February 2002 Health News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at (214)648-3404.


Most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Individuals who experience these symptoms often wait too long before getting help.

It is very important that everyone is familiar with the warning signs of a heart attack, said Dr. James Atkins, program director of emergency medicine education at UT Southwestern Allied Health Sciences School.

If someone has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other common symptoms, it’s important to call 911 within at least five minutes. By acting quickly, a heart attack victim is less likely to experience cardiac arrest, and mortality and morbidity is reduced.

Classic heart-attack symptoms include chest pains and discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.

Women have chest pain less frequently and are more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, lightheadedness and nausea, Atkins said.

Media Contact: Amy Shields


Each December Americans compose New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, exercise more or work on relationships. By February, many of those resolutions have become distant memories.

Why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep?

Dr. David Self, associate professor of psychiatry UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, says most of us don’t work on the new behavior long enough for it to become a habit.

Once you learn a habit, it’s not easy to unlearn it, he said.

Human brains are chemically wired to help us develop habits through a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which controls reinforced behavior. Thanks to dopamine and some effort on our part, conscious decisions to act in a certain way become ingrained behavior over time.

That's a good thing to remember the next time you find yourself reaching for a cookie instead of your walking shoes.

Media Contact: Ann Harrell


The effect multiple sclerosis has on the body is sometimes hard to detect.

Dr. Kathleen Hawker, UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas assistant professor of neurology, said symptoms like blurred vision, bladder changes, numbness or weakness can occur over hours, days or even weeks. Symptoms can also get better over days or weeks and can recur, she said.

MS is the most common disabling neurological disorder of young people and affects about 500,000 Americans, most between the ages of 20 and 40. If you are experiencing unexplained fatigue associated with symptoms like Hawker describes, she recommends seeing your doctor.

There are effective treatments available to reduce MS attacks or slow progression of the disease,she says.

Media Contact: Mindy Baxter


Experts agree that diabetes has become an American epidemic, but they warn that millions of Americans remain unaware that they have the disease - or that their children could have it.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes generally are recognized sooner in children than symptoms of type 2, says Dr. Dana Hardin, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics, UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Hardin advises everyone to learn to recognize diabetes symptoms, which can be both similar and contradictory between types 1 and 2, whether you're an adult or child.

Hardin cites one paradox: Many children with type 1 diabetes experience obvious weight loss. Children with type 2 diabetes can also experience weight loss; however, due to the substantial obesity generally present in a child with type 2, the weight loss may go unnoticed.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Persistent, often extreme thirst, which leads to increased urination and sometimes can lead to bed-wetting.
  • Becoming cranky, fussy and easily fatigued. Stomach aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration, are also common.

A family history of diabetes, obesity or any combination of the above symptoms should prompt testing for diabetes, Hardin advises.

Media Contact: Worth Wren Jr.


Blood in your urine is something you should always take seriously, say UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas urologists.

As urologists, we are most concerned when blood comes on unexpectedly and with no associated symptoms, said Dr. Gary Lemack, assistant professor of urology. When urinary urgency, frequency and burning accompany blood in the urine, it is commonly due to a bladder infection. But these symptoms should be fully evaluated and treated by a physician, particularly with repeat bouts.

Lemack recommends increasing your fluid intake and calling your physician if you see blood in your urine. If you see large blood clots or have trouble urinating, it may be advisable to go to a local acute-care center for evaluation.

Media Contact: Mindy Baxter