Need surgery? Should you avoid your surgeon ’s birthday?
If you need surgery, it should reassure you to know that researchers have been studying factors that predict surgical success or failure for years. Some of the most important findings have been ones you might expect. For example, studies have found that hospitals and medical centers that perform a lot of hip and knee replacements tend to have lower complication rates than those performing fewer operations. As a result, there is a trend for people needing these surgeries to have them performed at high-volume centers. Similarly, surgeons who frequently perform hip or knee replacement surgery tend to have better results than ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 22, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Health Surgery Source Type: blogs

How not to lose money because of Alzheimer ’s disease
Researchers from Maryland and Michigan recently published an article showing that six years prior to their diagnosis, individuals developing Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder were more likely to miss paying a bill compared to older adults without such a diagnosis (7.7% versus 7.3%), and they were also more likely to develop subprime credit scores (7.9% versus 6.9%). As the authors concede, there were a number of problems with the study, including unequal matching of the average age of the groups (79.4 versus 74.0 years), which could mean that the results were actually due to age, rather than Alzheimer’s...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 21, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Andrew E. Budson, MD Tags: Alzheimer's Disease Caregiving Healthy Aging Memory Source Type: blogs

Do hair dyes increase cancer risk?
This study also had several limitations. First, participants were female nurses of mostly European descent, meaning the findings are not necessarily generalizable to men or to other racial or ethnic groups. Next, the study could not account for every single cancer risk factor (for example, exposure to pesticides and other environmental chemicals). Data were not collected on other hair grooming products beyond hair dyes, and subjects may have mistakenly reported use of permanent hair dyes when they were in fact using semi-permanent or natural dyes. Without data on actual color of hair dyes used, the authors assumed that hai...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 20, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Shinjita Das, MD Tags: Cancer Skin and Hair Care Source Type: blogs

More intensive treatment of DCIS reduces the risk of invasive breast cancer
This study showed that increased cancer risk persisted for more than 15 years after a diagnosis of DCIS, and that more intensive therapy than lumpectomy alone — whether with mastectomy, radiation therapy, or endocrine therapy — reduced the risk of invasive breast cancer among women with DCIS. The lowest risk of invasive breast cancer was in women who chose mastectomy. The risk of invasive breast cancer was seen regardless of severity of DCIS. Women who had low- or moderate-grade DCIS, as well as high-grade DCIS, had long-term increased risk. Women who are recently diagnosed with DCIS should work with their trea...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 19, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Kathryn Rexrode, MD, MPH Tags: Breast Cancer Women's Health Source Type: blogs

Alcohol harms the brain in teen years –– before and after that, too
If we only paid attention to ads, it might seem as though alcohol — a beer or glass of wine, a shot of fiery liquor or sophisticated cocktail — merely served as a way to bring people together and make them happy. Drink responsibly, the ads wink, without ever explaining the toll that frequent or excessive alcohol use exacts, particularly at certain stages in life. Because alcohol doesn’t just get us drunk, impair our judgment, and hurt our liver: it can have many other bad effects on our bodies — including effects on the brain. In a recent editorial in The BMJ, a trio of scientists pointed out that t...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 15, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Addiction Adolescent health Brain and cognitive health Parenting Source Type: blogs

Exercise matters to health and well-being, regardless of your size
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc in our daily lives. Regardless of who you are, your life has been impacted in some way. Stress is mounting, and you may need to find a way to decompress while social distancing. Enter stage left my favorite pastime: exercise! All right, I know what you are thinking: She’s one of those exercise fanatics who is going to tell me that I need to exercise several hours every day. Well, no. What I am going to tell you is that you can make exercise work for you. It is imperative to find your “soulmate workout” or simple activities you can do. You might...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 14, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP, FTOS  Tags: Bones and joints Exercise and Fitness Heart Health Hypertension and Stroke Mental Health Source Type: blogs

Can I take something to prevent colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. There is compelling evidence that screening to detect CRC early to find and remove precancerous polyps can reduce CRC mortality. However, screening has associated harms, including procedural complications, and inherent limitations. For example, colonoscopy, the most common screening tool in the US, is less effective in preventing cancers of the right, or ascending side, of the colon compared with cancers of the left, or descending, side of the colon. Moreover, only 60% of US adults recommended for screening actually follow through. Ev...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 13, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Andrew Chan, MD, MPH Tags: Cancer Prevention Screening Source Type: blogs

3 simple steps to jump-start your heart health this year
In 2020, the terrible toll of the COVID-19 pandemic largely overshadowed the affliction that remains the leading cause of death in this country: heart disease. In the United States last year, at least twice as many people died from cardiovascular causes as those who died from complications from SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus. While the challenges from the virus are new, experts have been studying heart disease for decades — and everyone can benefit from that knowledge. “The lifestyle habits that keep your heart healthy may also leave you less vulnerable to serious complications from infections such as COVID-...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 12, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Julie Corliss Tags: Exercise and Fitness Health Healthy Eating Heart Health Source Type: blogs

CBD and other medications: Proceed with caution
Products containing cannabidiol (CBD) seem to be all the rage these days, promising relief from a wide range of maladies, from insomnia and hot flashes to chronic pain and seizures. Some of these claims have merit to them, while some of them are just hype. But it won’t hurt to try, right? Well, not so fast. CBD is a biologically active compound, and as such, it may also have unintended consequences. These include known side effects of CBD, but also unintended interactions with supplements, herbal products, and over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications. Doubling up on side effects While generally considered ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 11, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Katsiaryna Bykov, PharmD, ScD Tags: Drugs and Supplements Marijuana Medical Research Safety Source Type: blogs

Can gout be prevented?
To many people, gout seems like a disease of the past. Cartoons from 200 years ago depicted it as a condition afflicting the wealthy (“the disease of kings”), whose gluttonous consumption of food and drink was thought to bring on the attacks of debilitating arthritis. All these years later, much about gout is still misunderstood. Shame, derision, and the belief that the gout sufferer deserves the condition linger. And rather than being a disease of the past, gout is quite common — and rates are rising. Estimates suggest gout affects nearly 4% of the adult population in the US, an increase from prior decad...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 8, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Arthritis Bones and joints Health Men's Health Source Type: blogs

Wondering about COVID-19 vaccines if you ’re pregnant or breastfeeding?
Now that COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out, pregnant and breastfeeding people have many questions around risks and benefits. At first, many of those receiving vaccines in US will be healthcare workers, although the circles for vaccine eligibility are widening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine agree that the new mRNA COVID-19 vaccines should be offered to pregnant and breastfeeding individuals who are eligible for vaccination. Here are answers to some basic questions you may have about getting a COVID-1...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 7, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Ilona T. Goldfarb, MD, MPH Tags: Coronavirus and COVID-19 Health Parenting Pregnancy Prevention Vaccines Source Type: blogs

Hormonal therapies for advanced prostate cancer linked to a higher risk of falls and fractures
Falls rank among the top causes of death and injuries among the elderly, and the risk increases significantly in older people being treated for cancer. Now, investigators are reporting that a newer class of drugs for advanced prostate cancer is associated with a significant increase in fall risk. Called androgen receptor inhibitors, or ARIs, these drugs target testosterone, a hormone that accelerates the growth of prostate tumors. Unlike traditional hormonal treatments that interfere with the body’s ability to make testosterone (known as androgen deprivation therapy, or ADT), ARIs work by preventing testosterone from...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 7, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Charlie Schmidt Tags: Health Living With Prostate Cancer Prostate Knowledge Treatments HPK Source Type: blogs

Sexual health and gender-affirming care
LGBTQ+ people are often considered a cohesive group, but sexual orientation and gender identity are different. Sexual orientation describes who a person prefers to be sexually intimate with. Gender identity, on the other hand, describes their sense of themselves as male, female, or another gender. Transgender and other gender diverse (TGD) people, whose gender identity is not aligned with their recorded sex at birth, can have any sexual orientation. (The same is true, of course, with cisgender people, whose gender identity aligns with their recorded sex at birth.) What is sexual health? Sexual health is a concept that goes...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 7, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Elizabeth Boskey, PhD Tags: Health Health care disparities LGBTQ Mental Health Sex Source Type: blogs

COVID-19 and the heart: What have we learned?
Early in the pandemic, epidemiologists made a striking observation. Compared to the general population, people with cardiovascular disease (CVD) were more than twice as likely to contract severe forms of COVID-19. In the last six months, death rates from COVID-19 have dropped significantly, but CVD remains a major predictor of poor outcome. What have we learned about heart disease and COVID-19 in that time? Pre-existing heart conditions and poor metabolic health increase risk of severe COVID-19 As I described in a blog post back in April, some health conditions, like diabetes, increase risk of severe COVID-19 by suppressin...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 6, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Dara K. Lee Lewis, MD Tags: Coronavirus and COVID-19 Heart Health Source Type: blogs

We ’re supposed to make resolutions now?
After everything that’s happened in 2020, setting goals seems like a big ask. Resolutions inherently mean discomfort and require resolve, and most of us have had enough of the former and don’t have much left of the latter. The response to the annual tradition might involve a collective groan, eye roll, and require a censor. The question is, is it okay to take this year off? “It’s always okay,” says Dr. Inna Khazan, clinical psychologist and lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Why do we make resolutions? Resolutions have their use in pushing us out of our comfort zones, but they a...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 5, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Steve Calechman Tags: Exercise and Fitness Health Healthy Aging Healthy Eating Mental Health Stress Source Type: blogs

3 easy ways to eat a healthier diet
While many people might be taking a pass on formal New Year’s resolutions this year, others may mark a fresh start this month by resolving to make up for poor eating habits of the past. But this motivation is often focused on a diet that’s too ambitious, or too restrictive. Without a solid plan, you may fail quickly. So consider a compromise: start with these three easy ways to eat a healthier diet. Aim for real food only Look at your plate and note what’s processed and what isn’t. Maybe it’s the whole thing (like a frozen dinner), or maybe it’s just part of your meal (like the bottled d...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 4, 2021 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Heidi Godman Tags: Diet and Weight Loss Health Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

Do pro-inflammatory diets harm our health? And can anti-inflammatory diets help?
This study also showed that pro-inflammatory diets were associated with a poor cholesterol profile. This finding was also seen in other another study, also published in JACC, which found that pro-inflammatory foods had a harmful effect on cholesterol levels while some anti-inflammatory foods had favorable effects. What foods are pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory? Foods with a higher pro-inflammatory potential are red meat, processed meat, and organ meat; refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, and many desserts; and sweetened beverages including colas and sports drinks. Foods that have a higher anti-inf...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 23, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Katherine D. McManus, MS, RD, LDN Tags: Food as medicine Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

The health effects of too much gaming
It is estimated that 164 million Americans — half of our population — play video games, also known as gaming. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just teens who play games. According to a recent survey, only 21% of gamers were under 18 years old. While gaming can be a fun distraction or hobby (and is even becoming a competitive sport on many college campuses), there are health risks that come from too much gaming. What are these harms, and what can be done about them? Is there anything good about gaming? Before discussing the harms of gaming, it is only fair to mention the benefits. Aside from being ente...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 22, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Peter Grinspoon, MD Tags: Addiction Adolescent health Back Pain Behavioral Health Eye Health Mental Health Safety Source Type: blogs

Making the most of physical activity apps
This study was interesting (and very positive), but because was a cross-sectional study, we can’t draw conclusions about causality. This means we can’t say for sure if using an app will increase the amount of activity you do or your attitudes about exercise. We need more well-designed, randomized controlled trials to evaluate how effective physical activity apps are at increasing engagement and sustaining regular exercise in many different types of people. However, the current research can help guide us to use apps and social networks to our advantage and increase activity. Here are some tips to move more (with...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 21, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Elizabeth Pegg Frates, MD Tags: Exercise and Fitness Health Healthy Aging Prevention Workplace health Source Type: blogs

Good news: Deaths due to HIV are way down
World news this month appropriately focuses on containing the COVID-19 pandemic, as the first vaccines become available. Yet we can also celebrate major success in the fight against a different global viral scourge: HIV. During my medical training in the 1980s, hospital wards were often filled with people dying of HIV. Since then, antiviral treatments have dramatically transformed the diagnosis of HIV infection or AIDS from a death sentence to a chronic illness. A normal lifespan is no longer unusual among people living with HIV. And preventive measures described below have reduced the number of people becoming infected in...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 18, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Infectious diseases LGBTQ Prevention Relationships Sexual Conditions Source Type: blogs

New high-resolution imaging scans approved for use in prostate cancer
Imagine trying to find a single match from a book of matches in a large room. Not an easy task, right? But if the lights were dimmed and the match was lit, then its location would be immediately apparent. This is the basic idea behind PSMA imaging, a newly approved method for detecting prostate cancer that is spreading, or metastasizing. The method relies on a minimally radioactive tracer called gallium-68 PSMA-11. Delivered in tiny amounts by injection, the tracer travels throughout the body and gloms onto a protein called PSMA that is found at high levels on prostate cancer cell surfaces. The labeled cells will then ligh...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 17, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Charlie Schmidt Tags: Diagnosis Health Prostate Knowledge HPK Source Type: blogs

Choosing joy during difficult times
Feeling good may be in short supply these days. The pandemic is on the upswing again, and many of us anticipate spending the colder months ahead cooped up in our homes with computer screens as our only windows into the world. Meanwhile, climate-related natural disasters are driving thousands of people out of their homes. Millions of jobs are being lost. I won’t even mention politics. It is as if the whole universe has conspired to take the joy out of life. Then, in the midst of it all, I lost my sense of smell and taste after a bout of COVID. I was very distraught. I couldn’t taste the delicious chocolate cake ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 17, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Leo Newhouse, LICSW Tags: Behavioral Health Coronavirus and COVID-19 Mental Health Stress Source Type: blogs

Executive function in children: Why it matters and how to help
Executive function refers to skills that help us focus, plan, prioritize, work toward goals, self-regulate behaviors and emotions, adapt to new and unexpected situations, and ultimately engage in abstract thinking and planning. Just as a principal conductor would do for an orchestra, executive functions supervise and coordinate a multitude of cognitive, behavioral, and emotional tasks. Executive functions in childhood are, by default, challenging. That’s because, although our executive function skills begin to develop in the first year of life, they are not fully developed until early adulthood. Executive function in...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 16, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Johanna Calderon, PhD Tags: Brain and cognitive health Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

Holiday jangle: Tricky conversations around COVID safety with family and friends
This holiday season, many of us are discussing topics with loved ones that may have seemed unimaginable just a year ago. “What do you mean, you aren’t coming to your cousin’s house for the holiday party? We’ve been going there for 20 years!” “Tell me why I should wear a mask in my own home!” If you find yourself anticipating challenging conversations about travel plans (or no travel) and pandemic-related safety precautions for all sorts of gatherings, here are some tips that can help you communicate your own needs while still showing family and friends you care about them. How to o...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 15, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Melissa Brodrick, MEd Tags: Behavioral Health Coronavirus and COVID-19 Parenting Relationships Source Type: blogs

Shingles: What triggers this painful, burning rash?
If you’re like 95% of American adults, you had chickenpox as a kid. Before the United States started its widespread vaccination program in 1995, there were roughly four million cases of chickenpox every year. So, most people suffered through an infection with this highly contagious virus and its itchy, whole-body rash. But unlike many childhood viruses, the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox doesn’t clear from the body when the illness ends. Instead it hangs around, taking up residence and lying dormant in the nerves, sometimes for decades, with the immune system holding it in check. In some people, ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 14, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Kelly Bilodeau Tags: Health Healthy Aging Skin and Hair Care Vaccines Source Type: blogs

Magnets, sound, and batteries: Choosing safe toys
The holidays feel more important than usual this year as the pandemic rages around us; we all are looking for something to enjoy. And a big part of holiday enjoyment for families is, of course, buying toys. As parents, friends, and family set out to buy toys for the children on their lists, here are some suggestions for things you shouldn’t buy — and those you should. Buyer beware when choosing toys The US PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) has a list of kinds of toys that people should try to avoid. They include Loud toys. Loud noises can actually damage hearing. Given how much noise we end up being expose...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 11, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Adolescent health Children's Health Parenting Safety Source Type: blogs

Grandparents as scribes of the pandemic
One of many lessons from the pandemic is that grandparents can be remarkably creative and tenacious about staying connected to their grandchildren. Now as we slog through yet another month of our new normal, some of us are feeling COVID fatigue. We’re wondering how much longer we can enjoy Zoom visits, and what might substitute for bike rides and hikes when the days are cold, short, and dark. So, here’s one thought: grandparents can offer a true gift now that will last for years to come by signing on as record keepers of pandemic memories. “How could we possibly forget this time?” you might ask. The...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 11, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Ellen S. Glazer, LICSW Tags: Coronavirus and COVID-19 Parenting Relationships Source Type: blogs

Why are mRNA vaccines so exciting?
The very first vaccines for COVID-19 to complete Phase 3 testing are an entirely new type: mRNA vaccines. Vaccines of this type have never before been approved for use in any disease. How do they differ from traditional vaccines, and what makes them so exciting? How traditional vaccines work The main goal of a vaccine for a particular infectious agent, such as the virus that causes COVID-19, is to teach the immune system what that virus looks like. Once educated, the immune system will vigorously attack the actual virus, if it ever enters the body. Viruses contain a core of genes made of DNA or RNA wrapped in a coat of pro...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 10, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Anthony Komaroff, MD Tags: Coronavirus and COVID-19 Health Vaccines Source Type: blogs

Will eating more chilis help you live longer?
I have to admit it: it can be hard to take news about the latest healthy diet too seriously. There seems to be an endless list of recommendations about food choices, but little consensus. It’s enough to confuse even the most careful reader of health news. For a long while, low-fat diets ruled. But, then came the paleo diet, the keto diet, the LA diet, the South Beach diet, the Mediterranean diet, and many others — including diets around which entire companies are based (such as Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and NutriSystem). Eggs were terrible; now they’re okay (in moderation, of course). There are cleans...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 10, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Health Healthy Aging Healthy Eating Heart Health Hypertension and Stroke Nutrition Source Type: blogs

Do thunderstorms worsen asthma and COPD symptoms?
Anyone familiar with hay fever understands that weather impacts respiratory symptoms. However, many of weather’s effects on respiratory function remain unclear. One unanswered question is the extent to which storms affect people with chronic lung disease, particularly the type affecting the way air moves in and out of the lungs. These “obstructive lung diseases” are characterized by problems with airway narrowing. The most common obstructive lung diseases are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The two main types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Obstructive lung diseases ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 9, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Kathleen Haley, MD Tags: Asthma Lung disease Source Type: blogs

Stiff and achy in the mornings? How to fix that
Some days I feel incredibly ancient. Not in age or my knowledge of modern music (although my millennial daughter may disagree), but in how my body feels. There are mornings when everything is rusty and creaky. You know what I mean: the stiffness and dull aches (and accompanying grunts and groans) that occur after you wake up. These feelings often go away in about five or 10 minutes. Some mornings are worse than others, and sometimes I awaken stiffness-free. Why does morning stiffness happen? “It’s not known why morning stiffness occurs, especially as people age, but the only common thread is that it occurs afte...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 8, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Matthew Solan Tags: Bones and joints Exercise and Fitness Health Healthy Aging Source Type: blogs

How to give yourself — and others — a break
Be kind to yourself. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Few would disagree that this advice would lead to a life filled with less fighting and more empathy. So, why don’t we always practice compassion? American culture can promote and celebrate competitiveness, where it’s easy to never be satisfied and think that we should be doing more. We set high standards for ourselves, and sometimes put similar expectations on others, and believe that, “If I’m doing it, why can’t you do it?” says Dr. Khadijah Booth Watkins, associate director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachu...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 7, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Steve Calechman Tags: Mental Health Relationships Stress Source Type: blogs

21 spices for healthy holiday foods
The holiday season is one of the hardest times of the year to resist salty, fatty, sugary foods. Who doesn’t want to enjoy the special dishes and treats that evoke memories and meaning — especially during the pandemic? Physical distancing and canceled gatherings may make you feel that indulging is a way to pull some joy out of the season. But stay strong. While it’s okay to have an occasional bite or two of marbled roast beef, buttery mashed potatoes, or chocolate pie, gorging on them frequently can lead to weight gain, and increased blood pressure, blood sugar, and “bad” LDL cholesterol. Inst...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 4, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Heidi Godman Tags: Health Healthy Eating Heart Health Inflammation Nutrition Source Type: blogs

Gender fluidity: What it means and why support matters
Take a moment — yes, right now — to consider your gender. Do you identify as a woman, man, or another gender: essentially, how would you describe your gender identity? How do you show your gender to other people through how you look or act — in other words, your gender expression? And has your gender identity or gender expression changed or stayed the same over time? Questions like these can be especially valuable if you’re wondering about how gender identity and expression may shift as children grow up. And, of course, these questions may also resonate with many adults. At times in my life, I&rsquo...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 3, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Sabra L. Katz-Wise, PhD Tags: Adolescent health Anxiety and Depression Children's Health LGBTQ Mental Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

Aggressive hypertension treatment does not lead to dangerous drops in blood pressure
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide. It is a primary risk factor for numerous medical conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, kidney disease, atrial fibrillation, and dementia. Blood pressure (BP) control is so critical that when the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology updated their treatment guidelines in 2017, they called for more aggressive blood pressure treatment. They lowered the definition of normal, or optimal, blood pressure to less than 120/80 mm Hg, and they recommended treatment for blood pressure higher than ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 2, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Alyson Kelley-Hedgepeth, MD Tags: Hypertension and Stroke Source Type: blogs

Treating neuropathy: Which medication is best?
Imagine experiencing burning, tingling, and numbness in your legs day in and day out, getting worse over time — and your doctors can’t find a reason for it. That’s the situation for millions of people who suffer from idiopathic sensory polyneuropathy. The term “idiopathic” means that no cause can be identified; “sensory” refers to the type of nerve, in this case those carrying nerve signals such as pain or temperature; “poly” means “many” and “neuropathy” means nerve disease. So, this is a condition of unknown cause that damages multiple nerves; ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 1, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Drugs and Supplements Health Neurological conditions Pain Management Source Type: blogs

How to avoid a relapse when things seem out of control
There is no one who would deny that this has been a stressful year. As the Grateful Dead said, “If the thunder don’t get you, the lightning will.” If you manage to avoid catching COVID, then you are probably at least contending with some mixture of financial and childcare stress, the nail-biting political divisions we see daily on television and social media, and a constricted social universe. Our society already suffers from an epidemic of loneliness that has been cruelly worsened by the physical distancing required to keep the pandemic at bay. Even people not struggling with addiction are finding their ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 30, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Peter Grinspoon, MD Tags: Addiction Alcohol Coronavirus and COVID-19 Mental Health Stress Source Type: blogs

Moody quaranteen? What parents should watch for and do
To keep us safe from COVID-19, health experts tell us that we need to stay home and away from other people. This is particularly hard for teens, because their stage of life is all about their peers and becoming independent from their family. So it’s not surprising that the pandemic has been hard on the mental health of teens. Harder on some teens, easier on others It hasn’t been hard on all of them. Some of my teen patients who get stressed by social situations have been relieved to be home, for example, and teens who get along with their parents and siblings enjoy being with them more. And it certainly helps t...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 27, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Health Source Type: blogs

2 easy, affordable, plant-centered dinners
Plant-based diets have taken root in American culture in recent years, mostly thanks to the growing realization about the health benefits of this eating pattern. But contrary to what some people think, plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean you must forego all animal products. Rather, you might just eat meat or dairy products less frequently, or in smaller portions. To replace those lost calories, you should eat more beans and legumes, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. These mostly low-fat, nutrient-rich foods have been linked to improvements in many health-related issues, including high blood pressure, diabetes, a...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 25, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Julie Corliss Tags: Cooking and recipes Food as medicine Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

The sequence of hormonal therapy and radiation affects outcomes in men treated for prostate cancer
A common treatment for men with intermediate-risk prostate cancer is to combine radiation with drugs that block testosterone — a hormone that makes the tumors grow faster. (This type of treatment is also called androgen deprivation therapy, or ADT). New research is suggesting the sequence of these treatments may be crucially important. Dr. Dan Spratt, a professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan, led the research. He and his colleagues pooled data from two previously published clinical trials (here and here). Taken together, the studies enrolled just over 1,000 men who had been randomly assigned to...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 24, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Charlie Schmidt Tags: Living With Prostate Cancer Prostate Knowledge Treatments HPK Source Type: blogs

Age-related macular degeneration: Early detection and timely treatment may help preserve vision
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the leading cause of blindness in adults over the age of 60. As its name implies, the condition primarily affects the macula, which is the region of the retina responsible for central vision. A person whose macula is impacted by retinal disease may develop difficulty with tasks such as reading and driving, but maintain good peripheral vision. If you have ARMD, understanding the signs and symptoms, proper monitoring, early detection of advancing disease, and timely treatment are all key to preserving vision. Stages of age-related macular degeneration ARMD may be classified as early...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 24, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Anthony Joseph, MD Tags: Eye Health Source Type: blogs

Driving equity in health care: Lessons from COVID-19
Editor’s note: Third in a series on the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, and responses aimed at improving health equity. Click here to read part one and here for part two. If there is a silver lining of COVID-19, it’s that it has required us to address monumental health care disparities, particularly racial and ethnic disparities. I’ve been working on health care disparities for more than two decades, yet I’ve never seen our health system move so fast. Across the US, those of us in health care have been scrambling to bridge gaps and better understand why COVID-19 disproportionally impacts...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 23, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Aswita Tan-McGrory, MBA, MSPH Tags: Coronavirus and COVID-19 Health Health care disparities Health policy Source Type: blogs

Treating the pain of endometriosis
Many women suffer through years of painful menstrual periods before they are able to get an answer about what’s causing them: a common and often undiagnosed condition called endometriosis. What is endometriosis? Endometriosis is a condition that occurs when tissue much like the tissue that lines a woman’s uterus — called the endometrium — starts to grow in other places inside the body. Most commonly, these growths are within the pelvis, such as on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the outer surface of the uterus, or the bladder. During the menstrual cycle each month, the tissue lining the uterus gro...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 20, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Kelly Bilodeau Tags: Pain Management Stress Surgery Women's Health Source Type: blogs

Masks save lives: Here ’s what you need to know
Surging COVID-19 rates throughout the country and in many parts of the world make our efforts to protect ourselves and others more important than ever. Yes, the predictions are dire, but we are not helpless. Experts estimate we can save hundreds of thousands of lives and considerably boost the chances of controlling the pandemic if we all commit to wearing a mask and follow familiar preventive measures: maintain physical distance; wash hands frequently; avoid others if you’re sick; and isolate yourself and get tested if you have close contact with someone who has the disease. So, why do we believe masks work? Early i...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 19, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Behavioral Health Coronavirus and COVID-19 Infectious diseases Prevention Source Type: blogs

7 strategies for partnering up with ED
Erectile dysfunction (ED) doesn’t affect only men; it extends to their partners as well. After all, the sexual difficulties are also theirs. Still, men are often reluctant to talk about their ED. They feel embarrassed and guilty, and consider themselves less “manly.” It’s a lot to deal with. But significant others can help by offering much-needed emotional and physical support. How can you broach such a sensitive topic, and what role should a partner specifically play? Here are seven suggestions. Discuss the issue Good communication is the foundation of an enduring relationship. Confront any concern...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 19, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Matthew Solan Tags: Health Healthy Aging Men's Health Relationships Sex Source Type: blogs

Hypertension, health inequities, and implications for COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has led many people to forego follow-up and treatment of chronic health conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure). It is now quite evident that people with hypertension are also more likely to develop severe complications from the coronavirus. In the US, African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities, including Hispanics and Native Americans, are more likely to have hypertension, and consequently have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. What is the link between high blood pressure and heart disease? Hypertension is the most common modifiable risk factor for...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 18, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Hanna Gaggin, MD, MPH Tags: Coronavirus and COVID-19 Health care disparities Hypertension and Stroke Source Type: blogs

Migraine headaches: Could nerve stimulation help?
Are you one of the 20 million to 40 million people in the US suffering with migraine headaches? If so, here’s news worth noting: The FDA has just approved an over-the-counter nerve stimulation device that delivers mild electrical shocks to the forehead as a way to prevent or treat migraine headaches. This might seem like an unlikely way to treat migraines, so how did we get here? And what’s the evidence that it works? Is this a game changer? Hype? Or a treatment that falls somewhere in between? Our changing understanding of what causes migraines Blood vessels throughout the body, including those near the brain,...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 17, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Headache Health Migraines Pain Management Prevention Source Type: blogs

College student coming home? What to know and do
Because of the pandemic, many college students are coming home to finish the semester, either because of cases on campus, or because colleges are sending everyone home for Thanksgiving and not having them come back until the next term. This situation requires some thought and planning, so as to keep everyone safe — and sane. Here are some things families need to think about. Will your college student bring the COVID-19 virus home with them? Many colleges have been having outbreaks, and infections can be asymptomatic. How you handle the return of college students to your household depends on the situation at their sch...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 16, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Adolescent health Coronavirus and COVID-19 Parenting Source Type: blogs

Birth control and high blood pressure: Which methods are safe for you?
Three effective forms of birth control contain the hormone estrogen: the birth control patch, combined hormonal birth control pills, and a vaginal ring. Doctors have typically recommended that women avoid birth control with estrogen if they have high blood pressure, which current US guidelines define as 130 mm Hg systolic pressure and 80 mm Hg diastolic pressure, or higher. A recent clinical update in JAMA clarifies whether it’s safe for some women with high blood pressure to use these forms of birth control. Why does blood pressure matter when choosing birth control? Birth control containing estrogen can increase bl...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 13, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Huma Farid, MD Tags: Adolescent health Family Planning and Pregnancy Hypertension and Stroke Women's Health Source Type: blogs

Quarantine snacking fixer-upper
The “battle of the bulge” gained a new foe this year: quarantine snacking. Sales of snack foods like cookies and crackers shot up in the early days of lockdowns, and recent consumer surveys are finding that people have changed their eating habits and are snacking more. We don’t yet have solid evidence that more snacking and consumption of ultra-processed food this year has led to weight gain. While memes of the “quarantine 15” trended on social media earlier this year, only a few small studies have suggested a link between COVID-19-related isolation and weight gain. But you don’t need sc...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 12, 2020 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Heidi Godman Tags: Diet and Weight Loss Healthy Eating Nutrition Source Type: blogs