worries go, altitude sickness is no small matter. If you think you are experiencing Rocky Mountain high, go to a lower altitude or take it easy where you are. Drink plenty of water and limit physical activity. And wherever you wander, be sure to bring a pack of ibuprofen pills with you.  

 Is yoga dangerous? Defenders say risks are exaggerated | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 2:00

In today’s fast-paced, hectic society, it’s no wonder that the practice of yoga is becoming increasingly popular. In fact, the number of people hooked on the popular workout has climbed from 4 million in 2001 to more than 20 million in 2011. Yoga is billed as a cleansing experience for both body and soul. It provides an opportunity to connect with your breath, improve your balance and find inner strength. But some critics say the way yoga is being practiced in the United States is creating more harm than good. An article in the New York Times recently quoted a yoga instructor who said the vast majority of people who start yoga have to give it up because it’s too dangerous. The story included descriptions of people who pushed themselves beyond their physical limits because of the emphasis on increasingly difficult poses, such as shoulder and head stands. Some people popped ribs trying to twist themselves into pretzel-like shapes. Another lost movement in her hip joint. Perhaps most worrisome, an article in the British Medical Journal suggests certain yoga poses could cause stroke because of hyperextension of the neck. But yoga defenders say the risks are overblown. Sure, there are inexperienced and under-qualified teachers who encourage students to push themselves too far. But there have been several scientific studies that show yoga does provide serious health benefits, including asthma relief, non-surgical relief for injured shoulders and stronger bones. So what’s the bottom line? Despite the hype, there’s no evidence that yoga is more dangerous than any other form of exercise. Find a safe, reliable teacher and don’t over-exert yourself. With a few sensible precautions, there’s no reason why the 20 million Americans who practice yoga should give it up.


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