Why coffee might ease your pain (especially if you ’re a sleepy mouse)
This study reminded me of something I learned in medical school. I was taught that one of the most common causes of headache was caffeine withdrawal. An effective “treatment” includes coffee, another caffeine-containing drink or food, or a headache medicine that contains caffeine. But now I’m wondering if the pain-relieving properties of coffee might be less related to caffeine withdrawal and more related to the findings of this study. Maybe wake-promoting agents reverse pain sensitivity in sleep-deprived people, as this study found among mice. This novel observation could change how we understand and tre...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - June 12, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Pain Management Sleep Source Type: blogs

Racket sports serve up health benefits
When I was a kid, my summer sport of choice was baseball. Every day I played in marathon neighborhood games until it was too dark to see the ball. It was about fun and not fitness. But now that I’m older, and my Louisville Slugger has been officially retired, I need a summertime sport that recaptures the playfulness of my youth, but also works to keep my physical and mental skills sharp. So, I picked up a racket. It turns out that racket sports are not only fun, but they may help me live longer. A study published online by the British Journal of Sports Medicine examined the link between six different types of exercis...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - June 9, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Matthew Solan Tags: Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Exercise and Fitness Source Type: blogs

Exercise versus caffeine: Which is your best ally to fight fatigue?
Chronic lack of sleep makes it hard to focus on a task. As if this didn’t make complete logical sense, multiple research studies have shown that sleep deprivation has about the same effect on our cognition and coordination as a few alcoholic beverages. What do you do when you need to concentrate, but you’re tired? Many of us reach for a cup of coffee, or a soda. Mountains of solid research have shown us that caffeine (in doses ranging between 30 and 300 milligrams) improves attention, alertness, reaction time, and mood, especially when we’re tired. An average cup of brewed coffee contains between 80 and 1...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - June 8, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Behavioral Health Exercise and Fitness Source Type: blogs

Could artificial sweeteners be bad for your brain?
This study did not look at the overall health effects of diet soft drinks; it’s possible they are still a healthier choice than sugar-sweetened beverages. This study was conducted when most artificially sweetened beverages contained saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Sweet Twin), acesulfame-K (Sunett, Sweet One), or aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal). Newer sweeteners, such as sucralose (as in Splenda) were unlikely to have been included. While the risk of stroke or dementia was higher among those consuming diet soft drinks, only about 3% of the studied population had strokes and about 5% developed dementia. So, while a higher...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - June 7, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Diabetes Diet and Weight Loss Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

Room sharing with your baby may help prevent SIDS —but it means everyone gets less sleep
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the best place for a baby to sleep is in his parents’ bedroom. He should sleep in his own crib or bassinet (or in a co-sleeper safely attached to the bed), but shouldn’t be in his own room until he is at least 6 months, better 12 months. This is because studies have shown that when babies are close by, it can help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. A study published in the journal Pediatrics, however, points out a downside to this: babies don’t sleep as well, and by extension, neither do their pare...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - June 6, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Parenting Prevention Safety Source Type: blogs

The pros and cons of having your baby sleep in your room
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the best place for a baby to sleep is in his parents’ bedroom. He should sleep in his own crib or bassinet (or in a co-sleeper safely attached to the bed), but shouldn’t be in his own room until he is at least 6 months, better 12 months. This is because studies have shown that when babies are close by, it can help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. A study published in the journal Pediatrics, however, points out a downside to this: babies don’t sleep as well, and by extension, neither do their pare...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - June 6, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Parenting Prevention Safety Source Type: blogs

Bad viruses travel fast: Measles vaccine important for travelers
Follow me at @JohnRossMD The United States was declared free from ongoing measles transmission in 2000. So why are we still having measles attacks? An outbreak of measles is currently raging in Minnesota. In 2015, 125 cases of measles occurred in California, and in 2014, 383 people were infected with measles in an Amish community in Ohio. How measles outbreaks happen There are several reasons why we are still at risk for measles outbreaks. Travelers may get infected overseas, and bring the measles virus back into the country with them unawares. The 2015 measles outbreak in Ohio began when two infected members of the Amish ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - June 5, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: John Ross, MD, FIDSA Tags: Health Infectious diseases Prevention Travel health Source Type: blogs

Safe injection sites and reducing the stigma of addiction
Imagine a chronic medical condition in which the treatment itself has serious side effects. Examples of this are plentiful in medicine. For example, in diabetes, giving too much insulin can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), a dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition. That doesn’t happen very often, but imagine that it was a common complication of treating diabetes because doctors couldn’t really tell how powerful a given dose of insulin actually was. And suppose that doctors and patient safety experts advocated for places where patients with diabetes could be carefully monitored when taking thei...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - June 2, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Scott Weiner, MD Tags: Addiction Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Mental Health Pain Management Source Type: blogs

4 science-backed ways toward better learning (Hint: drop the highlighter)
We have all done it. We are reading something we want to remember later and out comes the highlighter. Green, yellow, blue, sometimes multiple colors at once to differentiate the importance of words in sentences. Even though highlighting is a widespread practice to help us learn and remember information, it actually does very little. In fact, in some situations highlighting can prevent us from using knowledge to make inferences in the future. Highlighting, it turns out, isn’t the only common strategy that doesn’t really help you learn. Others include underlining and rereading, which are popular study tools but ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - June 1, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: David R. Topor, PhD, MS-HPEd Tags: Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Memory Source Type: blogs

Eat only every other day and lose weight?
The alternate-day fasting thing is very popular right now. This gist of it is, basically, feast and famine. You starve one day, then feast the next. Proponents claim that this approach will lead to weight loss, as well as a number of other benefits. As a physician researcher, this annoys and alarms me. I preach sensible intake of real foods as part of a lifelong approach to health. I also depend on scientific evidence to guide my counseling. So, I welcomed this yearlong study comparing alternate-day fasting with more common calorie restriction. Some data on alternate-day fasting Researchers divided 100 obese study voluntee...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 31, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Diet and Weight Loss Health Source Type: blogs

Premenstrual dysphoria disorder: It ’s biology, not a behavior choice
Almost all women have some mild premenstrual symptoms that signal the imminent arrival of their period every month. These symptoms are typically just an annoyance and don’t cause any distress. But for some women, these symptoms are much more significant. About 20% of menstruating women suffer from premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. Women with PMS have mostly physical symptoms and some minor mood disturbances caused by the changing hormone levels in the second half (or luteal phase) of the menstrual cycle. These hormone-induced symptoms can cause significant physical distress in the days leading up to menstruation. PMDD: ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 30, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Andrea Chisholm, MD Tags: Behavioral Health Mental Health Women's Health Source Type: blogs

Safe summer grilling tips
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling It’s nearly June and the start of the summer season is upon us in New England. That means taking advantage of the warm weather to hit the beach or a hiking trail, and of course, it’s the season of the backyard barbeque. Grilling is a great way to enjoy tasty outdoor meals. However, research has found that two harmful chemicals can form during the grilling process. Heterocyclic amines form when proteins (amino acids and creatine) found in meat are cooked over high heat, such as grilling or broiling. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form when fat and juices from meat drip...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 26, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Health Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

Of all the flavors in the world, we choose salty — and that’s not good
While the adjective salty can be used in today’s slang to describe one’s personality, it also pertains to our food. It’s saturated in it. And that’s not good. Salt: The good, the bad, and the too much Sodium is an essential part of our diet. It helps nerves and muscles function as well as hold onto water. Sodium in the blood is what keeps it viscous, but too much sodium means your body could retain too much liquid. This surge in volume increases blood pressure, which is the root of many serious ailments including heart and kidney disease. Experts estimate that we could save 280,000 lives in the Unit...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 25, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Celia Smoak Spell Tags: Health Healthy Eating Heart Health Kidney and urinary tract Source Type: blogs

Run for your (long) life
“Researchers find that running can add three years to your life!” shout the headlines. And yes, a new study did find that cardiovascular exercise, including running, can decrease the risk of death, and potentially prolong life. But there’s more: the authors not only include analyses of piles of data, but also an exhaustive review of just about every other study of cardiovascular fitness and mortality out there. They cite (and discuss) almost 70 reference articles! By popular demand… Their newest study came about due to demand. The authors had previously published data from over 55,000 people follow...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 24, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Exercise and Fitness Health Healthy Aging Heart Health Prevention Source Type: blogs

New recommendation: No fruit juice for children under a year
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire Juice. Many people think of it as a healthy drink, something that should be part of a child’s diet. But it turns out that it’s not necessarily healthy at all — and doesn’t need to be part of a child’s diet. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics just came out with the recommendation that children under a year should drink no juice at all. This is a change from the previous recommendation, which was that children shouldn’t have juice before six months of age. This recommendation may seem surprising, but here’s why experts aren’t wild about j...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 23, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Healthy Eating Parenting Source Type: blogs

A spoonful of motivation helps the medicine go down
We have all done it. We are prescribed a medication to help us, but we don’t take it as directed, or at all. Sometimes we don’t even fill the prescription. Why? Things get in the way of getting to the pharmacy. One last phone call at work or one more math problem with your child. Or we begin to feel better and stop taking the medicine. Or we don’t understand the instructions. Or we are not convinced the medication will work. Or there are side effects we do not like. Or the medication is too expensive. Or any of a hundred other reasons. Adherence is how well we follow the recommendations from our health pr...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 22, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: David R. Topor, PhD, MS-HPEd Tags: Drugs and Supplements Health Managing your health care Source Type: blogs

Adding hormonal therapy to radiation lengthens survival in men with recurring prostate cancer
High-grade cancer that’s still confined to the prostate is generally treated surgically. But a third of the men who have their cancerous prostates removed will experience a rise in blood levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). This is called PSA recurrence. And since detectable PSA could signal the cancer’s return, doctors will often treat it by irradiating the prostate bed, or the area where the gland used to be. In February, researchers reported that radiation is a more effective treatment for PSA recurrence when given in combination with androgen-deprivation therapy (ADT). ADT interferes with the body&rsq...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 19, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Charlie Schmidt Tags: Cancer Prostate Health Source Type: blogs

7 ways to save cash on prescription drugs
The prescription retinoid that my dermatologist suggested sounded like a great idea. It was a topical vitamin A-based cream, which has been shown to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Now that I’m a middle ager, I thought I’d give it a try. Then I got to the drugstore, and found that the little tube had a huge price: $371! I didn’t want to shell out that much for a mere face cream, so I didn’t fill the prescription. But my case was only skin-deep. What about people who can’t — or don’t want to — pay for prescription medications to treat chronic or serious illness? “It...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 18, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Heidi Godman Tags: Drugs and Supplements Health Managing your health care Source Type: blogs

3 reasons to leave earwax alone
In conclusion… There’s a reason the makers of cotton-tipped swabs put this warning on their packaging: “Do not insert swab into ear canal. Entering the ear canal could cause injury.” But, it still goes on. Perhaps it’s just too tempting or satisfying. Perhaps no one reads the labels of the products they use. Or maybe the myths about earwax are too ingrained to be easily dispelled by facts. Whatever the reasons, now you know to stop putting cotton-tipped swabs into your ears. And that also goes for unfolded paper clips, pen caps, or whatever else you’ve been using! The post 3 reasons to ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 17, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Ear, nose, and throat Health Hearing Loss Safety Source Type: blogs

8 things to watch for when your child has a headache
Headaches are common in childhood. Most of the time, they are nothing to worry about and are caused by common minor illnesses, a mild bump to the head, lack of sleep, not getting enough food or drink, or stress. Migraines can also be seen in childhood, but with awareness and avoidance of triggers, they don’t usually cause problems. Sometimes, though, headaches are a problem — and something to worry about. Here is when you should worry: 1. When a headache is accompanied by a fever and a stiff neck. Your child should be able to look up at the ceiling, touch his chin to his chest and shake his head back and forth....
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 16, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Headache Parenting Source Type: blogs

Over-the-counter pain relievers and your heart
Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen are and have been the go-to “benign” pain medication for doctors and patients alike. Why? They aren’t addictive, and it’s not easy to overdose. Serious side effects like gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding seemed to be limited to high doses taken for longer periods or time, or to people with significant medical problems. Even before the era of the opioid epidemic, it was raining NSAIDs, across the country. In 2004, the manufacturer of the NSAID Vioxx pulled it from the market because the drug was associated with serious...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 15, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Back Pain Drugs and Supplements Headache Health Heart Health Injuries Pain Management Source Type: blogs

Diet not working? Maybe it ’s not your type
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling Have you heard of the blood type diet? I thought it had been debunked long ago but patients keep asking about it, so I figured I should learn more. What’s the Blood Type Diet? In 1996 Peter D’Adamo, a naturopathic physician, published a book in which he described how people could be healthier, live longer, and achieve their ideal weight by eating according to their blood type. One’s choice of condiments, spices, and even exercise should depend on one’s blood type. Soon, the book was a best seller and people everywhere were finding out their blood type, revising the...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 12, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Diet and Weight Loss Health Healthy Eating Source Type: blogs

To PSA test or not to PSA test: That is the discussion
Though it seems Americans don’t agree on much, screening for cancer is an exception. Who wouldn’t support preventing or identifying cancer at an early, more treatable stage, when the alternative is pain, toxic therapies, and a shortened life? That may be why people get confused when news headlines don’t reinforce a “just do it” message. A recent example of the disconnect between public perception and medical evidence is screening for prostate cancer using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a non-governmental expert panel that pr...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 11, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Steven J. Atlas, MD, MPH Tags: Cancer Health Managing your health care Men's Health Prostate Health Screening Source Type: blogs

Taking medicines like you ’re supposed to: Why is it so hard?
It’s so hard to remember to take your medicine, let alone take it correctly (with food, on an empty stomach, not at the same time as other things you’re taking, at night, without grapefruit juice… the list seems endless). There are so many barriers and distractions that can get in the way. Many people aren’t thrilled about having to take medications because they worry about side effects, or they’re having side effects, or they just don’t like the idea of needing to take medicine. If it’s for prevention, like aspirin to prevent strokes, or to treat an “invisible” condit...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 10, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Behavioral Health Drugs and Supplements Managing your health care Source Type: blogs

Don ’t let the screens take over: 8 tips for families
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire Last week was Screen-Free Week, and I’m going to guess that most families did not have a screen-free week. Screens have become so embedded in daily life that it’s hard to imagine turning them off for a whole week. Besides the fact that many, if not most, children use them for homework, they are also how we get work done, get questions answered, communicate, shop, and relax. For many families, they are also how they calm children down and keep them occupied. How do you go a day without all that — let alone a week? I agree, that sounds hard. But as a pediatrician I’m wor...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 9, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

5 research-backed lessons on what makes a happy life
Ever wonder what it would be like to be able to look at people’s entire adult lives? Not asking older people to remember, but starting with them as teenagers and tracking their health and well-being until they die? We’ve been lucky enough to do this for the past 78 years, starting in the late 1930s and early ‘40s with a group of men who agreed to be part of one of the longest studies of adult life ever done. The Harvard Study of Adult Development has tracked the lives of 724 men from the time they were teenagers into old age — 268 Harvard College sophomores, and 456 boys from Boston’s inner ci...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 8, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert John Waldinger, MD Tags: Brain and cognitive health Healthy Aging Mental Health Source Type: blogs

Opioid addiction: Long-term treatment for a chronic condition
In 2015, motor vehicle accidents claimed the lives of more than 35,000 Americans. Sadly, the toll exacted by motor vehicle accidents has now been eclipsed. Data from the American Society of Addiction Medicine show that more than 52,000 of we Americans lost our lives to opioid overdose in 2015. Here in the Commonwealth, the story is even more grim; even accounting for differences in average age from community to community — younger people are still more likely to be affected than older people — the opioid overdose death rate has climbed to 23 per 100,000 residents as compared to 9 per 100,000 for the nation as a...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 5, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Glen Buchberger, MD Tags: Addiction Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Drugs and Supplements Source Type: blogs

Secret to brain success: Intelligent cognitive rest
Follow me on Twitter @srinipillay Many people do focused brain exercises to help develop their thinking. Some of these exercises work, while others do not. Regardless, the focus network in the brain is not the only network that needs training. The “unfocus” network needs training too. The “unfocus network” (or default mode network) Called the default mode network (DMN), we used to think of the unfocus network as the Do Mostly Nothing network. And this network uses more energy than any other network in the brain, consuming 20% of the body’s energy while at rest. In fact, effort requires just 5%...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 4, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Srini Pillay, MD Tags: Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Stress Source Type: blogs

Acupuncture: A point in the right direction, or a stab in the dark?
Acupuncture is a treatment that dates back to around 100 BC in China. It is based on traditional Chinese concepts such as qi (pronounced “chee” and considered life force energy) and meridians (paths through which qi flows). Multiple studies have failed to demonstrate any scientific evidence supporting such principles. Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into the skin at multiple, varying locations based on the patient’s symptoms. Once inserted, some acupuncturists hand turn the needles for added therapeutic benefit. Although there are many uses for acupuncture in traditional Chinese medicin...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 3, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Paul G. Mathew, MD, FAAN, FAHS Tags: Complementary and alternative medicine Headache Health Pain Management Source Type: blogs

5 things to tell your child about 13 Reasons Why
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire Teens are affected by what their peers do and say — and by what they see in the media. We all know this. Most of the time, it isn’t a serious problem. But when it comes to suicide, it can be a serious problem. That’s why many parents and professionals are worried about the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Based on the book by Jay Asher, it tells the story of Hannah, who kills herself and leaves behind 13 tapes for the people who played a role in her decision. The worry is that the series could make some vulnerable teens consider or try suicide. How worrisome is this? It’...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 2, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Anxiety and Depression Behavioral Health Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

Keep your seasonal allergies in check
Seasonal allergies can be frustrating. When spring crawls in, many people begin to experience all-too-familiar itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, and congestion. Symptoms of seasonal allergies are the result of an immune system in overdrive in response to pollen and other allergens. Those bothersome symptoms are intended to protect you from unwanted foreign particles, but in this situation they end up causing misery. There are quite a few options when it comes to controlling allergy symptoms, but we want to watch out for a few that can be quite dangerous when used incorrectly. Nasal steroids The first-line treatment for se...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - May 1, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Dominic Wu, MD Tags: Asthma and Allergies Ear, nose, and throat Health Source Type: blogs

Chronic pain: The “invisible” disability
Sometime back in 2010, a good friend of mine from college who had since become a pediatrician posted a complaint on Facebook about “made up” health conditions. “Fibromyalgia, I’m looking at you,” she wrote. At this time, pain was more of an occasional visitor in my body rather than the permanent tenant it has since become. Still, I was offended on behalf of those patients with the disease. Fast forward to today and my life is all about pacing. This is because everything I do — cook, sleep, work, walk — takes time. This gradual approach to every aspect of my life is not about enligh...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 28, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Laura Kiesel Tags: Health Managing your health care Pain Management Source Type: blogs

Disposing of your expired or unused medications gets a whole lot easier (and safer) this weekend
Saturday, April 29th is National Drug Take Back Day, which means you can drop off any unused or expired medication no questions asked. It’s easy to lose track of medications, especially if you’re caring for someone else. But if those medications fall into the wrong hands — say, a child or a pet — one dose could be fatal. So, it’s better to dispose of your excess medication in a way that is safe to both those around you and to the environment. Why does it matter how you dispose of your prescriptions? Prescription drug abuse is a big problem right now, and even something as small as correctly di...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 27, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Celia Smoak Spell Tags: Drugs and Supplements Health Safety Source Type: blogs

Treadmills: Tips for using this versatile piece of exercise equipment
I used to think of treadmills as the walk (or run) of shame. They were only used on rainy or cold days when I was desperate to get in my workout. But I have since wised up. Approached the right way, they can offer in-depth, all-around workouts beyond the usual push-the-button-and-go. “The machines can target all the key muscle groups needed to improve lower body strength and endurance, such as quadriceps, calves, glutes, and hamstrings,” says Dr. Adam Tenforde with the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. “Plus they offer various progr...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 26, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Matthew Solan Tags: Exercise and Fitness Health Source Type: blogs

Why vaccines are important for our country ’s financial health, too
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire Imagine there was a simple treatment that could be given to babies and toddlers that was not only remarkably effective in preventing illness, but also inexpensive. And imagine that this treatment was not only inexpensive, but also lowered overall health care costs. There’s no need to imagine; the treatment exists. It’s called immunization. It’s National Infant Immunization Week, a time to recognize and celebrate immunization. It’s during infancy that we give the most vaccines, but the benefits extend far beyond infancy and beyond those babies. The protection lasts for ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 25, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Health policy Infectious diseases Managing your health care Parenting Prevention Vaccines Source Type: blogs

Have kids, live longer?
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling File this one under “Interesting… but so what?” A new research study finds that people who have had at least one child are more likely to live a bit longer than people who are childless. Some of the news coverage I’ve seen on this story might be making more of this than it should: Parenthood can help you live longer in older age Is parenthood an elixir for longevity? Being a parent makes you live longer Have scientists discovered the elixir of youth? None of these reflects the findings of this study accurately. And just how could parenthood be an elixir anyway? In...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 24, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Family Planning and Pregnancy Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

Misophonia: When sounds really do make you “crazy”
You hear your spouse breathing nearby and you instantly get angry. Your 6-year-old yawns and it triggers a fight-or-flight reaction in you. You avoid restaurants because you can’t stand the sound of chewing. Sounds other people don’t even seem to notice, drive you up a wall. You might have misophonia. What is misophonia? People with misophonia are affected emotionally by common sounds — usually those made by others, and usually ones that other people don’t pay attention to. The examples above (breathing, yawning, or chewing) create a fight-or-flight response that triggers anger and a desire to ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 21, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: James Cartreine, PhD Tags: Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Source Type: blogs

A strengths-based approach to autism
At our son’s 18-month checkup five years ago, our pediatrician expressed concern. Gio wasn’t using any words, and would become so frustrated he would bang his head on the ground. Still, my husband and I were in denial. We dragged our feet. Meanwhile, our son grunted and screamed; people said things. Finally we started therapy with early intervention services. A few months later, after hundreds of pages of behavior questionnaires for us and hours of testing for Gio, we heard the words: “Your son meets criteria for a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder…” Our journey has taken us through sever...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 20, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Monique Tello, MD, MPH Tags: Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Children's Health Parenting Source Type: blogs

When a loved one is addicted to opiates
We are in the midst of an unprecedented epidemic, with several million people currently addicted to opiates in the United States, including both prescription drugs and heroin. Much discussion has been devoted to the visible tragedy of overdoses, which are killing dozens of people every day. Less attention has been paid to a more subtle, but damaging and painful, component of this epidemic: how a person suffering from opiate addiction affects his or her family members. The effects of substance use disorder on loved ones Substance use disorders (SUDs) are brain diseases that can negatively affect a person’s behavior an...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 19, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Peter Grinspoon, MD Tags: Addiction Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Caregiving Mental Health Parenting Stress Source Type: blogs

Binge drinking continues to rise — particularly among women and seniors
Women usually welcome news that the gender gap in pay or leadership positions is closing. But lately we’ve been learning that women are also gaining parity in another respect: alcohol consumption. A new study from researchers at the National Institutes of Health indicates that the rate of drinking in general, and binge drinking in particular, is rising faster among women ages 60 or older than among their male contemporaries. When the researchers analyzed data from National Health Interview Surveys from 1997 through 2014, they found that the proportion of older women drinkers increased at a rate of 1.6% a year, compar...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 18, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Beverly Merz Tags: Addiction Behavioral Health Brain and cognitive health Women's Health Source Type: blogs

Could you have a heart attack and not know it?
Here’s a surprising fact: nearly half of people who have a heart attack don’t realize it at the time. These so-called silent heart attacks are only diagnosed after the event, when a recording of the heart’s electrical activity (an electrocardiogram or ECG) or another test reveals evidence of damage to the heart. One explanation for this phenomenon may be a higher-than-average tolerance for pain. Some people mistake their symptoms as indigestion or muscle pain, while others may feel pain, but in parts of their upper body other than the center of the chest, says Dr. Kenneth Rosenfield, who heads the vascula...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 17, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Julie Corliss Tags: Health Heart Health Source Type: blogs

Don ’t take fatigue lying down
Have you ever had one of those days where you are so weary, you can’t seem to do anything except binge-watch Netflix? Sure, everyone gets tired sometimes, and often bounces back after a quick rest or a good night’s sleep. However, if bouts of fatigue occur more often and last longer, you shouldn’t ignore them. “Older adults may chalk up fatigue to aging, but there is no reason you should battle ongoing tiredness,” says Dr. Suzanne Salamon, a geriatric physician with Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Here are signs that you should take your tiredness seriously: inability...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 14, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Matthew Solan Tags: Health Source Type: blogs

Physicians and opioids: Part of the solution, but challenges ahead
With more than 200 million prescriptions for opioid medications being written every year, it’s hard to escape the notion that physicians must share some of the blame for creating the opioid epidemic facing the nation. The criticism has come from many quarters. Editorial writers have pointed the finger of blame, as have high-ranking elected officials. More than a third of the American public think doctors are at fault, and even members of our own profession have acknowledged the unwitting complicity of physicians. There’s no denying it. Despite our well-intentioned motivation to care for our patients and treat t...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 13, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: James S. Gessner, MD Tags: Addiction Health Health care Mental Health Source Type: blogs

The problem with tanning (and the myth of the base tan)
Follow me on Twitter @RobShmerling Are you a person who loves to be tan? Do you pine after the bronzed look of jet-setting celebrities just back from the tropics? If so, you’re not alone — let’s face it, we’re a culture that’s obsessed with being tan. It’s attractive, fashionable, and a sign of good health, right? Actually, sun exposure or spending time in tanning booths has many health experts worried: it damages skin and increases the risk of skin cancer. The risk rises if tanning leads to a sunburn — according to the American Academy of Dermatology, a single blistering sunburn c...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 12, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Robert H. Shmerling, MD Tags: Cancer Children's Health Parenting Prevention Skin and Hair Care Source Type: blogs

6 ways to help keep your baby at a healthy weight
Follow me on Twitter @drClaire Everyone loves a chubby baby — there’s something about a roly-poly belly and thighs that is completely adorable. “Baby fat” is something people don’t worry about. Not only do we think of it as cute, we think of it as healthy — and temporary. Unfortunately, it’s not healthy or temporary. Which is why parents need to be mindful of their baby’s weight. It used to be that baby fat was indeed healthy and temporary. In days when infant mortality was high, a little heft meant some extra reserves for the baby. And until recently, most children lost thei...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 11, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Claire McCarthy, MD Tags: Children's Health Healthy Eating Parenting Source Type: blogs

Cracking the coconut oil craze
If you Google “coconut oil,” you’ll see a slew of stories touting the alleged health benefits of this solid white fat, which is easy to find in supermarkets these days. But how can something that’s chock-full of saturated fat — a known culprit in raising heart disease risk — be good for you? Coconut does have some unique qualities that enthusiasts cite to explain its alleged health benefits. But the evidence to support those claims is very thin, says Dr. Qi Sun, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “If you want to lowe...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 10, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Julie Corliss Tags: Diet and Weight Loss Drugs and Supplements Heart Health coconut oil Source Type: blogs

Treating pain after opioid addiction: A personal story
Follow me on Twitter @Peter_Grinspoon As a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), I am profoundly grateful for my 10 years in recovery from opiate addiction. As detailed in my memoir Free Refills, I fell into an all too common trap for physicians, succumbing to stress and ready access to medications, and became utterly and completely addicted to the painkillers Percocet and Vicodin. After an unspeakably stressful visit in my office by the State Police and the DEA, three felony charges, being fingerprinted, two years of probation, 90 days in rehab, and losing my medical license for three years, I fi...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 7, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Peter Grinspoon, M.D. Tags: Addiction Drugs and Supplements Managing your health care Pain Management Source Type: blogs

Don ’t let allergy season catch you off guard
The woman next to me in the checkout line looked upset. Her eyes were red and her nose was running. My first thought was to give her privacy, until I saw her shopping basket filled with supplies to fight allergy symptoms, and then our eyes met. “I can’t believe how bad my allergies are this year!” she said, exasperated. My fellow shopper isn’t the only one suffering. “Warm weather and a mild winter, as we’ve experienced this year, can stimulate trees to pollinate. The southern U.S., which has a warmer climate, is particularly susceptible to earlier allergy seasons. Other climate factors ...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 6, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Heidi Godman Tags: Asthma and Allergies Source Type: blogs

H. pylori, a true stomach “bug”: Who should doctors test and treat?
In 1982, two Australian scientists discovered that a certain bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, was a common cause of persistent stomach inflammation and stomach ulcers. This realization revolutionized ulcer treatment. While fairly common, this infection usually causes no symptoms, but it can sometimes lead to ulcers in the stomach or the very first part of the small intestine (duodenum), and to certain types of stomach cancer. There is also evidence linking H. pylori infection to other conditions like iron-deficiency anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency. The bacteria are thought to spread through contaminated water, vomit, or f...
Source: Harvard Health Blog - April 5, 2017 Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Wynne Armand, MD Tags: Digestive Disorders Health Infectious diseases Tests and procedures Source Type: blogs