Hands or feet asleep? What to do
We’ve all been there. You awaken in the morning and one of your hands is completely numb. It feels dead, heavy, and simply won’t work. Perhaps there’s some tingling as well. Or, you arise from a long dinner or movie and one of your legs feels that way. Then over a few minutes — maybe you shook your hands, stamped your foot — everything goes back to normal. Until the next time. The first time this happened, it might have been worrisome. Now that you know it’s temporary and happens to everyone, it may not bother you. But did you ever wonder why in the world this happens? Read on! When the ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 21, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Health Healthy Aging Neurological conditions Source Type: blogs

C. difficile (C. diff): An urgent threat
Clostridioides (previously Clostridium) difficile (C. diff) is the most common cause of diarrhea among hospitalized patients and the most commonly reported bacteria causing infections in hospitals. In a 2019 report, the CDC referred to C. diff as “an urgent threat.” Who is most at risk? C. diff infection (CDI) occurs more commonly following antibiotic therapy or hospitalization, and among older adults or patients with weakened immune responses. In 2002, an epidemic strain of C. diff emerged, causing more severe disease with inflammation of the colon (colitis) and an increase in deaths. This strain adheres bette...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 20, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Lou Ann Bruno-Murtha, DO Tags: Digestive Disorders Health Infectious diseases Prevention Source Type: blogs

Five healthy habits net more healthy years
Are healthy habits worth cultivating? A recent study suggests healthy habits may help people tack on years of life and sidestep serious illnesses, such as diabetes and cancer. After all, if you’re going to gain an extra decade of life on this earth, you want to enjoy it! What did this research focus on? Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health looked at data from more than 73,000 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) who were followed for 34 years, and more than 38,000 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) who were followed for 28 years. In a previous s...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 19, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Exercise and Fitness Health Healthy Aging Healthy Eating Men's Health Women's Health Source Type: blogs

Can light therapies help with bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by episodes of both depressed and elevated mood. It typically begins in the late teens to early 20s. During depressive episodes, people experience low mood, loss of self-confidence, hopelessness, and impaired sleep and appetite. Manic episodes are marked by an increase in energy, euphoric or irritable and rapidly changing mood, higher self-confidence, and decreased need for sleep. People may experience a mood episode every few years, or as frequently as several times a year. Bipolar disorder can be treated with medications and psychotherapy. Certain chronotherapies — ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 18, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Elizabeth Liebson, MD Tags: Anxiety and Depression Behavioral Health Complementary and alternative medicine Mental Health Source Type: blogs

Good news for those with type 2 diabetes: Healthy lifestyle matters
Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a metabolic disorder of insulin resistance — a reduced sensitivity to the action of insulin — which leads to high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia. Approximately 12% of American adults have T2D, and more than one-third of Americans have prediabetes, a precursor to T2D. This is a major public health concern, as T2D dramatically increases risk for heart disease, including heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, and heart failure. The development and progression of T2D is affected by many factors. Some, such as a person’s race/ethnicity, age, and gender cannot be modified. Others, including...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 17, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Alyson Kelley-Hedgepeth, MD Tags: Diabetes Exercise and Fitness Healthy Eating Heart Health Source Type: blogs

What ’s the best way to manage agitation related to dementia?
You notice your loved one becoming more forgetful. She cannot recall her visit with her granddaughters yesterday. She claims she took her medications this morning, yet you find them untouched in her pill case. You wonder how this mild-mannered woman has become so angry, so quickly. She is often frightened now, disoriented, and unpredictable. Yet she still remembers every detail of your wedding day, the names of your four children, and how to play her favorite piano pieces. When you sing together, time temporarily stands still. Your loved one received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Nights are the hardest time for...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 14, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Stephanie Collier, MD, MPH Tags: Caregiving Healthy Aging Memory Source Type: blogs

African American and white men who receive comparable treatments for prostate cancer have similar survival
Last year, we reported on two studies showing that African American men respond at least as well as white men to prostate cancer treatments given in clinical trials. Nationally, African Americans with prostate cancer are more than twice as likely to die of the disease as their white counterparts, and that has fueled speculation that genetic or biological factors put them at greater risk. But according to this new research, the survival difference disappears when men of either race get the same cutting-edge treatments. Now scientists are reporting that African American and white men with prostate cancer live equally as long...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 13, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Charlie Schmidt Tags: Health Living With Prostate Cancer Prostate Knowledge Treatments HPK Source Type: blogs

Good for your teeth, bad for your bones?
Regular brushing and flossing are the cornerstones of good oral health. But what if you learned that your toothpaste was good for your teeth, but bad for your bones? That possibility has been raised by a recent study. The cause of this unprecedented finding may be triclosan, an antibacterial agent added to toothpaste to reduce gum infections and improve oral health. However, it may actually be causing more harm than good. Rethinking a popular germ killer Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that’s been around for decades. Not only has it been used in soaps, hand sanitizers, and deodorants, but it’s found its way...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 13, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Dental Health Osteoporosis Source Type: blogs

When is a heavy period too heavy?
It’s common for girls and their parents to wonder if the bleeding with their periods is too often or too much. Especially in the first few years of having a period, any bleeding can feel like too much. Usually, it’s not — but sometimes it is, and it’s important for parents to know what to watch for, and when to call the doctor. In the first couple of years after periods begin, it’s really normal for periods to be irregular — and for some of them to be heavy. At the beginning, periods aren’t associated with ovulation, and the hormones and hormonal patterns that help regulate periods...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 12, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Adolescent health Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

Mind-body therapies can reduce pain and opioid use
Our ability to feel pain and react to it is both a boon and a curse, simultaneously. The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage.” This means that pain is highly subjective, and it is informed by a mix of past experiences, our current emotional state, and future expectations. Since pain is an emotional and sensory experience it affects our quality of life immensely, and treatment is complex. Chronic pain management with opioids is not ideal Opioids...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 11, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Subramaniam Balachundhar, MD, MPH, FASA Tags: Complementary and alternative medicine Mind body medicine Pain Management Source Type: blogs

Skin care shouldn ’t be colorblind
In medicine, we are trained to be colorblind and treat all patients equally, to the best of our ability. The irony is that in dermatology we have to take skin color into account, because the color of the skin affects the presentation of skin conditions. This is important to consider in order to make an accurate diagnosis and weigh the best treatment options. Appearance of skin conditions may vary based on skin color Skin conditions may look different on darker skin than on lighter skin. For example, many rashes, including allergic reactions to medication, appear pink or red on lighter skin. On a person with darker skin, an...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 10, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Jennifer Lin, MD Tags: Cosmetic surgery Health Skin and Hair Care Source Type: blogs

When should I be concerned about ringing in my ears?
What is tinnitus? Tinnitus is a generic term used to describe a ringing or noise in the ears that occurs in the absence of external sound. This is a very common condition that is thought to occur in up to 15% of people. It can occur in one or both ears, and often people will describe the sound as “coming from their head.” There are a variety of descriptions that people use for their tinnitus such as whooshing, ringing, pulsing, and/or buzzing, and the quality of the sound varies by individual. Symptoms of tinnitus can cause great distress While tinnitus can be caused by conditions that require medical attention...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 8, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: James Naples, MD Tags: Ear, nose, and throat Hearing Loss Tests and procedures Source Type: blogs

What ’s in a number? Looking at life expectancy in the US
If you were to sum up the overall health of a nation in one single number, what would that be? At the top of the list, you would likely find average life expectancy — the total number of years, on average, that a person in a country can expect to live. Wars, famine, and economic crises are expected to lower life expectancy. Breakthroughs in science, strong economies, and behaviors like eating a healthy diet, exercising, and avoiding tobacco typically raise average life expectancy. An amazing rise, a surprising fall Between 1959 and 2014, the United States experienced an unprecedented increase in life expectancy, whic...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 7, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Scott Weiner, MD Tags: Addiction Health Health care disparities Men's Health Women's Health Source Type: blogs

With a little planning, vegan diets can be a healthful choice
Recently there has been much discussion and many questions about vegan diets. Are vegan diets — which exclude meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy — healthful? Do they provide complete nutrition? Should I try one? Will it help me lose weight? Many people around the world eat plant-based diets for a variety of reasons, some because meat is not readily available or affordable, others because of religious convictions or concerns about animal welfare. Health has become another reason people are moving to plant-based diets. And research supports the idea that plant-based diets, including vegan diets, provide heal...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 6, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Katherine D. McManus, MS, RD, LDN Tags: Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

Coronavirus: What parents should know and do
As a parent, you can’t help but worry about the safety of your children. So it’s natural that as stories about the novel coronavirus that started in China flood the news, parents worry about whether their children could be at risk. We are still learning about this new virus; there is much we do not know yet about how it spreads, how serious it can be, or how to treat it. The fact that so much is unknown is a big part of what makes it frightening. But there are things we do know — about this virus and other similar viruses — that can help us keep our children safe and well. All of the advice below as...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 5, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Adolescent health Children's Health Infectious diseases Parenting Source Type: blogs

Infertility the second time around
Most anyone who has struggled with secondary infertility knows that it is an incredibly lonely experience. You may be blessed with one or two children — possibly more — but struggling to expand or complete your family. Surrounded by families with young children, you find yourself alone and in pain. If you are a veteran of primary infertility, you may remember strategies you developed for shielding yourself from the pregnancies of others. Not so this second time around: pregnant women and moms with babies and toddlers surround you at preschool. If you had your first child with ease and are new to infertility, yo...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 4, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Ellen S. Glazer, LICSW Tags: Health Infertility Men's Health Parenting Relationships Women's Health Source Type: blogs

Newer skin cancer treatments improve prognosis for those with cutaneous melanoma
Cutaneous melanoma, also called malignant melanoma, is the type of skin cancer that is most likely to spread to other parts of the body. Though melanoma accounts for only about 1% of skin cancers, it is responsible for more than 90% of skin cancer-related deaths. But thanks to developments in skin cancer treatment (mostly in the last decade), patients with melanoma have much better chances of living longer. What is a melanoma? Melanoma involves the uncontrolled growth of a type of cell known as a melanocyte. One of the most important functions of a normal melanocyte is to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging ult...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 3, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Dominic Wu, MD Tags: Cancer Skin and Hair Care Source Type: blogs

Be careful where you get your news about coronavirus
News about a deadly virus that appeared in Wuhan, China in December (now called 2019 novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV) is everywhere lately. And as the number of cases rises, it’s understandable if you’re wondering how likely it is that you or a loved one will become ill. And quite likely, you’re also wondering how to prevent this. So, where should you turn for the latest information on a rapidly changing situation? It’s hard to beat the convenience of the internet, and we know there’s a lot of useful and reliable information online. But there’s also a lot of misinformation. The trick is ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 1, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Cold and Flu Emergency Planning Health Infectious diseases Travel health Source Type: blogs

Hearing loss may affect brain health
Hearing is a complex sense that provides us with awareness of environmental sounds and, more importantly, the ability to communicate. The ear is the organ responsible for perceiving sound, but it may not be so obvious that the brain is responsible for processing the sound. It is necessary that both organs work properly for hearing to occur. The link between hearing loss and cognition is not fully understood In recent years, there has been extensive research examining how age-related hearing loss and brain function (cognition) are associated. There are some general concepts that might contribute to the association between h...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 31, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: James Naples, MD Tags: Ear, nose, and throat Healthy Aging Hearing Loss Source Type: blogs

Food allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity: What ’s the difference, and why does it matter?
Chances are that you or someone you know has experienced unpleasant symptoms after a meal or snack. Maybe you experienced some degree of sneezing, wheezing, rashes, brain fog, joint pain, nausea, bloating, diarrhea, or another symptom. This may have led you to believe you have a food allergy — and maybe you do. But it’s also possible that you have a food intolerance, celiac disease, or a food sensitivity. This is important, because some of the reactions can range from just annoying to life-threatening. Food intolerances Food intolerance refers mostly to the inability to process or digest certain foods. The most...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 30, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Marcelo Campos, MD Tags: Allergies Digestive Disorders Source Type: blogs

Are you getting enough sleep … or too much? Sleep and stroke risk
This study found an association between stroke risk and longer sleep, longer midday napping, or poor sleep quality. But an association is not the same as causation. Rather than longer sleep duration causing strokes, there are other possible explanations for the findings. For example, people who sleep more at night or nap more during the day may have other risk factors for stroke, such as: A higher incidence of depression. Excessive sleeping or poor sleep quality may be symptoms of depression, and prior studies have noted higher stroke rates among depressed individuals. A more sedentary lifestyle. Those who are not active ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 29, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Hypertension and Stroke Sleep Source Type: blogs

How safe is exercise during pregnancy?
Two lines on a home pregnancy test, a flickering heartbeat on ultrasound, and suddenly your world has changed: you’re pregnant! Regardless of where this new path takes you, you may start to examine your daily decisions in a new way as you discover an intense drive to protect the growing baby inside you. Even your exercise routines may come under scrutiny, particularly if late-night Googling has you second-guessing everything that you believed you knew. Just how safe is exercise during pregnancy? The short answer? Exercise during pregnancy is not only safe, it’s encouraged. An overriding principle for pregnancy ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 28, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Emily Reiff, MD Tags: Health Source Type: blogs

Beyond heart health: Could your statin help prevent liver cancer?
Liver cancer is hard to treat. It’s a top-five cause of cancer-related death worldwide and a growing cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Since liver cancer is often found at a late stage, when treatment has limited benefit, there has been increasing interest in prevention. That’s where statin medications might come in. Liver cancer is usually caused by chronic liver disease, so an important way to prevent liver cancer is to treat the underlying trigger. For example, curing hepatitis C infection — an important cause of chronic liver disease — reduces the risk of liver cancer. However...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 27, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Irun Bhan, MD Tags: Cancer Drugs and Supplements Health Source Type: blogs

The new coronavirus: What we do — and don’t — know
A rapidly evolving health story broke in late December when a novel illness originating in Wuhan, China made the news. Reports of the number of infected people swiftly rose, and isolated cases of this new coronavirus — dubbed 2019-nCoV by scientists — have appeared in several countries due to international travel. At this writing, almost 1,300 confirmed cases and over 40 deaths have occurred in China, according to an article in the New York Times. Fortunately, public health officials in many countries, including the US, have put measures in place to help prevent further spread of the virus. These measures inclu...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 25, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Todd Ellerin, MD Tags: Health Source Type: blogs

Think hard before shaming children
As a parent, it’s easy to slip into shaming your child. It can happen so easily, as you blurt out what you are thinking: “Do you really want to go out looking like that?” “You let your teammates down during that game.” “Why can’t you get good grades like your sister?” “Why do you hang out at home all the time instead of going out like other kids?” “Why are you crying? It’s not that bad.” As we blurt out such things, we usually don’t think of them as shaming. We think of them as something that might help our child recognize a problem —...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 24, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Adolescent health Behavioral Health Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

The hype on hyaluronic acid
As dermatologists, we often hear questions from patients about ingredients in beauty and skincare products. Recently, hyaluronic acid (HA) has been hitting the shelves in a variety of products, from serums and moisturizers to sheet masks, night creams, and lip products. So what is HA? What benefits does it offer? And what are the most effective ways of using this ingredient? What is hyaluronic acid? HA is a humectant — a substance that retains moisture — and it is capable of binding over one thousand times its weight in water. This substance is naturally found in many areas of the human body, including the skin...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 23, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Kristina Liu, MD, MHS Tags: Skin and Hair Care Source Type: blogs

What can you do to reduce the risk of birth defects?
You’ve done it! You’ve taken that last birth control pill, removed your IUD, or stopped using your contraceptive method of choice. You’ve made the decision to try to conceive a pregnancy, and while this is an exciting time in your life, it can also feel overwhelming. There is so much advice around fertility and pregnancy, and sifting through it all just isn’t possible. For many mothers, their goals crystallize around ensuring that their baby is healthy. Evidence-based steps that may prevent birth defects January is Birth Defects Prevention Month, so we want to focus on things you can do to reduce th...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 22, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Huma Farid, MD Tags: Family Planning and Pregnancy Fertility Vaccines Women's Health Source Type: blogs

Is your cell phone dangerous to your health?
This study may be the first to provide details regarding the relationship between cell phone use and head and neck injuries. However, it had some significant limitations. Keep in mind that the study focused on head and neck injuries. People with multiple injuries or more serious injuries (such as a heart attack or an ankle fracture) might not have been included in the count. Individuals who sought care at their doctor’s office or urgent care centers would also be excluded from this study. In addition, information about the circumstances of an injury can be incomplete. Embarrassment or concerns about legal liability m...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 21, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Health Source Type: blogs

LDL cholesterol: How low can you (safely) go?
In this study, there was no increased risk of adverse outcomes (including muscle aches, liver dysfunction, new onset of diabetes, cancer, and bleeding strokes), even when LDL was lowered to as low as 20 mg/dL. Although statin medications themselves have been linked to side effects, especially at high doses, it appears that extremely low LDL concentrations are not responsible for side effects. In other words, lowering LDL beyond our previous target of 70 mg/dL appears to be not only safe but beneficial, in patients with CVD. The post LDL cholesterol: How low can you (safely) go? appeared first on Harvard Health Blog. (Sourc...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 20, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Dara K. Lee Lewis, MD Tags: Drugs and Supplements Health Heart Health Source Type: blogs

Menopause and insomnia: Could a low-GI diet help?
Sleep disturbances such as insomnia are extremely common, especially in women after menopause. According to data from the National Institutes of Health, sleep disturbance varies from 16% to 42% before menopause, from 39% to 47% during perimenopause, and from 35% to 60% after menopause. Insomnia is a serious medical problem defined by frequent difficulty falling or staying asleep that impacts a person’s life in a negative way. Hormone changes around menopause can lead to sleep problems for many reasons, including changing sleep requirements, increased irritability, and hot flashes. What menopausal women eat could have...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 17, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Fatigue Food as medicine Healthy Eating Menopause Nutrition Sleep Source Type: blogs

Diabetic retinopathy: Understanding diabetes-related eye disease and vision loss
Over 30 million people in the United States live with diabetes, and approximately 7.7 million people have diabetic retinopathy, making it the most common cause of vision loss in working-aged adults. The prevalence of diabetic retinopathy has increased significantly over the past 20 years, due to the rise in the number of people diagnosed with diabetes. How does diabetes affect the retina? The retina is the light-sensing component located in the back of the eye. It is composed of blood vessels, nerve cells (neurons), and specialized cells called photoreceptors that are involved in directly sensing light. The ability of the ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 16, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Leo Kim, MD, PhD Tags: Diabetes Eye Health Source Type: blogs

Coming clean: Your anesthesiologist needs to know about marijuana use before surgery
Given the increasing prevalence and legalization of marijuana, many patients have come to think that marijuana use is not worth mentioning to their physicians. After all, they reason, I would not necessarily tell my doctor that I had a glass of wine last night, so why should I disclose that I smoked marijuana yesterday? Unfortunately, this reasoning is flawed. Because marijuana has a variety of effects on the body and on anesthesia medicines, it is crucial that anyone undergoing a preoperative evaluation disclose their marijuana use. Don’t worry that your anesthesiologist is judging you. That’s not our job! Our...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 15, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: David Hepner, MD, MPH Tags: Health care Marijuana Prevention Safety Surgery Source Type: blogs

What to do when your child swears
Young children are constantly reminding parents that they pay attention. They’ll do this in surprising ways, offering up new thoughts, actions, and especially words. Sometimes the choices are funny and impressive. Other times, what comes out of the mouths of children between ages 5 and 8 is not as adorable. Namely, they swear. It might be one word. They may not know what it means. You may not know where they heard it. Unfortunately, unwanted language is everywhere. “You can’t prevent them from being exposed to it,” says Jacqueline Sperling, PhD, clinical psychologist and instructor at Harvard Medica...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 14, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Steve Calechman Tags: Behavioral Health Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

Are polypills and population-based treatment the next big things?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as heart attack and stroke, is a leading cause of death and disability in the US. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are major risk factors for CVD, and even though they are quite common and highly treatable, they tend to be undertreated. This is especially true among those who are poor or members of a minority. It’s estimated that thousands of lives could be saved each year if more people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol received treatment for these conditions. The appeal of the polypill One reason that high blood pressure and high cholesterol are poorly treated ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 13, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Drugs and Supplements Health Heart Health Hypertension and Stroke Source Type: blogs

Vaccines for women: Before conception, during pregnancy, and after a birth
The rise of vaccine-preventable illnesses, such as measles and hepatitis, in the United States and around the globe has been alarming in recent years. For women — especially those hoping to become pregnant, as well as women who are pregnant or have recently had a baby — vaccines can be a worrisome topic. There are many misconceptions about vaccine safety in and around pregnancy that can lead to confusion and unnecessary fear of a lifesaving medical tool. As a practicing ob/gyn, I often discuss vaccines with my patients and help them sort out fears versus facts. Which vaccines should you consider before concepti...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 10, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Ilona T. Goldfarb, MD, MPH Tags: Health Parenting Pregnancy Vaccines Women's Health Source Type: blogs

What are ultra-processed foods and are they bad for our health?
You hear it all the time: the advice to “eat less processed food.” But what is processed food? For that matter, what is minimally processed food or ultra-processed food? And how do processed foods affect our health? What are processed and ultra-processed foods? Unprocessed or minimally processed foods are whole foods in which the vitamins and nutrients are still intact. The food is in its natural (or nearly natural) state. These foods may be minimally altered by removal of inedible parts, drying, crushing, roasting, boiling, freezing, or pasteurization, to make them suitable to store and safe to consume. Unproc...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 9, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Katherine D. McManus, MS, RD, LDN Tags: Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

Harvard Health Ad Watch: When marketing puts your health at risk
The goal of advertising is, of course, to catch your attention and sell you a product. But when it comes to health-related products, inaccuracies in advertising can be detrimental to your health. Perhaps you’ve seen a Vitamin Water ad recently that touts the health benefits of Vitamin Water while seeming to discourage getting a flu shot as out of fashion. It originally appeared in 2011 but has mysteriously resurfaced online. The text of the ad states, “Flu shots are so last year,” and subheadings add “more vitamin C, more immunity, less snotty tissues.” The average customer seeing this ad coul...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 8, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Cold and Flu Complementary and alternative medicine Health Vaccines Vitamins and supplements Source Type: blogs

What parents need to know about a vegan diet
A vegan diet is made up of only plant-based products — no meat, fish, dairy, or eggs (some people also exclude honey). While these diets are still relatively rare, they are becoming more common. Some families or teens choose them for health reasons, and it’s certainly true that plant-based diets are low in saturated fat and can have other health benefits. Some choose them for philosophical reasons — either sustainability, or not wanting to harm animals, or both. Whatever the reason, it’s important to get educated before you begin. You should talk to your doctor, and if possible it’s a good ide...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 7, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Adolescent health Children's Health Nutrition Parenting Source Type: blogs

Vestibular migraine: Progress in the search for treatments
Nearly 15% of the world’s population has migraine, a condition in which moderate-to-severe headache is associated with neurological abnormalities such as visual dysfunction, sensitivity to light, disordered speech, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness. While we now have many options to treat the head pain associated with migraine, we are often helpless in treating these other associated neurological symptoms. One of the most bothersome neurological symptoms patients report is vertigo or dizziness-associated with migraine, a condition we call vestibular migraine, and in which patients feel as though they, or the environment...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 6, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: William Renthal, MD, PhD Tags: Headache Source Type: blogs

Why medical research keeps changing its mind
Did you ever wonder why medical research seems to flip-flop so often? Eggs used to be terrible for your health; now they’re not so bad. Stomach ulcers were thought to be due to stress and a “type A personality” but that’s been disproven. I was taught that every postmenopausal woman should take hormone replacement therapy to prevent heart disease and bone loss; now it’s considered way too risky. It can make you question every bit of medical news you hear. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Questioning what you read or hear is reasonable. And maybe medical reversals — when new re...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 3, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Health Medical Research Prevention Tests and procedures Source Type: blogs

Congenital heart disease and autism: A possible link?
Children born with congenital heart disease (CHD) are now surviving at extraordinarily high rates; for most, their life expectancy may be comparable to that of the general population. However, despite the great advances in medical and surgical care, many people with CHD experience long-lasting neurodevelopmental difficulties. These include problems with attention and executive function skills, learning challenges, and in some cases, lower-than-normal IQs. Study links congenital heart disease and autism A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics provides compelling evidence that there may also be an association betw...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 2, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Johanna Calderon, PhD Tags: Children's Health Heart Health Parenting Screening Source Type: blogs

Getting sleep in the hospital
If you or any of your loved ones has ever been hospitalized, one of the complaints you may have heard about most is how hard it is to sleep in the hospital. There are lots of things about hospital routines that can make things difficult for patients to sleep, besides noise and illness. While some hospitals have taken steps to ensure that patients are not interrupted unnecessarily at night, this is not universal. Here are some things you can expect, and some steps you might be able to take to help the hospital give you a better night’s rest. Some reasons you might be woken at night might be unavoidable You might be on...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 31, 2019 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Melissa Bartick, MD Tags: Fatigue Health care Medical Research Sleep Source Type: blogs

An omnivore ’s dilemma: How much red meat is too much?
In October 2019, the Annals of Internal Medicine published controversial guidelines advising Americans to carry on consuming red and processed meat at current amounts. The guideline authors characterized meat-eaters as somewhat incapable of dietary change, and portrayed the benefits for reducing red and processed meat intake as insignificant. These guidelines contradict previous studies that link processed meat and red meat with early death and an increased risk of disease, including cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer. If omnivores are confused, it’s hard to blame them. Americans are eating less meat, but not le...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 30, 2019 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Emily Gelsomin, MLA, RD, LDN Tags: Health Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

Should you use probiotics for your vagina?
You know probiotics can be good for your gut, but does your vagina need one too? You might think so, based on probiotic marketing these days. Probiotics are in everything from drinks to pills and powders, and in many cases, are being promoted as a means of improving your vaginal health. Women seem to be listening, says Dr. Caroline Mitchell, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School. Vaginal probiotic supplements are hugely popular. This includes both probiotic pills and suppository capsules that are inserted into the vagina using an applicator. But evidence of effect...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 27, 2019 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Kelly Bilodeau Tags: Health Sexual Conditions Vitamins and supplements Women's Health Source Type: blogs

Eosinophilic esophagitis: A new food-related allergic condition on the rise?
In the early 1990s, doctors began describing a new condition affecting the esophagus of patients who were predisposed to allergies including food allergy, asthma, and eczema, and who were having trouble swallowing. Today, we call this condition eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE). What is EoE? EoE is an allergic inflammation of the esophagus that causes a range of symptoms. Adolescents and adults most often experience it as difficulty swallowing, sometimes feeling like food moves too slowly through the esophagus and into the stomach. In some cases, food actually gets stuck (and may require urgent removal). Children and some adu...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 26, 2019 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: John Garber, MD Tags: Allergies Digestive Disorders Health Source Type: blogs

How to help your baby through shots and blood tests
As much as we try to avoid having our babies go through pain, sometimes it is inevitable — and sometimes, as is the case with vaccinations and blood tests, pain is part of something that is ultimately important for the baby’s health and well-being. Luckily, shots and blood tests are both quick. But there are things you can do to help your baby feel less pain, be less afraid, and get through the procedure more easily. Helping your baby through the pain of shots and blood tests Here are some suggestions that will help: Hold your baby. Having you be close by, and feeling your skin against theirs, can be very comf...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 24, 2019 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Parenting Tests and procedures Vaccines Source Type: blogs

A new look at steroid injections for knee and hip osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis is a common and potentially debilitating condition. It’s a degenerative joint disease (often called the “wear-and-tear” type) in which the smooth lining of cartilage becomes thinned and uneven, exposing the bone beneath. Although osteoarthritis is tightly linked with aging, we now know there is more to it than age alone: genetics, weight, physical activity, and a number of other factors can conspire to make it more likely that someone will develop osteoarthritis while someone else won’t. Osteoarthritis is the primary reason that more than a million joints (mostly hips and knees) are r...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 23, 2019 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Arthritis Osteoarthritis Pain Management Source Type: blogs

Researchers urge prostate cancer screening for men with BRCA gene defects
Prostate cancer screening with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test has been criticized for flagging too many slow-growing tumors that might never be life-threatening. But some men have inherited gene defects that boost their risk of developing prostate cancers that can be quite aggressive. Is PSA screening particularly well-suited for these genetically defined groups? New research suggests the answer is yes. In November, a team of British scientists released highly anticipated findings from a study of PSA screening in men with defects in a pair of important genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2. Better known for increasing the...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 20, 2019 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Charlie Schmidt Tags: Health Prostate Knowledge Screening HPK Source Type: blogs

Wearables and sleep: What can they really tell us?
Smart devices are everywhere, including wrist-based monitors. These wearables promise to count our steps, remind us to move, and provide insight on our sleep. But can we trust them to measure our sleep accurately? Most wrist-based devices are based on an accelerometer, which measures wrist movement. The data gathered from the accelerometer — how often the wrist moves and how forceful that movement is — are coded as sleep or wake. In some cases, programs will also label sleep as light or deep, seeming to imply that the sleep is good or bad. Some devices also monitor heart rate. Small variations in the timing of ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 20, 2019 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Katherine Dudley, MD, MPH Tags: Fatigue Sleep Tests and procedures Source Type: blogs

A low-tech school vacation: Keeping kids busy and happy without screens
As we near the holiday season, along with trying to keep track of holiday events, parties, and gifts, parents have to think about what to do with their children during school vacation. Given how exhausting the holiday season can be, it’s understandable why parents often let their children spend hours with the TV, tablet, or video games. After all, happy, quiet kids make for happy parents who can finally get stuff done — or relax. Except kids are spending way too much time in front of screens. According to Common Sense Media, kids ages 8 to 12 are spending nearly five hours a day on entertainment media — a...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 19, 2019 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs