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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.

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Resistance bands: 3 great ways to build upper body strength

Published May 18, 2021
Resistance bands don’t look impressive, but they work muscles in different ways than other pieces of strength-building equipment. The bands offer varying levels of resistance, can be used to strengthen a variety of muscle groups, and may be easier to use for some people.

American Heart Association issues statement on cardiovascular side effects from hormonal therapy for prostate cancer

Published May 18, 2021
The American Heart Association issued a statement addressing cardiovascular risks from hormonal therapy for prostate cancer, emphasizing the need to identify men with pre-existing cardiac risk factors or a family history of cardiovascular diseases who should be monitored closely during treatment.

More movement, better memory

Published May 17, 2021
Regular exercise is known to boost cognitive function and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. This protection occurs because the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory) is especially sensitive to the effects of exercise. A study investigated whether older adults who participated in an exercise program could improve nerve connections in their brains.

Improving access to hearing aids

Updated May 14, 2021
Many people who need hearing aids do not have them, and while there are a variety of reasons for this, cost is a significant factor for many people. The US government is in the process of establishing regulations for the over-the-counter sale of hearing aids for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, which should help to make them easier and less expensive to obtain.

Can mindfulness change your brain?

Updated May 13, 2021
A lot has been written about the benefits of mindfulness, but does it actually work? Can it produce detectable changes in the brain? Researchers in Australia investigated whether mindfulness training improved a person’s ability to pay attention

Five lifestyle factors that can help prevent gastroesophageal reflux disease

Updated May 12, 2021
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a common condition that affects approximately one out of every five people in the western world. Despite the effectiveness of medications, there are concerns about the long-term effects of some of these drugs. A recent study identified five lifestyle factors that can affect the chance of developing GERD.

Transient ischemic attacks: Varied symptoms, all important

Updated May 11, 2021
A transient ischemic attack is a temporary change in nerve function due to disrupted blood flow. It may affect speech, vision, or movement for a short time, and is considered a warning sign for a stroke. Some symptoms of a TIA may go unnoticed, so knowing all the signs could help you recognize a risk factor for an imminent stroke.

5 inflammation-fighting food swaps

Updated May 10, 2021

Inflammation can be a beneficial sign that the body’s immune system is fighting an infection, but it can also linger over time, damaging the body. There is evidence that eating a diet heavy in foods that promote inflammation can increase the risk for certain health problems, and also that a healthy diet can reduce inflammation.

Is IBD an underrecognized health problem in minority groups?

Updated May 7, 2021

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a treatable condition once considered a disease that largely affects people who are white, although in recent years it has been diagnosed more often in other racial and ethnic groups, in the US and around the world. Recognizing this condition early can make a difference in care and quality of life.

Sickle cell disease in newborns and children: What families should know and do

Updated May 6, 2021

Millions of people around the world have sickle cell disease, a genetic condition that can cause pain and damage to organs or tissues, and can make children more susceptible to other health problems. In the US, most cases are diagnosed through screening in newborns. Getting connected to the proper care early in a child’s life can help prevent complications from the disease.

COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens: What we do — and don’t — know

Updated May 5, 2021

Every day, more and more adults are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, helping us build toward herd immunity. But what about children and teens? What is the status of research on the vaccines in these groups, and when might vaccines be available for them?

Happy trails: Take a hike, now

Updated May 4, 2021

After too much time spent indoors (and probably less active than is healthy), getting outside and taking a hike is a great way to get some exercise while enjoying nature. But before you hit the trail, make sure you’re well prepared.

Sleep well — and reduce your risk of dementia and death

Published May 3, 2021

Although it has been known for some time that individuals with dementia frequently have poor, fragmented sleep, two new studies suggest that if you don’t get enough sleep in midlife, you are at increased risk for dementia later in life.

COVID-19 vaccines and the LGBTQ+ community

Updated May 1, 2021

A history of discrimination in multiple settings, including health care, may make some people who identify as LGBTQ+ hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine, even though the virus has disproportionately harmed this community. If you're struggling to make a decision, this may help you consider benefits and risks.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome and the skin

Updated April 29, 2021

Polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common cause of infertility in women. In many cases, women with PCOS have skin and hair issues such as acne, hair loss, or excessive hair growth in places where they normally do not have hair. Treatment options vary depending on the symptoms and each woman’s preferences.

Dental appliances for sleep apnea: Do they work?

Updated April 28, 2021

Obstructive sleep apnea leaves people tired, but also puts them at risk for other health problems. Not everyone with sleep apnea can use an airway pressure machine, and some may simply prefer not to. There are oral appliances available, but are they effective?

Terrified of needles? That can affect your health

Published April 27, 2021

No one likes being stuck by a needle, and it’s not unusual for a person to be afraid of needles. If it’s serious enough, this phobia can affect quality of life and overall health — an especially important concern with vaccination available for COVID-19. But there are ways to cope with the problem.

Life expectancy: How can we address uneven declines?

Updated March 31, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic helped lower life expectancy among all individuals in the US, and this impact has been worse in communities of color. Longstanding systemic failings lead to worse quality of life and poorer health in these communities, but we can all take steps to improve this situation.

Edibles and children: Poison center calls rise

Updated April 23, 2021

As more states have legalized the use of marijuana and products derived from it, more children are being exposed. Children can’t be trusted not to eat appealing-looking food items they may find, so it’s up to adults to take precautions and make sure edibles are stored where children can’t find them.

Pills and the planet: Environmentally-friendly steps for your medicine cabinet

Published April 22, 2021

The key factor causing climate change is greenhouse gas emissions, and the health care industry plays a significant role, with drugs and chemicals being the biggest contributor. While the benefits of medications to the world can’t be overstated, here’s how to balance the need for them with concern for the environment.

Diet, disease, and the microbiome

Published April 21, 2021

A healthy microbiome — the genes of tiny organisms living in the digestive tract — helps protect its human host from chronic diseases. Researchers do not yet fully understand the connection, but it appears that eating unprocessed plant-based foods allows the gut microbiome to thrive.

Want healthy eyes? What to know at 40 and beyond

Published April 20, 2021

While eye problems can affect people of any age, some conditions become more common after age 40. Some are normal, or at least expected; others are of greater concern and will require treatment. Here’s how to keep your eyes healthy and address certain problems.

Could COVID-19 infection be responsible for your depressed mood or anxiety?

Updated May 25, 2021
We are still learning about the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the brain, but we know that the pandemic has resulted in worsening mental health for many people. A new study confirmed that COVID-19 infection increased the risk of developing psychiatric disorders.

Are antidepressants also pain relievers?

Published April 16, 2021

Antidepressant medications are frequently prescribed for chronic pain, particularly neck or low back pain and certain types of arthritis — though other treatments are usually tried first. An analysis of past research considered how effective antidepressants are for these types of pain, but the results are not encouraging.

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