December 2007 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.

Low blood sugar, driving don’t mix

With the holiday season looming, families are preparing for the oft-dreaded drive to see friends and relatives.

Besides the standard anxieties about spending hours in a cramped vehicle, people with diabetes and those traveling with them have something else to consider: hypoglycemia. 

Driving demands a sharp mind and quick reflexes, so even a small drop in blood sugar can have disastrous results.

Joyce Barnett, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says one way people with diabetes can avoid hypoglycemia is to plan trips around meals. 

“It’s very important not to skip meals or scheduled snack times, especially when taking insulin,” she says. “Skipping meals or snacks increases the risk of hypoglycemia.”

Ms. Barnett also says individuals with diabetes must always keep carbohydrate-rich foods on hand in case their blood sugar drops.

“If somebody’s blood glucose levels drop, the general guideline is to eat or drink 15 grams of a carbohydrate-rich food or beverage, wait 15 minutes, then test again,” she says.

Glucose tabs, hard candy, and regular — not diet — sodas are good options for a quick sugar boost.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in diabetes.

Media Contact: Kristen Holland Shear

Shorter showers help ease dry winter skin

As we get older, our skin becomes drier, requiring the regular use of moisturizer to prevent itching and flaking. But skin also becomes more dry and itchy in the winter, as the cold air draws more moisture from the skin. 

“Take warm, not hot, showers and try to keep the time spent in the shower to under five minutes,” advises Dr. Erin Welch, a dermatologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Then apply baby oil or moisturizing cream immediately to the skin after bathing.”

Keeping the skin well moisturized can also help prevent flare-ups of conditions like atopic dermatitis (eczema) and psoriasis which are often more bothersome in the wintertime.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in dermatology.

Media Contact: Russell Rian

Holidays an opportunity to bring cheer to those with Alzhemier’s, and to caregivers

When making holiday plans, don’t forget your friends, relatives and others caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease, says Peggy Higgins, education director for the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“Caregivers need a break,” she said. “Offer to have someone watch the person with Alzheimer’s, and take the caregiver shopping, out to lunch or a salon visit, anything for some pampering.”

There are also simple things you can do to entertain the person with Alzheimer’s, even if he or she is deeply progressed in the disease. With the caregiver’s permission, bring a “sorting” project such as photos, a box of buttons, nuts and bolts, or various squares of felt.

Play music dating from their youth, which they’ll probably recognize more than recent songs. An hour-long visit is about right, Ms. Higgins says. And nothing says you can’t come by every week.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in neurosciences.

Media Contact: Aline McKenzie

Bundle of joy should be preceded by bundle of pregnancy strategies

A healthy pregnancy, ideally, begins a few months before conception. Establishing healthy habits in both parents, testing for medical conditions, and beginning pregnancy-oriented nutrition all add up to the best possible conditions for a baby, says Dr. Lisa Halvorson, an obstetrician-gynecologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“By following a few simple steps, a couple may avoid potential complications for both mother and baby,” Dr. Halvorson says.

Among the strategies she recommends for the prospective mother are:

  • Review all medications to assess their potential danger to the fetus.
  • If not already immune, get a vaccination for rubella (German measles).
  • Get tested for diabetes, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, and other conditions.
  • Undergo a general physical examination including Pap smear.
  • Begin folic acid supplementation, at least 400 micrograms a day, to prevent certain birth defects.
  • Get counseling to establish a healthful diet and exercise program.
  • Stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
  • Avoid dangerous chemicals at work, and rodent or feline feces at home.

There are also strategies a prospective father can do, Dr. Halvorson says.  Among those tips are:

  • Stop smoking to avoid second-hand smoke around the mother.
  • Stop or minimize alcohol consumption, which — along with cigarettes — can reduce male fertility.
  • If working around dangerous chemicals, such as agricultural pesticides or fertilizers, change clothes immediately upon coming home, and wash those clothes separately.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in gynecology and obstetrics.

Media Contact: Aline McKenzie


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