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Harvard Health Blog

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


Using weight loss or sports supplements? Exercise caution

Published June 24, 2021

Magical claims are made in ads for dietary supplements marketed to enhance well-being and solve health problems. But the reality is that most do little or nothing to improve your health, and in some cases weight loss or sports supplements might actually harm you.

Not yet ready for cataract surgery? Try these tips

Published June 23, 2021
Cataracts often affect vision as people get older. The surgery is quick and effective, but most cataracts progress slowly, so in the early stages you may want to make some adjustments to your home and daily behavior to make living with cataracts easier.

Back to the future: Psychedelic drugs in psychiatry

Published June 22, 2021
There is a renewed interest in the potential for psychedelic drugs to be used for medical purposes in the treatment of a variety of psychiatric conditions. Broadly, these drugs are able to induce altered thoughts and sensory perceptions, and research has found them to be beneficial in treating depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and they can also be helpful for some people in end-of-life situations.

Children not yet vaccinated against COVID-19? What to do

Published June 21, 2021
Now that many people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, it feels like things are starting to return to something resembling normal. But because the vaccines have not yet been approved for those under 12, families with children under this age need to be careful and thoughtful as they plan summer activities.

HIV rates rising: Could new forms of PrEP help?

Published June 18, 2021
Last year, approximately 1.7 million new HIV infections occurred worldwide, and rates of infection are also rising in parts of the US. While a daily pill known as PrEP can help prevent HIV, two new formulations could make it easier for a broader range of at-risk people to use.

Careful! Scary health news can be harmful to your health

Published June 17, 2021
A news story about a worrisome or life-threatening ailment might get you thinking about your own health, especially if you happen to have some of the same symptoms. But dramatic or unusual medical stories can bias your thinking and even negatively affect your health decision-making.

Post-pandemic weight loss: There’s an app for that

Published June 16, 2021

There are a myriad of apps and programs designed to help people lose weight, but many companies are offering products that go beyond traditional food tracking, taking a mindfulness-based approach to help people understand why they eat the way they do, and how to make beneficial changes to their eating routine.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia by telemedicine: Is it as good as in-person treatment?

Published June 15, 2021
Chronic insomnia affects between 10% and 15% of adults in the US. A specific form of cognitive behavioral therapy for treatment of insomnia is becoming more accessible because it can be delivered remotely. A recent study investigated how this therapy delivered via telemedicine compared to the same form of therapy delivered in person.

Prediabetes diagnosis as an older adult: What does it really mean?

Published June 14, 2021

Prediabetes often precedes the development of type 2 diabetes, and in young and middle-aged people it’s important to identify prediabetes because it may be possible to prevent or delay the development of diabetes. Researchers wanted to know if the implications of being diagnosed with prediabetes are similar for older adults.

Is blood sugar monitoring without diabetes worthwhile?

Published June 11, 2021

Implantable blood sugar monitoring devices known as CGMs have revolutionized care for millions of people with diabetes. Now several companies are marketing them for people without diabetes to monitor blood sugar levels –– but is there any evidence for health benefits?

Large review study finds low risk of erectile dysfunction after prostate biopsy

Published June 10, 2021
Prostate cancer biopsies have a low risk of side effects, but some men do experience sexual dysfunction after the procedure. But a large review of sdudies has found that these issues usually resolve within one to three months.

Does exercise help protect against severe COVID-19?

Published June 9, 2021
A study examining data from a large health care provider on more than 48,000 people who had COVID-19 found that those were consistently inactive had a significantly higher risk of hospitalization or death, while those who engaged in more than 10 minutes of activity per week had some protection against severe illness or death, and people who were active for at least 150 minutes per week had the most protection.

A new Alzheimer’s drug has been approved. But should you take it?

Updated July 15, 2021
The FDA has granted accelerated approval to the first new drug in nearly two decades for Alzheimer’s disease. But there are potential side effects, and results of studies of this drug have been mixed. It is not yet known whether the drug truly works, or how effective it will be, so the approval is contingent on the drug’s maker conducting further studies over the next several years.

Need physical therapy? 3 key questions your PT will ask

Published June 7, 2021
Physical therapy can be helpful if you have an injury or a condition that affects mobility or is causing pain. But before you embark on a course of treatment, your physical therapist will ask crucial questions that will help shape your program.

COVID-19 vaccines: Safe and effective for American Indian and Alaskan Native communities

Published June 4, 2021
Concerns circulating about the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in American Indian/Alaskan Native communities, compared to the other available vaccines for COVID-19, have been answered by responses from medical professionals within the Indigenous population, as well as by statistics showing that all three vaccines are safe and effective in people of all races and ethnic backgrounds.

Should we track all breakthrough cases of COVID-19?

Published June 3, 2021

Despite the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines, a small number of people develop cases even after being fully vaccinated. Most of these "breakthrough" cases are mild or moderate, and the CDC has decided to track only the ones that require hospitalization, which has disadvantages.

Period equity: What it is and why it matters

Published June 1, 2021

Menstruation is a basic fact of human existence, yet millions of people in the US struggle to afford –– or can’t afford –– products like tampons and pads, a problem known as period poverty. Menstrual hygiene products are necessities, not luxuries, and period equity addresses this.

Common questions about medical cannabis

Published May 28, 2021
While cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, more than two-thirds of US states have made it partly or fully legal for medical purposes. People who decide to use marijuana for a medical condition often have questions about its safety and proper use — the same considerations doctors weigh when determining whether it should be prescribed for a particular patient.

Mouth-watering summer fruits and vegetables to fill your plate

Published May 27, 2021
Summer is the perfect time to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your meals. Packed with health-promoting nutrients, many can be prepared without needing to use your stove or oven. And there are lots of ways to use them besides just making salads.

Pregnancy problems may predict heart health decades later

Published May 26, 2021
Growing evidence suggests women who experience certain health complications during pregnancy face a higher risk for cardiovascular disease later in life, such as heart attack and narrowing arteries. Lifestyle changes can help.

The pandemic isn’t over — particularly for people with disabilities

Published May 25, 2021
While the pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives, its effects on the lives of people with disabilities are especially evident. And COVID-19 may pose a greater risk to some people with intellectual and physical disabilities, though this may depend on a variety of factors.

Sleep to solve a problem

Published May 24, 2021
Are you the sort of person who gets into bed and fixates on a problem or an interaction you may have had that day? It's better to let your thoughts go and try to fall asleep — even though that might not be easy — because our brains are made to process and synthesize information while we are sleeping.

Sickle cell disease: Ways to help teens and parents

Published May 21, 2021
Children with sickle cell disease are at higher risk for many health problems and possible complications get more serious as children grow into adults. Here are ways for parents to support teens with SCD in learning to take care of themselves.

Harvard Health Ad Watch: Aches, pains, and muscle cramps — do well-advertised remedies actually work?

Published May 19, 2021

Several heavily-advertised products that are applied to the skin claim to relieve muscle or joint pain, but are not regulated by the FDA, and none of them offers any solid scientific evidence to back up their claims. So are they worth trying?

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