Archive for June, 2016

Farewell to the fasting cholesterol test?

If you’ve ever fasted overnight before having blood drawn, you know how uncomfortable and inconvenient this can be. But for many people, fasting blood draws might be a thing of the past. Recent guidelines reinforce that fasting is not required to have your cholesterol levels checked. This move, along with the advent of a non-fasting test to monitor diabetes, means you might not have to skip breakfast before your next visit to the doctor.

Tai chi may be as good as physical therapy for arthritis-related knee pain

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Treatment options for osteoarthritis of the knee are limited, and many people turn to surgery as a last resort — so there’s a lot of interest in non-invasive treatments for this common condition. Researchers have just completed a head-to-head trial of standard physical therapy versus the traditional Chinese practice of tai chi, and they’ve found the latter is just as good as the former. If it’s something you’d like to try, go for it!

When treating stomach bugs, the best solution may be the simplest one

Claire McCarthy, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

When your child has a stomach bug, it’s tempting to reach for over-the-counter oral rehydration solutions. After all, doctors have recommended them in the past. But a new study has revealed that most children don’t need them. In fact, juice diluted with water may be all your child needs.

When “life” gets in the way of good health

Lori Wiviott Tishler, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

As it turns out, the things your doctor spends so much time focusing on at your yearly check-up account for just 10% of your health needs. Over half of the total “picture” of your health comes from social, environmental, and behavioral factors. This means that people who have unmet environmental needs — such as being unable to afford healthy food — suffer real consequences to their physical health. We’ve described one initiative that aims to change that.

Silent heart attacks: Much more common than we thought in both men and women

We typically think of heart attacks as sudden, chest-clutching agony. But the reality is that nearly half of all heart attacks have no symptoms at all and go completely unnoticed by the people experiencing them — and, alarmingly, these “clinically silent” heart attacks are nearly identical to more overt heart attacks in terms of the damage they cause and the risk to a person’s future health.

Lung disease in smokers who don’t have COPD

Wynne Armand, MD

Contributing Editor

You probably know that smoking has enormous consequences for your health. One of the most common is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disorder involving damage to the lungs. If you smoke, but you don’t have COPD, you may be tempted to think your lungs are relatively unharmed — but a recent study suggests that some smokers without COPD might still suffer lung damage.

The opioid crisis and physician burnout: A tale of two epidemics

Like many of us these days, doctors are feeling the pressure of being asked to do more work in less time. This burnout is a big problem for both doctors and their patients, and it has big consequences — some obvious, some less so. In this post, Dr. Adelman explores the relationship between physician burnout and another big problem facing the country — the opioid epidemic.

3 reasons your child shouldn’t go “gluten-free” (unless your doctor says so)

Claire McCarthy, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Recently, many parents have begun cutting gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) out of their children’s diet in an effort to be healthy. Although children with celiac disease or wheat allergy should avoid gluten, a gluten-free diet is unnecessary for the vast majority of children — and it can even endanger their health. We’ve identified three specific ways this diet can do more harm than good for your child.

Here’s something unexpected: Sunbathers live longer

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

You’ve probably been told all your life that spending lots of time in the sun can be bad for you. Surprisingly (and just in time for summer), a new study has reported health benefits — including an extended life span — from sun exposure. But before you shut off the computer and head for the beach, you should know that this study also comes with some important caveats.

The many ways volunteering is good for your heart

If you’ve ever volunteered for a school, community center, or other nonprofit organization, you’ve probably felt the emotional reward that comes with helping others. But volunteering has other benefits, too. Multiple studies have confirmed that volunteering is, quite literally, good for your heart — and for the rest of your body. We’ve described the positive effects of volunteering on your health, plus listed some organizations that can help you get started.