Move more every day to combat a sedentary lifestyle
When I was in high school, I mowed my grandmother’s lawn once a week. Yet every time I arrived, she would have already mowed a small part of the back yard. I always told her she didn’t need to do that, but she insisted. At the time I didn’t understand why she felt compelled to do this every week, but now that I’m inching closer and closer to her age then, I get it: it was something she could do to stay active. She knew that to stave off the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, it is important to move more every day. The older we get, the more likely we are to lapse into a sedentary lifestyle. In f...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 24, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Matthew Solan Tags: Health Source Type: blogs

Could medications contribute to dementia?
Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses that cause dementia are devastating, not only for those affected but also for their friends and family. For most forms of dementia, there is no highly effective treatment. For example, available treatments for Alzheimer’s disease may slow the deterioration a bit, but they don’t reverse the condition. In fact, for most people taking medications for dementia, it may be difficult to know if the treatment is working at all. Experts predict that dementia will become much more common in the coming years. We badly need a better understanding of the cause of these condition...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 23, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Alzheimer's Disease Brain and cognitive health Drugs and Supplements Memory Source Type: blogs

6 reasons children need to play outside
Here’s something really simple you can do to improve your child’s chance of future health and success: make sure he spends plenty of time playing outside. There are many ways in which this generation’s childhood is different from that of the last generation, but one of the most abrupt contrasts is the degree to which it is being spent indoors. There are lots of reasons, including the marked increase in time spent interacting with electronic devices, the emphasis on scheduled activities and achievements, concerns about sun exposure — and, for many families, the lack of safe outdoor places to play. It...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 22, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

Choosing life with a VAD (ventricular assist device)
Rain splattered, blurring my view of the Massachusetts state highway. The rental car’s wipers squeaked as they dragged across the windshield. Though I was briefly tempted to turn back, I kept driving. The man with the battery-operated heart had invited me to his home, and I didn’t want to be late. I am a critical care doctor. Throughout the course of my training, I have learned how to manage a ventilator, how to treat sepsis, how to sort out the causes of renal failure. But what I didn’t learn is what comes after for those who do not die, whose lives are extended by days, months, or even years as a result...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 21, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Daniela J. Lamas, MD Tags: End of life Health Heart Health Managing your health care Source Type: blogs

PrEP: Protection against HIV in a pill?
HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus) weakens the human immune system and destroys the important cells that fight disease and infection. A person can get HIV when bodily fluids — including blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, or vaginal fluids of a person with the virus — come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue. HIV can be transmitted through breast milk, or when a contaminated needle or syringe comes into direct contact with the bloodstream. There is no cure for HIV, but with proper medical care the virus and its effects can be controlled. HIV transmission can be reduced by consist...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 18, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Meera Sunder, MBBS, MRCOG Tags: Health HIV Infectious diseases Source Type: blogs

The psychology of Internet rage
Have you ever noticed that you tend to get a lot angrier on the road with other drivers than you do with people in the rest of your life? To a large degree, the experience of road rage is universal, and can be explained by the emotional distance that is created between drivers when there is both physical separation and a high potential for perceived slights and wrongdoing. The relative anonymity of driving leads to an exaggerated emotional response when feeling slighted or threatened, in part because all you may know of the other driver is that he or she just cut you off. It makes sense that you might react more angrily in...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 17, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Adam P. Stern, MD Tags: Behavioral Health Source Type: blogs

Fermented foods for better gut health
Naturally fermented foods are getting a lot of attention from health experts these days because they may help strengthen your gut microbiome—the 100 trillion or so bacteria and microorganisms that live in your digestive tract. Researchers are beginning to link these tiny creatures to all sorts of health conditions from obesity to neurodegenerative diseases. Fermented foods are preserved using an age-old process that not only boosts the food’s shelf life and nutritional value, but can give your body a dose of healthy probiotics, which are live microorganisms crucial to healthy digestion, says Dr. David S. Ludwig...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 16, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Kelly Bilodeau Tags: Digestive Disorders Folk remedies Health Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

4 things to know about ticks and Lyme
As the weather gets better and school vacations begin, along with sunburns and water safety there is something else parents need to think about: ticks and Lyme disease. Lyme disease is spread by the bite of the blacklegged tick. While there are cases in various parts of the country, it’s most common in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, as well as around the Great Lakes. The early symptoms of Lyme include fever, body aches, and a bull’s-eye rash. It’s very treatable with antibiotics, but if not caught and left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems. Here is information from the Centers for ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 15, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Infectious diseases Parenting Source Type: blogs

Knuckle cracking: Annoying and harmful, or just annoying?
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling Knuckle cracking is a common behavior enjoyed by many. It can become a habit or a way to deal with nervous energy; some describe it as a way to “release tension.” For some, it’s simply an annoying thing that other people do. If you’ve ever wondered why stretching the fingers in certain ways causes that familiar noise or whether knuckle cracking is harmful in some way, read on. Despite how common it is, there has been considerable debate regarding where the noise comes from. Fortunately — at least for those of us who are curious about it — knuckle cracki...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 14, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Bones and joints Health Source Type: blogs

The bacterial horror of hot-air hand dryers
Follow me on Twitter @JohnRossMD If you’re the kind of person who avoids public bathrooms at all costs, you may feel validated, as well as disturbed, by a new study from researchers at the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University. They suspected that hot-air hand dryers in public restrooms might be sucking up bacteria from the air, and dumping them on the newly washed hands of unsuspecting patrons. To test this theory, scientists exposed petri dishes to bathroom air under different conditions and took them back to the microbiology laboratory to look for bacterial growth. Petri dishes exposed to bathroom ai...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 11, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: John Ross, MD, FIDSA Tags: Health Infectious diseases Source Type: blogs

Memories: Learning, remembering, (not) forgetting
For 30 years, I have talked to people about their memories and, as a neuropsychologist interested in amnesia, I am very interested in brain areas that mediate learning and forgetting. How memories work A core brain structure for memory is the hippocampus. The hippocampus (the Greek word for seahorse) is shaped like its namesake. It plays a key role in the consolidation of new memories and in associating a new event with its context (e.g., where it took place, when it happened). For example, you might hear the name Princess Diana. The hippocampus may activate verbal associations (e.g., she was part of the Royal Family), as ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 10, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Margaret O'Connor, PhD, ABPP Tags: Brain and cognitive health Healthy Aging Memory Source Type: blogs

Chondroitin and melanoma: How worried should you be?
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling Chondroitin sulfate is among the most popular supplements in the world. It’s often taken in combination with glucosamine for joint disease — some take it for prevention, others to treat pain. And yet, evidence that it actually works at all is limited at best. One review of the evidence suggested that of the few studies of chondroitin that were positive, nearly all were funded by makers of the supplement. Despite this, millions of people take it, many of my patients swear by it, and the lack of evidence doesn’t seem to be much of a concern to them. A frequent comment I he...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 9, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Arthritis Cancer Health Skin and Hair Care Vitamins and supplements Source Type: blogs

Do we need to take tackling out of youth football?
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire As we learn more about the frequency and effects of concussions in football, we are increasingly being forced to face the question: do we need to take the tackling out of youth football? A study published in the Annals of Neurology definitely begs that question. Researchers from Boston University examined the brains of 246 deceased football players, 211 of whom were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. They found that the younger the players started playing tackle football, the earlier they started showing symptoms of CTE such as neurological and behavioral problems. In fa...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 8, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Brain and cognitive health Children's Health Injuries Parenting Source Type: blogs

Take control of your health care (exert your patient autonomy)
Autonomy means being in control of your own decisions without outside influence — in other words, that you are in charge of yourself. It is considered an essential development step toward maturity. We all make decisions about how to live our lives, although sometimes we have less choice than we might like. When it comes to your health care, how much autonomy is the right amount? There’s lots of interest in what the term means. Here’s a definition from MedicineNet: Patient autonomy: The right of patients to make decisions about their medical care without their health care provider trying to influence the d...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 7, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Carolyn A. Bernstein, MD, FAHS Tags: Health Health care Source Type: blogs

Should you carry the opioid overdose rescue drug naloxone?
The US Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, recently released an advisory on naloxone and opioid overdose. In his advisory, Dr. Adams writes: For patients currently taking high doses of opioids as prescribed for pain, individuals misusing prescription opioids, individuals using illicit opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, health care practitioners, family and friends of people who have an opioid use disorder, and community members who come into contact with people at risk for opioid overdose, knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life. This was the first surgeon general advisory issued in 13 years...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 4, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Scott Weiner, MD Tags: Addiction Health Source Type: blogs

Can dark chocolate improve vision?
It was very fitting: I had just finished a square of 86% cacao dark chocolate when I got the email about yet another study suggesting health benefits of dark chocolate. In addition, I had just returned from vacation in Guatemala, the land of the Maya. It was the Maya who discovered the usefulness of the seeds of the cacao plant in 2,000 BC, seeds they roasted and ground into a drink fit for kings. Health benefits of dark chocolate Many studies have shown that chocolate has health benefits. An analysis of several studies that included data on over 500,000 participants found that those who regularly eat dark chocolate (two t...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 3, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Eye Health Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

What kinds of exercise are good for brain health?
My interest in reaping the brain health benefits of exercise comes not only from my work as a physical therapist and researcher in this field, but is also driven from a very personal place that unfortunately many of us have witnessed or will witness in our lifetime: a family member with disabling memory loss. In my case, it was seeing the crippling effects Alzheimer’s disease had on my grandfather, who passed away from complications related to his condition not so long ago. What do we know about exercise and brain health? As of today we know: 1) adults 65 and older are the fastest growing demographic group, reaching ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 2, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Joyce Gomes-Osman, PhD, PT Tags: Brain and cognitive health Exercise and Fitness Healthy Aging Source Type: blogs

Why we all really need Screen-Free Week this year
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire It’s Screen-Free Week this week: from April 30th to May 6th, families are encouraged to turn off the screens and enjoy the non-digital world. As a pediatrician, I believe that we need to do this more than we ever have before. It used to be that “screens” were only televisions (with video games possibly attached to them) and computers, which were used more for work than anything else. But now, screens are ubiquitous and intertwined with all aspects of daily life. There’s no denying that smartphones, tablets, and laptops have the capacity to make our lives easier and bet...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 1, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

Aerobic exercise or tai chi for fibromyalgia — which is better?
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling Fibromyalgia is a common condition that causes chronic body-wide pain and affects millions of people. The cause is unknown, and medications approved to treat it often aren’t effective, cause side effects, or both. To say we need better treatments for fibromyalgia is an understatement. Non-medication treatment of fibromyalgia — especially exercise — is an essential part of treatment. But the last thing people with this condition want to do is exercise! Their pain and fatigue, so typical of this disease, make physical activity more wishful thinking than reality for most fi...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 30, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Exercise and Fitness Health Pain Management Source Type: blogs

Aerobic exercise or tai chi for fibromyalgia – which is better?
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling Fibromyalgia is a common condition that causes chronic body-wide pain and affects millions of people. The cause is unknown, and medications approved to treat it often aren’t effective, cause side effects, or both. To say we need better treatments for fibromyalgia is an understatement. Non-medication treatment of fibromyalgia — especially exercise — is an essential part of treatment. But the last thing people with this condition want to do is exercise! Their pain and fatigue, so typical of this disease, make physical activity more wishful thinking than reality for most fi...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 30, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Exercise and Fitness Health Pain Management Source Type: blogs

4 ways to protect against skin cancer (other than sunscreen)
It’s almost May and here in the northeast, front-of-the-pharmacy aisles are filled with myriad brands and types of sunscreen. While sunscreen is essential to lowering your risk for skin cancer, there are other simple, over-the-counter options you can incorporate into your summer skin protection routine. Nicotinamide may help prevent certain skin cancers Nicotinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that has been shown to reduce the number of skin cancers. In a randomized controlled trial performed in Australia (published in the New England Journal of Medicine), the risks of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma wer...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 27, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Emily S. Ruiz, MD, MPH Tags: Cancer Health Prevention Skin and Hair Care Source Type: blogs

Heart attack versus cardiac arrest
If you’re confused by the terms used to describe heart attacks, you’re not alone. They’re often described as “mild” or “massive,” or even the ominous-sounding “widow maker.” But these terms are not necessarily helpful, and they may create confusion and anxiety. The good news: most people who have a heart attack survive. The bad news? “Any heart attack can be fatal, no matter how big, how small, or where it occurs in the heart,” says Dr. James Januzzi, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “Furthermore, there’s a lot...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 26, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Julie Corliss Tags: First Aid Health Heart Health Source Type: blogs

Apple cider vinegar diet: Does it really work?
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling People search for information on a wide variety of health topics in Google and other search engines. That’s no surprise. But I was surprised to learn that “apple cider vinegar weight loss diet” was among the fastest-rising health topic searches for Google in 2017. And then I found out that apple cider vinegar has been used medicinally for centuries! Why the renewed interest? And, more importantly, does it work? What is the apple cider vinegar diet? Apple cider vinegar comes from apples that have been crushed, distilled, and then fermented. It can be consumed in small qua...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 25, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Diet and Weight Loss Folk remedies Health Source Type: blogs

3 ways to help get more children immunized
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire There is much to celebrate during National Infant Immunization Week this year. More than 90% of children 19 to 35 months have received all the recommended doses of vaccines for their age against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, and hepatitis B — and more than 80% have received all the recommended protection against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, pneumococcus, and Haemophilus influenzae. But there are also reasons to be concerned. Only 72% have had all the recommended vaccines, which means one in four children is missing at least one. Even more concerning, studies show that ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 24, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Infectious diseases Parenting Vaccines Source Type: blogs

How to talk to your doctor about medication
Pharmacology has changed the practice of medicine. Scientists are continually working on new and better drugs to manage medical conditions, from high blood pressure to autoimmune diseases to cancer. The mechanism of a drug — how it actually works on the condition it is mean to treat — is one important factor, but drug delivery, meaning how the medication arrives at the target it is meant to affect, is also key. As a patient, it’s your right to understand everything about a medication prescribed for you. That doesn’t mean you have to become a scientist or pass an exam about pharmacology. But you can ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 23, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Carolyn A. Bernstein, MD, FAHS Tags: Drugs and Supplements Health Health care Source Type: blogs

Overcome exercise excuses
Although most people know that regular exercise is vital to good health, many find that it’s a hard habit to maintain. Just over half of adults in the United States meet the recommended advice to do moderate-intensity exercise (such as brisk walking) at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Two of the main reasons people say they don’t exercise are 1) not having enough time, and 2) having joint pain, fatigue, or a chronic health condition. Even people who aren’t working full-time can still find it hard to make time for exercise. They may be caring for an ill spouse, taking care of their grandchildren,...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 21, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Julie Corliss Tags: Exercise and Fitness Health Healthy Aging Source Type: blogs

Interval training: More workout in less time (and you can do it)
You’ve heard it a million times — exercise benefits your body, your brain, and your quality of life. You’re sold, but the problem is it can be hard to carve the needed time out of a busy day. If your schedule is putting the squeeze on your workouts, there may be a way to get the same fitness benefits in less time: interval training. Interval training uses short bursts of strenuous activity to ramp up your heart rate and boost your fitness. The word strenuous probably sounds a little scary if your fitness level is closer to couch potato than super athlete, but interval training can work for almost anyone. ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 20, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Kelly Bilodeau Tags: Diet and Weight Loss Exercise and Fitness Health Source Type: blogs

Lowering nicotine in cigarettes
Follow me on Twitter @mallikamarshall When I was about 10 years old, my mother had me take a puff on an unfiltered Camel cigarette in an effort to discourage me from smoking in the future. Well, needless to say, it worked. After coughing and sputtering for what seemed like hours, I have never touched another cigarette. While I am in no way suggesting that parents follow in my mother’s footsteps (in fact I would strongly discourage it), as a pediatrician and parent myself I want to ensure that children and teens never take that first puff. But in fact, the majority of smokers in the US begin smoking in their youth. Ac...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 19, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Mallika Marshall, MD Tags: Health Heart Health Lung disease Prevention Smoking cessation Source Type: blogs

Cryotherapy: Can it stop your pain cold?
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling Let’s say you’ve started working out at the gym and you’re wondering what you can do for your aching muscles. How does this sound? Put on a pair of gloves, shoes, socks, and a protective headband to cover your ears and face — but wear little else. Then step into a cold room for three to four minutes. By “cold” I mean really cold: between −100° C and −140° C (which is −148° F to −220° F)! If that sounds good to you (really?), you may already be using whole body cryotherapy (WBC). And if it sounds terrible to you (o...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 18, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Complementary and alternative medicine Health Source Type: blogs

A tired child? What you should know
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire Children often complain of being tired. Usually it’s for simple reasons — because it’s the end of a busy day, or because they stayed up late the night before, or because they are trying to get out of doing something they don’t want to do. When kids are sick they are usually tired, and need more rest to get better. But when a child complains all the time, and fatigue starts to get in the way of things they usually enjoy, it could be a sign of a problem. Here are some possible reasons for chronic fatigue in children: Sleep problems. This makes sense, obviously, since if...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 17, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Fatigue Parenting Source Type: blogs

Screening mammograms: One recommendation may not fit all
To date, official recommendations on when and how often a woman should have a screening mammogram, have been based on risk factors (such as age, a family history of breast cancer, a personal history of radiation to the chest), genetic testing (the BRCA test, for example), or troubling results from a previous biopsy. Race and ethnicity have not officially factored into the equation — yet. Does race matter when it comes to screening mammograms? A recent study by Harvard doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital reinforces prior data suggesting that race and ethnicity can be a separate risk factor for breast cancer, and...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 16, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Breast Cancer Health Prevention Screening Women's Health Source Type: blogs

Yoga for people with back pain
Whenever my lower back gets tight (which happens more often than not after being glued to my work chair for hours on end), I sit on the floor and slowly move into my favorite yoga pose: half lord of the fishes, also known as a seated spinal twist. Just a twist to the left and right never fails to restore my sore back. Yoga is one of the more effective tools for helping soothe low back pain. The practice helps to stretch and strengthen muscles that support the back and spine, such as the paraspinal muscles that help you bend your spine, the multifidus muscles that stabilize your vertebrae, and the transverse abdominis in th...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 14, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Matthew Solan Tags: Back Pain Yoga Source Type: blogs

Digestive enzyme supplements for heartburn?
My love affair with spicy food came to a sad end a few years ago. Age — and I’m guessing too many jalapenos — have left me prone to heartburn if I eat meals with a fiery flare. My doctor says there’s no underlying condition causing the problem, and advises me to avoid the foods that seem to trigger symptoms. But that’s tricky sometimes. So I was particularly interested when a friend suggested that an over-the-counter (OTC) digestive enzyme supplement might help. I learned pretty quickly that there are lots of ads for the pills and powders. It’s a booming business, with sales for OTC dige...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 13, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Heidi Godman Tags: Complementary and alternative medicine Digestive Disorders Health Source Type: blogs

Cholesterol: Understanding HDL vs. LDL
There are two main types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). (Lipoproteins are made of fat and protein, and serve as vehicles for your cholesterol to travel through the blood.) Cardiologists are often asked about low-density lipoprotein (LDL) versus high-density lipoprotein (HDL). The difference is important to understand. What does HDL cholesterol do? HDL clears from the body via the liver. HDL may therefore prevent the buildup of plaque, protect your arteries, and protect you from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. It is considered the “good” cholesterol...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 12, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Ami Bhatt, MD, FACC Tags: Health Heart Health Prevention Source Type: blogs

Celebrities get shingles, too
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling Perhaps you heard the news recently that Lin-Manuel Miranda has shingles. Headlines announced this in a variety of ways: Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is suffering from shingles (NY DailyNews) Lin-Manuel Miranda has shingles; must be quarantined from his baby (today.com) Lin-Manuel Miranda has shingles, regrets joke about blurred vision (CBS News). Without more information, these headlines might leave you wondering: is this a serious condition? Is it dangerous for children? Can it lead to blindness? What is shingles? The term “shingles” refers to a painful rash caused ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 11, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Health Infectious diseases Skin and Hair Care Vaccines Source Type: blogs

Giving antacids and antibiotics to babies can lead to allergies
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire Allergies are on the rise, especially food allergies. While nobody knows for sure why this is happening, a leading theory is that we may be doing things that mess up our natural microbiome. Our microbiome is the trillions of organisms that live on and in our bodies, such as bacteria, archaea, fungi, and viruses. We generally think of these organisms as “germs” that can cause illness — and while they can, in some situations it turns out that the right organisms in the right balance actually help keep us healthy. Our microbiome affects how we digest foods, stay at a healthy we...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 10, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Allergies Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

Which diet is best for long-term weight loss?
Much has been made of the recently published results of the DIETFITS (Diet Intervention Examining the Factors Interacting with Treatment Success) study. Most of the headlines emphasized the fact that the two diets involved — low-fat and low-carb — ended up having the same results across almost all end points studied, from weight loss to lowering blood sugar and cholesterol. What’s most interesting, however, is how these two diets are similar. The authors wanted to compare low-fat vs. low-carb diets, but they also wanted to study genetic and physical makeups that purportedly (their word) could influence ho...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 9, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Diet and Weight Loss Health Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

Which diet is best for long term weight loss?
Much has been made of the recently published results of the DIETFITS (Diet Intervention Examining the Factors Interacting with Treatment Success) study. Most of the headlines emphasized the fact that the two diets involved — low-fat and low-carb — ended up having the same results across almost all end points studied, from weight loss to lowering blood sugar and cholesterol. What’s most interesting, however, is how these two diets are similar. The authors wanted to compare low-fat vs. low-carb diets, but they also wanted to study genetic and physical makeups that purportedly (their word) could influence ho...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 9, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Diet and Weight Loss Health Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

Can DNA markers predict aging?
It’s a bit like clockwork: Soon after an important scientific finding about health, a slew of self-help products arrive to support it. Added sugars are unhealthy? Try this diet. A sedentary lifestyle leads to disease? Do this workout. So it’s not surprising that increasing knowledge about DNA markers for longevity called telomeres has spawned yet another round of self-help tools. The latest encourages you to measure the stuff via doctor’s office or a home kit. But should you? Telomeres and aging Telomeres are strings of DNA that protect the ends of chromosomes. Telomeres tend to shorten over time as they ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 7, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Heidi Godman Tags: Genes Health Healthy Aging Medical Research Prevention Source Type: blogs

New study once again casts doubt on PSA screening
This study adds to the discouraging screening literature, and again, simply does not support screening of asymptomatic individuals,” he said. Fortunately, Garnick added, men diagnosed with prostate cancer following a PSA test may not have to be treated either in the short or long term. Depending on tumor characteristics, some can opt to have their cancer monitored with active surveillance, which relies on periodic prostate biopsies or MRI to look for new signs that treatment may be necessary. “Hopefully, current research that uses sophisticated genetic testing or biomarkers of prostate cancer may help provide m...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 6, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Charlie Schmidt Tags: Cancer Health Men's Health Prostate Health Screening Source Type: blogs

Eat these foods daily (or at least often)
Improving your diet can seem like a lofty goal, one that people often think requires rigid self-discipline and sacrifice. Cupcakes out, pizza out, treats out, sigh. But it doesn’t really have to be that way. Sometimes making better decisions for your body can be about adding — not taking away. This may create a more palatable option for those looking for a health boost that feels like a bonus, not a burden. But what to add? I asked Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health for her advice on what foods pack the biggest nutritional punch to a da...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 5, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Kelly Bilodeau Tags: Diet and Weight Loss Health Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

Interval training: More workout in less time (and you can do it)
You’ve heard it a million times — exercise benefits your body, your brain, and your quality of life. You’re sold, but the problem is it can be hard to carve the needed time out of a busy day. If your schedule is putting the squeeze on your workouts, there may be a way to get the same fitness benefits in less time: interval training. Interval training uses short bursts of strenuous activity to ramp up your heart rate and boost your fitness. The word strenuous probably sounds a little scary if your fitness level is closer to couch potato than super athlete, but interval training can work for almost anyone. ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 5, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Kelly Bilodeau Tags: Diet and Weight Loss Exercise and Fitness Health Source Type: blogs

Trauma-informed care: What it is, and why it ’s important
Many years ago, when I was a trainee, I helped take care of patients at a family medicine clinic.* One day, a school-aged brother and sister came in for their annual physicals. They were due for vaccines. Neither wanted any shots, and they were both quite upset. “You’ll do what the doctor tells you, is that clear?” ordered the mother. She and the nurse worked together to hold the sister’s arm down. But just as the nurse was about to deliver the injection, the young girl jerked her arm away and ran to the opposite corner of the room, crying. The brother then ran over and stood in front of her, his ar...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 4, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Behavioral Health Health care Managing your health care Source Type: blogs

Why we shouldn ’t demonize formula feeding
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire Breast is best — we pediatricians say this all the time, because it’s true. Breast milk was uniquely designed for human babies, and many studies have shown its health benefits. In our quest to increase breastfeeding rates here in the US, which are not as high as we want them to be, we encourage new mothers not to use any formula. Hospitals are encouraged not to feed new babies with formula during those first few days before the mother’s milk comes in, and not to send mothers home with samples of formula. This is all good, as often, if we can get mothers and babies through th...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 3, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Family Planning and Pregnancy Source Type: blogs

Are you taking too much anti-inflammatory medication?
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling You might call them pain relievers. You might take them for back pain, headache, or arthritis. Your doctor calls them “NSAIDs,” which stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Whatever you call them and for whatever reason you take them, NSAIDs are among the most popular medications worldwide. In fact, estimates suggest that about 15% of the US population takes an NSAID regularly (including those that are over the counter and prescription strength). Along with sporadic users, more than 30 billion doses are taken each year. Some of the most common NSAIDs include ibuprofe...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 2, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Arthritis Back Pain Drugs and Supplements Headache Health Injuries Pain Management Source Type: blogs

A mix of treatments may extend life for men with aggressive prostate cancer
For men diagnosed with aggressive cancer that’s confined to the prostate and nearby tissues, the overarching goal of treatment is to keep the disease from spreading (or metastasizing) in the body. Doctors can treat these men with localized therapies, such as surgery and different types of radiation that target the prostate directly. And they can also give systemic treatments that kill off rogue cancer cells in the bloodstream. Hormonal therapy, for instance, is a systemic treatment that kills prostate cancer cells by depriving them of testosterone, which fuels their growth. Now a new study shows that a mix of differe...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - March 31, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Charlie Schmidt Tags: Cancer Men's Health Prostate Health Source Type: blogs

Chronic pain and childhood trauma
Recently a journalist colleague of mine put out a call for quotes from those who suffer from severe premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysmorphic disorder (more commonly known as PMS and PMDD, respectively) who also suffered a history of childhood abuse. Her interest was piqued by a 2014 peer reviewed article that appeared in the Journal of Women’s Health linking the disorders with early onset abuse. I answered the call, having both PMS and PMDD, as well as a history of child abuse by both my stepfather and my mother. Yet despite having both a history of abuse and several diagnoses that contribute to chronic pain...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - March 30, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Laura Kiesel Tags: Behavioral Health Children's Health Mental Health Mind body medicine Pain Management Source Type: blogs

Where do you stand on bystander CPR?
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling A recent survey confirmed what many have suspected: if you collapsed, there’s a good chance that the average bystander would not be prepared to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). And if they tried to revive you, there’s an even better chance they wouldn’t do it correctly. Of course, there is a certain circularity to this — if you don’t know how to perform CPR, or if you know how but aren’t sure you’ll perform it correctly, you’ll be less likely to try. So why are so few prepared? The list of reasons is long, including: no prior in...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - March 29, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: First Aid Health Heart Health Source Type: blogs

Apple cider vinegar … for heartburn?
I’ve always thought it sounded counterintuitive to use an acid to alleviate indigestion, but the number of times I’ve heard people treat their symptoms of heartburn with apple cider vinegar is too large to count. So, I decided to look into whether this strategy works, and to do some investigation about the idea behind its use. To my surprise, there is no research published in medical journals that addresses using raw apple cider vinegar to treat heartburn, despite widespread use and recommendations from blogs and websites. What is heartburn? Heartburn is most commonly caused by stomach acid contents traveling u...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - March 28, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Marcelo Campos, MD Tags: Complementary and alternative medicine Digestive Disorders Folk remedies Health Source Type: blogs

Good news: fewer teens are being bullied
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire New data from the US Department of Education brings some really good news: fewer teens are being bullied. In 2007, 31.7% of students ages 12 to 18 reported being bullied. In 2015, that number was down to 20.8%, a drop of a third. Other stats were also encouraging: In 2007, 9.7% reported being called a hate-related word, compared with 7.2% in 2015 The percentage of teens reporting being bullied at school dropped from 6.6% in 2007 to 4.2% in 2015 More teens are telling an adult about bullying: those numbers went from 36.1% in 2007 to 43.1% in 2015. There are still too many kids getting bullie...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - March 27, 2018 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Behavioral Health Children's Health Mental Health Pregnancy Source Type: blogs