Health Blog

Welcome to the ongoing series of blog posts from UTMB Health focusing on key aspects of maintaining your health

Do pregnant moms need a COVID booster?

Women are at higher risk of serious complications from COVID when they’re pregnant. Should they get a COVID booster? Drs. Megan Berman and Richard Rupp examine the question in the recent Vaccine Smarts column.

Lupus, certain gene mutation lead to kidney damage

Lupus is a scary disease, and it can be common. Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues, causing inflammation and damage to various organs. Drs. Norbert Herzog and David Niesel discuss research about a connection to kidney damage.

Hobbies can improve our mental, physical health

“The primary reason hobbies are good is because they force you to take time for yourself,” writes Dr. Samuel Mathis. “Hobbies count as part of the 10 in the 0-5-10-20-30 of the formula for healthy living (0 cigarettes, 5 servings of veggies and fruits a day, 10 minutes of daily mindfulness, 20 minutes of exercise a day, and a body mass index less than 30).”

New COVID treatment available for immunocompromised

People with immunocompromising conditions might be unsure whether their COVID-19 vaccinations will protect them from severe disease. Many may also be unaware aware there’s now a treatment, Evusheld, that can protect and allow them to lead more normal lives. Drs. Meagan Berman and Richard Rupp explain in the latest Vaccine Smarts column.

AI makes colorectal cancer screening better

“Now for the first time, artificial intelligence was used in conjunction with the standard colonoscopy to reduce the rate at which polyps are missed by nearly a third,” write Drs. Norbert Herzog and David Niesel in the latest Medical Discovery News column.

Sometimes, normal 'forgetting' can be beneficial

Among older adults, such memory concerns represent a daily complaint in the primary care setting. Most patients fear that the slightest forgetfulness predicts progressive senility, dementia or even Alzheimer’s Disease. Drs. Victor S. Sierpina and Michelle Sierpina write that forgetting things once in a while can be healthy.

Guns surpass motor vehicles as top cause of death for U.S. children: What parents should know

Guns are now the leading cause of death in children and teenagers in the United States. “In addition to common-sense gun control, such as safe storage and enforcement of red flag laws, we need universally administered community- and school-based programs that effectively prevent violence,” said Jeff Temple, PhD, a licensed psychologist, and director of the Center for Violence Prevention at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

10 ways to help a loved one living with mental illness

Once you've asked someone how they are, it is important to listen—without shame or stigma. “Be patient, non-judgmental, and open to conversation,” said Dr. Jeff Temple, a licensed psychologist and University of Texas Medical Branch professor. You should be responsive and make eye contact. Hear them out, no matter what. And offer empathy. “You don't have to be an expert to know someone is struggling,” Temple said. “You just must be a caring person who wants to help. This shows the person that they can lean on you for support and rely on you when they're struggling.”

Make new friends to improve your health

In an era with easier social connections through the internet, text messaging and email, establishing and building friendships is harder than ever. Dr. Samuel Mathis encourages us to make new friends. Want to have coffee soon?

A man cluctching his chest during a heart attack

Heart attack mortality rate higher in the US compared to other high-income countries

When it comes to treating heart attacks, U.S. hospitals may have the latest tech and low readmission rates, but the country’s mortality rate is one of the highest among the nations included in a new study. The study, published May 4 in The BMJ, found substantial differences in care for heart attack patients across six high income countries despite international agreement on how heart attacks should be treated.

What it takes to live to 100

Drs. Victor S. Sierpina and Michelle Sierpina review three books on living a long and fulfilling life. Here’s some advice: “Keep moving; cut calories; eat more plants; drink red wine in moderation; purpose now — take time to see the big picture; take steps to relieve stress; participate in a spiritual community; loved ones first — make family a priority; and right tribe — surround yourself with Blue Zone-minded people.”

Harmful partnerships: When someone you love is abusive

The Australian news outlet story about intimate partner violence included quotes from Dr. Jeff Temple, an expert on teen dating violence at the University of Texas Medical Branch. “Practice is huge for when they get into that situation in real life,” Temple said. “What the research tells us is that kids who are able to resolve conflicts and manage their emotions are less likely to be in violent relationships later on.”

When to call your doctor in early pregnancy

Women who have certain pre-existing medical conditions – such as thyroid disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and/or lupus – should note any changes in their condition during pregnancy. “If your thyroid hormone levels are too high or too low, you may be at increased risk of miscarriage,” says Dr. Gayle Olson, a maternal-fetal specialist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. “If your blood sugar isn’t tightly controlled, you may be at increased risk of miscarriage or fetal abnormalities. Any flare-up in an underlying condition is a red flag and should be followed.” Several other international news outlets included this health story from WebMD.

Curiosity, creativity and courage make a better world

“For those of you unfamiliar with Dr. Sir William Osler, he’s one of the most legendary figures in modern medicine, medical education, and the intersection of science and the humanities,” writes Dr. Victor S. Sierpina in his column. “His methods of clinical bedside teaching, the requirements for a college degree before medical school, two years of basic science followed by two clinical years as the core of medical school, and a progressive residency program were innovative, setting the standard for our current system of medical training over a century ago.”

Talking to your child about tragedy 101

After any disaster or crisis parents can start to talk to their children by asking them what they’ve seen or heard, writes Dr. Sally Robinson in her column. No matter what age the child is, it’s better to be straightforward and direct. It’s suggested that it’s best to share basic information but not graphic or unnecessary details. Keeping young children away from the repetitive graphic images and sounds that appear on television, radio, social media and computers is strongly suggested. Perhaps it’s better to record the news and watch it later or with your older children so it can be stopped and discussed.

Body odor directs our behavior

Body odor is usually a strange topic to talk about, but not for Drs. Norbert Herzog and David Niesel. Some new scientific work identified a body odor chemical produced by babies’ skin that makes men less aggressive and women more aggressive. Let’s bottle this scent.

UTMB researchers announce Nipah vaccine breakthrough

Scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch have developed a vaccine showing promising protection against Nipah, a zoonotic virus with a mortality rate as high as 70 percent. “Our data suggest that this vaccine can help rapidly generate protective immunity in humans against the virus,” said Dr. Courtney Woolsey, co-lead author of the researchers’ study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

You 'could' get second COVID booster, but should you?

The CDC said that you “could” receive a second booster shot but stopped short of saying that one “should.” They previously recommended that everyone 12 and older should receive the first booster for optimal protection. The benefit of a second booster isn’t as extreme, but it’s still there. Drs. Meagan Berman and Richard Rupp explore the issue in their Vaccine Smarts column.

Consider an integrative approach for your aching back

“My Tuesday morning acupuncture clinic is busier than ever,” writes Dr. Victor S. Sierpina in his column. “Medicare started paying for this effective, safe therapy for the specific diagnosis codes of chronic low back pain a couple of years ago. This was done after a review of evidence-based sources that showed positive, non-placebo effect of acupuncture on low back pain.”

Addressing climate change now will help our children

According to American Academy of Pediatrics, “climate change poses threat to human health, safety and security. Children are uniquely vulnerable to these threats. Given this knowledge failure to take prompt, substantive action would be an act of injustice to all children.” Dr. Sally Robinson discusses the health risk to children in her column.

Clean air is important for healthy children

Children who grew up in more polluted areas had an increased risk of having reduced lung growth which may never be recovered, writes Dr. Sally Robinson in her column. The average drop in lung function is similar to the impact of growing up in a home with parents who smoke.

Take the scenic route and enjoy what nature has to offer

A growing body of evidence shows that spending time outdoors can improve overall health and even prolong your life, Dr. Samuel Mathis writes in his column. One study found that spending 20 minutes outside can lower the stress hormone cortisol by 20 percent from baseline. The activity didn’t matter; rather, just the act of being outside improved people’s stress levels.

Knowledge is power as it relates to plastics

It has been reported that a single infant’s intake of microplastics from feeding bottles ranged from 14,600 to 4,500,000 particles. This enormous range of the number of particles shows the difficulty of measuring during early life and the difficulty of measuring such small particles, writes Dr. Sally Robinson in her regular column.

Exotic travel might require yellow fever vaccine

For those planning to safari in Sub-Saharan Africa or cruise the Amazon River, the yellow fever vaccine is a must. Drs. Megan Berman and Richard Rupp explain why in the latest Vaccine Smarts column.

Poor sleep is a risk factor for many medical problems

Chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndromes, sleep disorders like sleep apnea and restless legs, anxiety, medications, organ problems like a bladder issue — all these and more must be considered as part of assessing the cause of sleep problems and treating them. Dr. Victor S. Sierpina offers tips to help you get the sleep you need. One is to reduce screen time before bedtime, so go ahead and put your cell phone down now.

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