Harvard Health Blog

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


Grandparenting: Ready to move for family?

The desire to be closer to children and grandchildren leads many older adults to consider relocating to different parts of the country. But such a move is not possible for everyone, and not advisable for some. Before exploring relocation, take time to consider the all implications — as well as your children's feelings on the subject.

Wondering about COVID-19 vaccines if you're breastfeeding?

If you're breastfeeding, you may have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines. Experts agree that people who are breastfeeding should receive the vaccine to help them and their baby stay healthy. Get informed by consulting trusted health sources, and talking with your medical providers about your options.

Ban on harmful pesticide: What parents need to know

After two decades of concern, and mounting evidence of its harm to young children, the FDA has banned the pesticide chlorpyrifos from use on food. But it's important to remember that chemicals are everywhere, and there are other steps all parents should take to protect their children from exposure to potentially harmful products and substances.

A different nonhormonal birth control option

Last year the FDA approved a hormone-free birth control option called Phexxi. It's a contraceptive gel that changes the pH of the vagina to help immobilize sperm, rather than a spermicide. How effective is it, what are the possible side effects, and which other available birth control options could you consider?

Tooth loss truth: It's no longer about the tooth fairy

Older Americans are keeping their teeth longer, but the prevalence of tooth loss is higher among people with chronic disease or overall worse health. However, loss of a tooth can also result from tooth decay, periodontal infection, or accidental trauma. Aside from accidents, most people should be able to prevent tooth loss by following good oral care habits.

Unvaccinated and misunderstood? Let's talk

As the pandemic drags on, it feels like the US has stalled on vaccinations. COVID hospitalizations and deaths are rising again and people on both sides of the vaccine divide seem frustrated or worse. A recent survey suggests ways to address some obstacles and push for solutions that address a range of concerns.

Level of health literacy affects treatment choice for slow-growing prostate cancer

A genetic test that provides an assessment of how aggressive a man's prostate cancer is and how likely it is to spread within his body. A new study has investigated for the first time how results of this test are impacting treatment decisions — with surprising results.

Supporting a bullied middle schooler

When children reach middle school, bullying can become more personal as classmates play a bigger role in their lives. Learning to deal with unpleasant emotions is an important part of adolescent development, and parents can help children in this situation by validating their child's feelings and working with them on antibullying techniques.

FDA approves new autism diagnostic aid

If a child exhibits signs of autism spectrum disorder, it's very important to obtain a diagnosis as quickly as possible because treatment is more successful if started earlier in a child's development. But the diagnostic process involves lengthy assessments, and the wait for an evaluation can be long. A new device that aims to accelerate the process has been approved by the FDA.

Does HIPAA prohibit questions about vaccination?

Privacy rules described in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prevent disclosure of certain health information to unauthorized people without your permission. Here are the basics on what HIPAA does and doesn't allow –– including whether it's legal to ask and answer questions about COVID-19 vaccination status.

Back-to-school in 2021: Keeping children safe and well

As another school year in the shadow of COVID-19 begins and the Delta variant surges, once again parents are concerned about how their children will be affected. National, state, and local guidelines continue to evolve, but the overarching goal is to return to full-time, in-person learning for students wherever possible.

Tempted to have genetic testing? First ask why

Several companies promote at-home genetic testing to uncover a range of potential health problems (and, in some cases, ancestry traits). Just how useful is this and how do such tests differ from genetic testing a doctor may recommend for medical reasons?

Looking out for diverticulitis

More than half of US adults over 60 have diverticulosis, a condition where part of the wall of the colon bulges outward and forms tiny pouches. Diverticulosis does not cause symptoms, but if a pouch becomes inflamed or infected it becomes diverticulitis, which can be mild or more serious.

Air pollution: How to reduce harm to your health

Some air pollution levels have inched up in recent years, and accumulating evidence suggests that higher levels of particulates in the air are linked with increased levels of hospitalization for many serious health problems. But we can make choices to help both the environment and our health.

Aortic stenosis: Do health disparities affect treatment?

Aortic stenosis is the narrowing of the aortic valve in the heart, which can lead to heart failure if the problem is not identified and treated. Unfortunately, research shows that inequities exist in access to proper diagnosis and care for this condition. Understanding how stenosis is identified and treated can help you receive good care.

The endocannabinoid system: Essential and mysterious

Though recently discovered, the endocannabinoid system regulates and controls many of our critical bodily functions. Researchers are investigating the ECS's role in learning and memory and in hunger, hoping that these avenues of research may lead to new drug discoveries.

Bugs are biting: Safety precautions for children

Usually biting bugs are just a nuisance that goes with being outdoors in warm weather. But sometimes insect bites can lead to illnesses like Lyme disease, Zika, or West Nile virus. To prevent bug bites, take simple precautions and learn how to choose and safely use insect repellents on children and yourself.

Time to hire a caregiver? 3 tips to help

If you are facing physical or cognitive challenges, hiring caregivers to come into your home can be an effective way to continue living independently. It's not always easy having new people coming into your home, but there are things you can do to adjust to the changes.

Extreme heat: Staying safe if you have health issues

Climate change has made life-threatening heat waves increasingly common across the globe. Anyone with health issues will have a more difficult time in extreme heat, including older people and people with diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and other conditions. Be prepared by knowing how to identify and treat heat-related illness, and how to plan for hot days.

Tick season is expanding: Protect yourself against Lyme disease

With ticks thriving in a wider geographic range, appearing earlier and sticking around later, it's important to stay vigilant about protecting yourself against ticks that cause Lyme disease and other illnesses. Learn some steps you can take to avoid tick bites.

Heart disease risk: Partnering on lifestyle change can help

For people who have risk factors for heart disease, it's important to make lifestyle changes like losing weight, getting more exercise, and eating a healthier diet. Longstanding habits are hard to change, but managing the challenge of healthy eating is easier if people have a partner who is supportive and involved in making food choices.

Can wearing contacts harm your vision?

Millions of people wear contact lenses, and with proper use and care they are very safe. However, sleeping with lenses in that are not specifically intended for extended wear can increase the risk of infection in the eye's cornea.

Vegan and paleo: Pluses and minuses to watch

Strict vegan and paleo eating patterns seem to be at opposite ends of the diet spectrum. Both can offer health benefits, though it's wise to understand the nutritional gaps left by each approach due to excluded food groups and consider five principles that will make any eating plan you choose nutritionally sound.

Postpartum anxiety is invisible, but common and treatable

It's not unusual for women to feel down or depressed after giving birth, but if the feelings persist or become debilitating, it's cause for concern. Many of the symptoms overlap between postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, but some women do not respond as well to some treatments for depression, so it's important to establish the correct diagnosis.

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