Postpartum depression: The worst kept secret
Having a baby is one of the happiest times in life, but it can also be one of the saddest. For most new mothers, the first several days after having a baby is an emotional roller coaster ride. Thrilling moments of happiness and joy are abruptly interrupted by a plunge into moments of depressive symptoms including weeping, anxiety, anger, and sadness. These “baby blues” usually peak in the first two to five days after delivery, and in most women, go away as quickly as they came. Except sometimes they don’t go away. For some women, depressive symptoms continue well past those first two weeks or develop...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 8, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Andrea Chisholm, MD Tags: Anxiety and Depression Behavioral Health Family Planning and Pregnancy Parenting Screening Women's Health Source Type: blogs

The 4 symptoms that mean your child must stay home from school or daycare
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire It’s a decision every parent faces regularly: whether or not to keep a sick child home from school. It would seem like a simple decision. If your child is sick, of course they shouldn’t go to school or daycare. But besides the fact that it’s not practical to keep a child home for every sniffle, keeping a child home can be a real hardship for working parents — and it means that a child is missing out on learning and other activities. So it’s a decision that should be made as wisely as possible. Sometimes the decision is clear. Your kid looks awful and you can&rsqu...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 7, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Infectious diseases Parenting Source Type: blogs

Not just for women: Kegel exercises good for men too
Most exercises are considered gender neutral. Except for kegels — those exercises that strengthen pelvic floor muscles. They have long been tagged as “just for women,” but older men may be wise to reconsider as they can help with some common unpleasantries that can come with age. “Men can also have issues with these muscles, which can cause urinary leakage, bowel issues, and even erection problems,” says physical therapist Celia Brunette with Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Center. What is the pelvic floor? Your pelvic floor area is made up of thin layers of muscle and tissues that...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 6, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Matthew Solan Tags: Health Healthy Aging Men's Health Source Type: blogs

When a nasty stomach virus strikes …
There has been a nasty stomach bug going around this winter. Just before Christmas, our hospital sent out an email alerting staff to an “increase in gastrointestinal illness consistent with Norovirus in the staff and in the community,” followed by reminders of how to avoid getting (or spreading) it. Norovirus is one of several viruses that can cause the “stomach flu.” When this alert came, I did not want to have a Norovirus outbreak in our home for the holidays. “Surely, we can do more to stay safe!” I thought. How the virus spreads…and why it spreads so easily Food and water are...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 3, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Digestive Disorders Health Infectious diseases Prevention Source Type: blogs

When are self-help programs “helpful”?
Follow me on Twitter @srinipillay For some people, a “self-help” program can be a useful addition to professional services, or even be enough by itself. Despite the good intentions of the creators of such programs, the degree and quality of research backing up their claims vary. What’s more, people also vary in how well they use such programs. Given the increasing number of books, tapes, podcasts, programs, and apps that claim to provide self-help, it is important to think about a few principles that may help you choose a program and use its information more effectively. Here are some factors to consider ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 2, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Srini Pillay, MD Tags: Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Mental Health Source Type: blogs

Attention shoppers: Be wary of health claims on food packaging
If you’re like most nutrition-minded shoppers, the word “healthy” on the front of a package can be a big draw. “When you’re stuck in a situation where processed foods are the only thing available to you, it can be helpful to know which foods are healthier than others,” says Dr. Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Yet these days you’re on shaky nutritional ground if you rely on front-of-package claims like “healthy” and “natural” to determine which soup, sauce, cereal (or other canned, bo...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - February 1, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Beverly Merz Tags: Diet and Weight Loss Health Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

What parents need to know about baby monitoring apps
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire If you want to know how your baby is doing, checking your smartphone app may not be your best bet. That’s the bottom line of an opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association about the new apps that monitor the heart rate, oxygen level, and other vital signs of babies, using sensors that go in clothing or bedding, and sound alarms if something seems awry. I’ve been a new mom a few times, and I totally understand the appeal of these apps. I have gone in repeatedly to check my baby’s breathing, getting my face down to hear them, putting a hand on their back t...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 31, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

Taking medications correctly requires clear communication
Follow me on Twitter @DavidAScales Early in December, Ms. Silva (not her real name) came to the hospital for a bladder infection that just kept getting worse. She’d been having symptoms — pain when she urinated, feeling constantly like she had to go to the bathroom — for about a week. She did all the right things. She called her doctor, picked up her prescriptions at the pharmacy, saw her doctor for a follow up appointment soon after, and swore that she was taking her antibiotic. But the pain got worse and she started having fevers. She needed to be admitted to the hospital. Ms. Silva was an elderly lady ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 30, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: David Scales, MPhil, MD, PhD Tags: Drugs and Supplements Health Managing your health care Source Type: blogs

Personalized activity intelligence: A better way to track exercise?
Perhaps the best-known problem with fitness trackers is that people often retire them to a junk drawer after a few months, once their novelty wears off. But that’s not the only issue with these devices, which are typically worn around the wrist or clipped to clothing. Sure, they’ll count your steps, display your heart rate, and even estimate how many calories you’ve burned, although you’ll probably need to sync it with an app on your smartphone, tablet, or computer to see such data. However, very few of the popular, free apps related to physical activity are based on published evidence. And they don...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 27, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Julie Corliss Tags: Exercise and Fitness Health Healthy Aging Prevention Source Type: blogs

Does your doctor ’s gender matter?
This study excluded patients of care for by other types of doctors such as surgeons, obstetricians, and psychiatrists. Would physician gender matter if the patients were younger? The average age of patients in this Medicare-covered study population was nearly 81. How would the results be affected if outpatients were included? How can we use this information to improve care of patients? Undoubtedly, future research will try to tease out how female and male doctors practice differently. Then it will be important to figure out why these differences exist and which ones matter most. It’s probable that each gender has so...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 26, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Health Health care Managing your health care Source Type: blogs

What is prediabetes and why does it matter?
When I’m seeing a new patient, I am especially alert to certain pieces of their history. Do they have a strong family history of diabetes? Are they of Latino, Asian, Native-American, or African-American ethnicity? Did they have diabetes in pregnancy? Are they overweight or obese? Do they have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)? Why do I care about these things? Because they may be clues that the patient is at risk for developing adult-onset (type 2) diabetes, and that can lead to multiple major medical problems. Many people have heard of type 2 diabetes, a disease where the body loses its ability to manage sugar leve...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 25, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Diabetes Diet and Weight Loss Exercise and Fitness Healthy Aging Prevention Source Type: blogs

Why medical experts say that teens should be allowed to make the abortion decision without telling their parents
I am the mother of three daughters, and if one of them were to get pregnant and be thinking about an abortion, I’d want to know. It’s heartbreaking to me to think about not knowing — and about them going through that alone. But for their own safety and well-being, they should have the right not to tell me. That’s the consensus of several medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the Society for Adolescent Health Medicine, the American Public Health Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. And I agree. Here in the ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 24, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Parenting Women's Health Source Type: blogs

Let the sun shine: Mind your mental health this winter
Although the winter season begins with a bit of holiday cheer, many people feel a little “off” as the cold weather drags on. I’ve already seen a few patients who are puzzled by how easily they become irritated. “Is there something wrong with me?” “Why am I so unhappy?”  Often, their bodies are just responding to the darker and colder days. We are governed by circadian rhythms, our body’s natural clock that helps regulate important functions including sleep/wake cycles and mood. These rhythms can be thrown off by the winter season.1 The sky gets bright later in the mornin...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 23, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Dominic Wu, MD Tags: Anxiety and Depression Brain and cognitive health Mental Health SAD seasonal depression Source Type: blogs

5 ways to hold on to optimism — and reap health benefits
In these turbulent times, it may be a struggle to maintain a glass half full view of life. A poll just released by the Associated Press on New Year’s Day indicated that most Americans came out of 2016 feeling pretty discouraged. Only 18% feel things for the country got better, 33% said things got worse, and 47% believe things were unchanged from 2015. However, 55% of those surveyed said they expect their own lives to improve in 2017. If you are among this majority, it may serve you well. A growing body of research indicates that optimism — a sense everything will be OK — is linked to a reduced risk of dev...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 20, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Beverly Merz Tags: Behavioral Health Mental Health Prevention Stress Source Type: blogs

What the 21st Century Cures Act means for behavioral health
The 21st Century Cures Act represents a significant set of initiatives aimed at improving the care of people with mental and substance use disorders. It builds on important innovations introduced in the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act and the Affordable Care Act. It at once addresses vexing problems that demand immediate attention, efforts to fully implement existing policies and programs, makes new investments in longer-term outcomes, and takes on the challenging interactions of people with mental and substance use disorders with the public safety system. The Act calls for new spending of $1 billion in gran...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 19, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Richard Frank, PhD Tags: Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Managing your health care Mental Health Source Type: blogs

Understanding head injuries
Ski season is here, and I am reminded of the story of Natasha Richardson (Liam Neeson’s wife), who tragically died of a head injury while skiing without a helmet in 2007. Here in the emergency department, we see many patients with concern for head injuries. We factor what may have caused the injury, your age, what we find when we examine you, the timing of the incident, the medicines you take, as well as some other factors, when deciding whether to do a CT scan or admit you to the hospital. When a head injury causes bleeding in the brain Ms. Richardson died of an epidural hematoma, one of several types of brain bleed...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 18, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Jonathan Nadler, MD Tags: Brain and cognitive health Injuries Prevention Safety Source Type: blogs

New guidelines for preventing peanut allergy in babies
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire In 2015, a study showed that giving peanut products to babies could help prevent peanut allergy. This was exciting news, given that 1-2% of children suffer from peanut allergy, an allergy that can not only be life-threatening but last a lifetime, unlike other food allergies that often improve as children get older. This is a change for pediatricians and parents, who traditionally have thought that peanut products shouldn’t be given until children are a bit older. It’s also tricky in that babies can choke on peanuts and peanut butter. And to make it even trickier, the study caution...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 17, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Asthma and Allergies Children's Health Parenting Prevention Source Type: blogs

Racism and discrimination in health care: Providers and patients
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” — Martin Luther King, Jr. A patient of mine recently shared a story with me about her visit to an area emergency room a few years ago.* She had a painful medical condition. The emergency room staff not only did not treat her pain, but she recounted: “They treated me like I was trying to play them, like I was just trying to get pain meds out of them. They didn’t try to make any diagnosis or h...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 16, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Health Health care Managing your health care Source Type: blogs

The power and prevalence of loneliness
All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong? —The Beatles, “Eleanor Rigby” A few years ago, when I was the attending emergency physician working in the emergency department, the senior medical resident asked permission to discharge an older man. The resident was convinced the patient was a malingerer, having been seen multiple times in the last week at the medical clinic with “shortness of breath.” The patient had multiple tests, scans, and more — all normal — and yet here he was again, in the emergency department complaining ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 13, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Charlotte S. Yeh, MD Tags: Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Healthy Aging Mental Health Source Type: blogs

Preventing and treating colds: The evidence and the anecdotes
Oh, who doesn’t hate colds. You’re miserable, achy, tired, congested, and coughing. You may need to miss work, or go to the doctor. But it seems that no one really feels sorry for the person with a cold because colds are so common. “It’s just a virus, it’ll get better on its own,” says your doctor. “There’s no cure.” Well, colds cost the U.S. an estimated 40 billion dollars per year considering lost financial productivity, plus spending on medical care, pharmaceuticals, and supplements (and that estimate is from 2003)!1 It’s just a virus? There’s got to be m...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 12, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Cold and Flu Health Prevention cold prevention Source Type: blogs

Your New Year ’s resolution: A gym membership?
If getting in shape tops your list of New Year’s resolutions, you’re in good company. During the first few months of the year, signups at fitness centers and health clubs tend to trend upward. While these memberships can be costly, you may be able to find more affordable options or take advantage of certain discounts. But no matter what you pay, shelling out a monthly fee may be an incentive to use the gym regularly to get your money’s worth. Gyms offer a variety of options If you do, your heart (and the rest of your body) will likely reap the rewards. “The main advantage to joining a gym is to have...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 11, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Julie Corliss Tags: Exercise and Fitness Source Type: blogs

3 things you can do when your child ’s eczema gets bad
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire It’s winter, and in many parts of the country that means cold, windy weather — and dry, chapped skin. For all of us that can be a problem, but for people who have eczema it can be miserable. As a pediatrician, I have lots of patients with eczema. Each one of them is different, of course, with different triggers for their eczema and different therapies that help. But when eczema gets bad — when parts of the skin get very irritated and scaly — there are three things that help just about everybody. 1. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! This may seem obvious, but I can&rs...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 10, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Skin and Hair Care Source Type: blogs

A healthy lifestyle may help you sidestep Alzheimer ’ s
January is an inspiring time to make resolutions about eating a healthy diet and exercising more, maybe because you want to look or feel better. Personally, those reasons aren’t always enough to keep me from skipping a workout if I have too much on my schedule. I guess I’m a typical mom, putting my family and my job first. But this year, I have plenty of renewed inspiration to put my health first, and it’s the kind that will keep me up at night if I don’t stick to it: evidence suggests that adopting healthier lifestyle habits may help you thwart or even prevent the development of Alzheimer&rsqu...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 9, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Heidi Godman Tags: Alzheimer's Disease Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Healthy Aging Memory Prevention Source Type: blogs

Lost in translation: Getting your doctor to be fluent in “patient”
With the advances of knowledge and technology, the practice of medicine has become more complex. In addition to increasing complexity, there has also been a growing shift in patient care from paternalistic medicine to shared decision making. Paternalistic medicine is when the physician would make a diagnosis based on a patient’s history and test results, and then tell the patient what the plan of action will be. With shared decision making, the physician explains testing and treatment options, and then the patient makes an informed decision based on his or her preferences and health goals as well as physician recomme...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 6, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Paul G. Mathew, MD, FAAN, FAHS Tags: Health Managing your health care Source Type: blogs

The data are in: Eat right, reduce your risk of diabetes
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling Here’s a new medical study with a conclusion that might just change your life: eat healthy. Sure, you’ve heard it before, but this time the benefit is the prevention of diabetes. That’s a big deal, especially if, like so many other people, you are at risk for the disease. More on that in a moment. First, let’s review the study. Researchers publishing in PLoS Medicine describe a study of more than 200,000 people in the U.S. who participated in health surveys over a 20-year period. They found that: People who chose diets that were predominately of plant-based foods ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 5, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Diabetes Health Healthy Eating Prevention Source Type: blogs

The data are in: Eat right, avoid diabetes
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling Here’s a new medical study with a conclusion that might just change your life: eat healthy. Sure, you’ve heard it before, but this time the benefit is the prevention of diabetes. That’s a big deal, especially if, like so many other people. you are at risk for the disease. More on that in a moment. First, let’s review the study. Researchers publishing in PLoS Medicine describe a study of more than 200,000 people in the U.S. who participated in health surveys over a 20-year period. They found that: People who chose diets that were predominately of plant-based foods ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 5, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Diabetes Health Healthy Eating Prevention Source Type: blogs

Antibiotics don ’t speed recovery from asthma attacks
Does winter in the Northeast make you think of snowmen, warm fires, and hot chocolate? Or, does it instead inspire visions of runny noses, congestion, and cough? Although it is less rosy, I know readers with asthma may be picturing the latter. People with asthma get respiratory infections more often In general, people with asthma tend to get sick more easily, and illnesses can trigger asthma attacks. In my practice, we generally start seeing an increase in the number of asthma attacks, or asthma flares, once the ground frosts. If you are fortunate enough not to have asthma, chances are that you know somebody who does. The ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 4, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Nandini Mani, MD Tags: Asthma and Allergies Cold and Flu Health Lung disease Source Type: blogs

Bronchiolitis: What parents of infants need to know
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire It starts as a runny nose and a slight cough — and quickly makes babies miserable. Bronchiolitis is a very common illness in babies during the fall, winter, and early spring. It mostly affects children under the age of two, but is most common in babies three to six months old. While the majority of babies who get it do just fine, some can get very sick. So it’s important that parents of infants know what bronchiolitis is, what to watch for, and what to do. Ultimately, bronchiolitis is just a really bad cold. There are a few different viruses that can cause it. The most common one ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - January 3, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Cold and Flu Lung disease Parenting Source Type: blogs

Immediate radiation when PSA levels spike after prostate cancer surgery helps reduce risk of recurrence
Following surgery to remove a cancerous prostate gland, some men experience a biochemical recurrence, meaning that prostate-specific antigen (PSA) has become detectable in their blood. Since only the prostate releases PSA, removing the gland should drop this protein to undetectable levels in the body. Detecting PSA could signify that prostate cancer cells are lingering, and forming new tumors before they can be seen with modern imaging technology. PSA isn’t always reliable for cancer screening, but it is a very sensitive marker of new cancer growth after initial treatment. Doctors usually treat biochemical recurrence...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 29, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Charlie Schmidt Tags: Cancer Health Men's Health Prostate Health Source Type: blogs

Spinning out of control: Vertigo
Vertigo isn’t just a catchy song by the band U2, but is also a common symptom that has multiple potential causes. Although most people think that vertigo has to involve a spinning sensation, vertigo is actually the sensation the one is moving or that one’s surroundings are moving in the absence of any actual movement. To understand vertigo, one must understand that our sense of balance comes from multiple different systems in the body. A balancing act: processing system inputs There is your visual system, which tells you where your body is in space and time in relation to your surroundings. There is the sensory...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 27, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Paul G. Mathew, MD, FAAN, FAHS Tags: and throat Brain and cognitive health Source Type: blogs

Don ’t tolerate food intolerance
Who hasn’t eaten something that did not agree with them? But when your stomach issues become more frequent and severe, you might have a bigger digestion problem called food intolerance. Food intolerances occur more often as you age since your digestion naturally becomes slower and your body produces fewer enzymes needed to break down food. “This allows more time for bacteria to ferment in the GI tract and lead to digestive distress,” says Evagelia Georgakilas, a registered dietitian and nutritionist with Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Over time, you also may become more sens...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 23, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Matthew Solan Tags: Digestive Disorders Health Healthy Aging Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

Is aspirin a wonder drug?
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling Imagine that after years of painstaking research, scientists announced the development of a breakthrough treatment that costs pennies a pill, saves lives, and could reduce healthcare spending by nearly $700 billion in the coming years. And you wouldn’t even need a prescription to get it. Perhaps this all sounds too good to be true. But, according to a new study, we already have such a drug: it’s called aspirin. An analysis of aspirin use Based on current recommendations, only about 40% of people who should be taking aspirin are doing so. In this new report, researchers asked: ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 22, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Drugs and Supplements Health Managing your health care Prevention Source Type: blogs

Making health decisions in the face of uncertainty: Let your values be your guide
Follow me on Twitter @DavidAScales My sister texted me recently about my nine-year-old niece. She’d been experiencing joint pain so saw her pediatrician for a check-up. They did some blood tests, which were all normal except one. “Should we be worried?” my sister asked. “I’m no pediatrician, but I’d let it go,” I said. “It’s like seeing a cloud in the sky and asking me if I’m concerned about a hurricane.” Should we worry about and investigate every cloud when most don’t end up being a passing storm, let alone a hurricane? Many patients are like my sist...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 21, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: David Scales, MPhil, MD, PhD Tags: Health Health care Managing your health care Source Type: blogs

5 (relatively) easy New Year ’s resolutions for healthier, happier kids (and families)
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire It’s that time of year again, the time when we make resolutions. We set goals, make plans and imagine ways that we can do better in the year to come. We usually have good ideas — the problem tends to be in making those ideas actually happen. We get busy, the resolutions are too ambitious, we really don’t want to give up sweetsfor whatever reason, resolutions often fade away by February. It’s too bad, because while there may be some families out there with perfect lifestyle habits, I’m guessing they are few and far between. We all have room for improvement. The ke...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 20, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

Vitamin D: What ’s the “right” level?
Many of my patients who come into the office for their physical exams ask to have their vitamin D levels checked. They may have a family member with osteoporosis, or perhaps they have had bone thinning themselves. Mostly, they want to know that they’re doing everything they can to keep their bones strong. Vitamin D is critical for healthy bones. But when we check that blood level, how to act on the result is the subject of great controversy in medical-research land. Pinpointing a “healthy” vitamin D level is tricky So, what is the current cutoff value at which people are considered “low,” and ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 19, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Drugs and Supplements Health Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

Can genetic testing help determine the best medications for you?
The saying “if it seems too good to be true, it likely is” applies to so many things in life. As the director of the Clinical Pharmacogenomics Service at Boston Children’s Hospital, I spend a significant amount of time discussing what pharmacogenomics testing cannot tell us. I am sure you are wondering why I would take a negative approach instead of touting the miracles of pharmacogenomics testing, since after all, that is my job. Well, as with many things, it is complicated. Pharmacogenomics can potentially guide drug choices Pharmacogenomics is the study of gene expression on the ability to metabolize o...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 16, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Shannon Manzi, PharmD Tags: Drugs and Supplements Genes Health Managing your health care Source Type: blogs

The “thinking” benefits of doodling
Follow me on Twitter @srinipillay Have you ever found yourself listening to something really boring, then wafting off into your own mind, your hand scribbling random things on a piece of paper in front of you? Whether it’s a conference call or a tedious lecture, being all ears can be a challenge when your hands want to be a part of the moment. Nobody is immune to this either. Even American presidents have found themselves sketching away: 26 of 44 American Presidents doodled, from Theodore Roosevelt, who doodled animals and children, to Ronald Reagan, who doodled cowboys and football players, and John F. Kennedy, who ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 15, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Srini Pillay, MD Tags: Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Memory Mental Health Stress Source Type: blogs

How much artificial trans fat is still in our food?
I felt guilty. I looked like any other health-conscious customer in the grocery store, perusing Nutrition Facts labels. But I was really there to hunt down a dangerous ingredient on store shelves called artificial trans fat. It’s the worst type of fat in our food supply — so bad, in fact, that the FDA is essentially banning it in processed food starting in 2018. But that’s a long way off. How much artificial trans fat is on store shelves today? The fuss about the fat Artificial trans fats come from partially hydrogenated oils, which are made by a process using hydrogen gas to turn liquid vegetable oils in...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 14, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Heidi Godman Tags: Health Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

The 3 kinds of toys that really help your child
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire Every holiday season, parents are inundated with ads for toys that will make their child happier, smarter and more successful. They usually involve the latest technology, make noises or are unique in some other way — and are often expensive. Or, they are spin-offs from the latest movie or the latest edition of a popular video game. As a pediatrician, the ads make me sad — because they are rarely for toys that actually help children be happier, smarter, or more successful. Based on what we know about child health and development, here are the three kinds of toys I wish all parents ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 13, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

Keeping the human connection in medicine
Last month, the New England Journal of Medicine published a thoughtful essay by David Rosenthal and Abraham Verghese on the many changes in how doctors are trained and how they practice medicine. Efforts to improve efficiency and accuracy — including the introduction of electronic medical records — offer benefits, and pose some complicated problems. Doctors need to learn and do more, more than ever The health care system strives to deliver better care while keeping costs down. Advances in medical science and technology mean there is ever more information for a doctor to know, and policies to curb waste have lim...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 12, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: John Sanford Limouze, MD Tags: Health Health care Managing your health care Source Type: blogs

Understanding suicide in children and early adolescents may lead to more effective prevention
This study looked at suicide in children (ages 5 to 11) and early adolescents (ages 12 to 14). It compared the individual characteristics and circumstances around suicide in children and adolescents and evaluated potential racial differences. Previous studies that examined differences between older and younger adolescents have found that younger adolescents tended to have lower suicide intent, less cognitive ability to plan and execute a fatal suicide attempt, and lower rates of mental health problems. Researchers have hypothesized that impulsiveness may be a bigger factor for suicide in younger children. This study looks ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 9, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Ellen Braaten, Ph.D. Tags: Caregiving Children's Health Mental Health Parenting Prevention Source Type: blogs

Cervical cancer screening update: Not your mother ’s Pap smear
Confused about when to get your next Pap test? Anxious because your doctor said you don’t need another Pap for five years? Well, you are not alone. For several decades, getting a yearly Pap test has been the standard for cervical cancer screening. Cervical cancer, which still kills about 4,000 women annually in the United States, is really a preventable disease. The goal of cervical cancer screening is to detect areas of significant precancerous cells in the cervix (cervical dysplasia) and treat them before they become invasive cervical cancer. Early detection is key and for a long time the Pap test — which loo...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 8, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Andrea Chisholm, MD Tags: Cancer Health Prevention Screening Women's Health Source Type: blogs

Spice up your holidays with brain-healthy seasonings
Many of the flavorings that add a special touch to our favorite holiday foods confer the gift of brain health at the same time. Researchers have discovered that cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices that we mix into baked goods and savory dishes contain nutrients that sharpen memory, reduce stress, or improve sleep, among other benefits. Delicious and beneficial Your kitchen cabinet contains a number of seasonings that have been linked to positive effects on brain health and functioning. These flavorings are often incorporated into holiday cooking, adding a special touch to our holiday festivities. Spices and herbs ha...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 7, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Uma Naidoo, MD Tags: Brain and cognitive health Healthy Aging Healthy Eating Memory Source Type: blogs

The 3 biggest feeding mistakes you can make with your preschooler
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire As parents, we sometimes forget that habits learned early can stick with us for a lifetime. We cut corners and just figure that we’ll fix things later. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work out. This is particularly true with preschoolers, both because they are at a point when they are learning all sorts of habits — and because they can be opinionated and very stubborn. This can be particularly true when it comes to eating! That’s why you need to be patient and persistent — and just as stubborn — when it comes to feeding your preschooler. Here are the thr...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 6, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Healthy Eating Parenting Source Type: blogs

Colon cancer screening: Is there an easier, effective way?
Are you, or is someone you know, postponing their colonoscopy? Maybe it’s the idea of that prep. At best, it requires being home and near a toilet for a day. Worse, it can make people feel awfully ill. Or maybe it’s the invasiveness of the test. At best, it’s unpleasant. At worst, there can be serious complications, including an instrument puncturing the bowel, bleeding, and organ damage. It’s also time-consuming, requiring time off work for you and whoever will be driving you home. Why is a colonoscopy worth the hassle? Cancers of the colon and rectum are common, and lives can be saved with early d...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 5, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Cancer Digestive Disorders Health Healthy Aging Screening Source Type: blogs

Why you should keep tabs on your drinking
It’s that time of year again, when people gather with friends and family to celebrate the holiday season. The festivities often feature wine, champagne, and and other alcoholic beverages. But before you raise your glass, make sure you’re aware of just how much alcohol you’re actually consuming — and how it may affect your heart. For the most part, moderate drinking — defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men — is considered safe. But there are some caveats. Defining “one” drink “We ask people about numbers of drinks, but you have to be carefu...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 2, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Julie Corliss Tags: Health Healthy Eating Heart Health Source Type: blogs

Sinus headache or sign-us up for a migraine consultation
In conclusion, if you suffer from frequent sinus headaches, there is a good chance that you are actually experiencing migraines. Making the correct diagnosis and formulating an appropriate treatment plan can reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches, as well as avoid unnecessary testing, visits to specialists, and taking medicines that are not actually treating the problem. The post Sinus headache or sign-us up for a migraine consultation appeared first on Harvard Health Blog. (Source: Harvard Health Blog)
Source: Harvard Health Blog - December 1, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Paul G. Mathew, MD, FAAN, FAHS Tags: Brain and cognitive health Headache Source Type: blogs

The health advantages of marriage
This study was presented at a medical conference, so the results should be considered preliminary. But it does raise some questions. For example, were the heart attacks of single people more severe than those in people who were married? And was the health of the single heart attack victims worse before the heart attack than that of the married group? The headlines describing this study might have single people feeling even more pressured than before to find a marriage partner. I think that would be unfortunate, as a study of this type can only conclude there is an “association” or link between marriage and bett...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 30, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Behavioral Health Men's Health Women's Health Source Type: blogs

6 tips for making the most of your child ’s checkup
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire The yearly check-up: it’s the time when your child gets a total look-over. As a pediatrician, I’m often struck by just how much I need to cover in that appointment. I need to find out about eating, sleeping, exercise, school, behavior, even about peeing and pooping. I need to ask about the dentist, about screen time, about changes in the family’s health or situation. I need to do a full physical examination and check on growth and development. I need to talk about and give immunizations — and make sure parents have the health information they need and want. And of cour...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 29, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Parenting Prevention Source Type: blogs

Sexually transmitted infections on the rise
Recently I saw a young woman in my clinic for her annual exam. As usual, I asked her if she would like to be tested for sexually transmitted infections, and then we reviewed the “menu” of options: we could collect a swab of her cervix for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomonas, and a PAP smear for human papillomavirus. We could collect blood for HIV, hepatitis C, syphilis, and herpes. We discussed the pros and cons and details of testing — not everyone wants every test. But she cheerfully consented to all of it, and when the results came back positive for chlamydia, she was shocked. “But I had no sym...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - November 28, 2016 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Health Infectious diseases Prevention Sex Sexual Conditions Source Type: blogs