Harvard Health Blog

Read posts from experts at Harvard Health Publishing covering a variety of health topics and perspectives on medical news.

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The Tucson shooting and mental illness

When reports arrived that accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner had opened fire in Tucson, Arizona on January 7, journalistic first responders linked the incident to the fierceness of political rhetoric in the United States. Upon reflection, some of the discussion has turned to questions about mental illness, guns, and violence. And plenty of reflection is […]

“Just in case” heart tests can do more harm than good

Here’s an important equation that all of us—doctors included—should know about health care, but don’t: More ≠ Better “More does not equal Better” applies to diagnostic procedures, screening tests meant to identify problems before they appear, medications, dietary supplements, and just about every aspect of medicine. That scenario is spelled out in alarming detail in […]

Good investigative reporting may finally debunk the myth that vaccines cause autism

For years now, both individual researchers and respected scientific organizations such as the Institute of Medicine have tried to refute a persistent myth — that childhood vaccines cause autism. The myth began after a small study published in 1998 in the Lancet by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues at Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine […]

Our newest book: Saying Goodbye

I’m excited to introduce one of Harvard Health Publishing’ newest books, Saying Goodbye: How Families Can Find Renewal Through Loss. The book, by psychologists Barbara Okun and Joseph Nowinski, explores the concept of “new grief” — the way that people now grieve when medical science prolongs lives for weeks, months, or even years. A recent […]

Why we do what we do: good health information can save lives

My colleagues at Harvard Health Publishing and I have a mission: to provide accurate, reliable information that will help readers live healthier lives. We work hard to fulfill that mission, and the feedback we get from folks who read our newsletters, Special Health Reports, books, and online health information indicates we are on the right […]

Echinacea for colds

Does echinacea, the popular natural cold remedy, really work? It depends on what you mean by “work.” Results reported in today’s Annals of Internal Medicine found that echinacea may reduce the length of a weeklong cold by 7 to 10 hours and make symptoms a little less onerous. That can’t be characterized as a major effect, so many people may figure that […]

The safety of painkillers

Perhaps as many as one in every 5 American adults will get a prescription for a painkiller this year, and many more will buy over-the-counter medicines without a prescription. These drugs can do wonders—getting rid of pain can seem like a miracle—but sometimes there’s a high price to be paid. Remember the heavily marketed COX-2 inhibitors? Rofecoxib, sold as Vioxx, […]

A Chia Pet for diabetes?

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified […]

Decline in stroke deaths reinforces importance of preventing “brain attack”

Stroke killed 2,000 fewer Americans in 2008 (the last year with complete numbers) than it did in 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said yesterday in its latest annual Deaths report. That dropped stroke from the third leading cause of death in the United States to the fourth. Good news? Yes and […]

New insights into treatment-resistant depression

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.  […]

Vitamin D recommendations

Vitamin D has been talked about as the vitamin — the one that might help fend off everything from cancer to heart disease to autoimmune disorders, if only we were to get enough of it. “Whoa!” is the message from a committee of experts assembled by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to update recommendations for vitamin D (and for calcium). […]

Laugh and be thankful—it’s good for the heart

One of the things I like most about Thanksgiving is the laughter around the dinner table. The food is great, make no mistake. But it’s the sounds of happiness—the high peal, the good-natured guffaw, the snort-and-shaking-shoulders, and the deep belly laugh—that really make me give thanks. Laughter isn’t just a way to stay connected with […]

More on Brain Injury in the NFL

If you watch football on Thanksgiving, keep the players’ brain health in mind. Alan Schwarz of the NY Times has been a dogged defensive end, in hot pursuit of this story. Read his latest contribution here. He points out that the National Football League (NFL) has been slow to assess penalties on players who take violent […]

This week from HHP: Health apps, office noise, and hemorrhoid cream for the eyes?

As usual, Harvard Health Publishing’ writers and editors have been busy covering a range of health topics. Here is a small sampling. To read more, visit us at www.health.harvard.edu. Health apps. Smart phones like the iPhone and Android aren’t just phones. They are also pocket-sized computers capable of running sophisticated applications, or apps. Hundreds of […]

Using the relaxation response to reduce stress

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified […]

Screening for lung cancer with CT scans

Lung cancer is usually discovered late when it’s difficult to treat and has often spread outside the lung. A reliable screening test to find it at an earlier, more treatable stage would be a legitimate breakthrough—and could potentially save thousands of lives. About 160,000 Americans die each year from lung cancer, which is more than who die from breast, prostate, and […]

Explosion in diabetes isn’t inevitable

You can fight diabetes, one step at a time. An alarming new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in three Americans could have diabetes by the year 2050. The number is “just” one in ten now, and its price tag of nearly $200 billion per year is already straining […]

Halloween candy

Trick or treat? It’s really a rhetorical question. They just want the Halloween candy. Millions of American children will get billions of sugar- and fat-laden treats on Sunday night in a tradition that has its roots in pagan and Christian rituals. It’s fun. The kids are outside, walking. And, gosh, they’re cute in their princess and pirate costumes. But nutritionally and dentally speaking, the […]

This week from HHP: The science of fright

Crisp autumn weather, flickering jack-o-lanterns, costumed children trick-or-treating—and a good fright or two—make for a great Halloween. What is it about getting scared by a haunted house, a roller coaster, or a bungee jump that some people find exhilarating and others find downright frightening? It could be how you are wired, writes Dr. Robert Shmerling […]

Painkillers and drug addiction: An ongoing dilemma

On October 16, 1846, Dr. John Collins Warren, a renowned surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, removed a tumor from a printer named Gilbert Abbott. The operation was noteworthy for one reason: Abbott did not scream out in pain, as virtually every surgical patient did in those days. The age of anesthesia was born. A Boston […]

Why eating slowly may help you feel full faster

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified […]

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