January 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.


In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, a tidal wave of U.S. citizens gave blood. But because of the perishable nature of blood and its components, much of the supply went to waste.

“So now is the time for a New Year’s resolution to donate blood at routine intervals, preferably twice a year,” says Dr. Ravi Sarode, associate professor of pathology and director of the Transfusion Medicine and Coagulation Laboratory at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“To jog your memory," he says, "you might schedule your blood donations to coincide with your birthday and wedding anniversary or some other personal and perennial event to time your visits to the blood bank at five- or six-month intervals."

“The shelf life for platelets is only five days and, therefore, there is often a shortage of this critical blood component, especially during a long holiday season,” Sarode says. “When you donate whole blood, you help three or four patients because whole blood is then divided into three or four of its major components, such as red cells, platelets and plasma. You can choose to donate either whole blood or only platelets or red cells.”

Contact: Worth Wren Jr.


A healthy set of pearly whites is not the only benefit of flossing. This process, which eliminates plaque from in between teeth and aids in the prevention of periodontal (gum) disease, may also lower heart-disease risks.

“Inflammation has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease, and it has been postulated that periodontal disease may be a source for systemic inflammation,” says Dr. James de Lemos, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“Periodontal disease possibly could raise levels of C-reactive protein and other markers of coronary artery inflammation, which could lead secondarily to an increased heart disease risk.”

Flossing daily, de Lemos says, could prevent periodontal disease and thus may lower the risk of developing heart disease.

Media Contact: Amy Shields


The cold weather and indoor heating that rob skin of moisture during winter can also exacerbate dandruff.

Dandruff is an itchy, persistent disorder caused by excessive shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp, says Dr. Paul Bergstresser, chairman of dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“Although there isn’t a cure for dandruff, it can be controlled,” Bergstresser says. “Over-the-counter shampoos, especially those containing tar, are effective in restoring moisture balance to the scalp and reducing flaking.”

Bergstresser suggests visiting a dermatologist if flaking or itching persists and is accompanied by redness and greasy scaling on the face, eyebrows and eyelashes.

Media contact: Ione Echeverria


Winter is here and so is another season of respiratory syncytial virus, better known as RSV, the leading cause of respiratory infections in young children and infants.

“Typically, people get their hands contaminated unknowingly and then rub their eyes or nose,” says Dr. Hasan Jafri, an assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “The best way to avoid RSV is to wash hands frequently, and avoid places like busy day-care centers where it can be transmitted easily.”

Symptoms include nasal congestion, coughing and some fever. In more severe cases, children suffer pneumonia, bronchitis and even respiratory failure.

Sufferers have few treatment options besides drinking lots of liquids.

Parents should make sure infants’ noses are clear of secretions to ensure an open breathing passage and take very young infants, infants with chronic respiratory diseases and premature infants to a doctor to determine whether they have RSV or a common cold.

Media Contact: Worth Wren


Does eating a balanced diet ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients you need?

It should for most individuals, says Bernadette Latson, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“Generally, people who are eating from all the food groups and eating a reasonable amount of food (about 2,000 calories per day) can meet their nutrient needs from diet,” says Latson, who is also a registered dietitian.

For anyone who doesn't meet the daily requirements, she says, a multivitamin/mineral supplement with about 100 percent of the daily requirements for most nutrients is essential.

People most likely to need supplements include: dieters who have cut out whole categories of foods or those on a very low-calorie diet, people with chronic illnesses or who are recuperating from illness or injury, aging adults, people with food intolerance or allergies, strict vegetarians, toddlers and pregnant women.

Media Contact: Amy Shields