Harvard Health Blog

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


Rising alcohol use among older adults

In recent years alcohol use by older adults has been trending upward, particularly among women. Drinking too much alcohol can have negative consequences on physical and mental health, and age-related changes in the body can place older adults who drink at additional risk.

Easily distracted? Try meditation

Attention control is an essential for time management and productivity, but to stay focused on a task, you need to be able to keep distractions from derailing your progress. Mindfulness meditation can calm a wandering mind, and can be used to train your brain to increase attention, focus, and concentration.

Harvard Health Ad Watch: Can a wearable device reduce stress?

Stress can affect sleep, mood, and appetite, and the long-term effects of chronic stress have been linked to health issues like cardiovascular disease, obesity, and Alzheimer's disease. A wearable device claims that it can reduce stress and build the wearer's resistance to stressful situations — but how does it work, and can any of its claims be proven?

Listening to your hunger cues

We've all had times when we have eaten more than our share of some unhealthy food. We know it's bad for us, but resisting feels impossible. The science of food cravings is complex, but often these urges happen not because we are hungry but because of some other emotion that triggers the brain's appetite signals. It's possible to change these patterns, but it's a challenge.

Does your child need to bathe every day?

Bathing daily is a habit for many people, but does it need to be for children, preteens, and teens? Not necessarily. Of course, it depends on what they have been doing and whether or not they are visibly dirty or stinky, but most don't need a top-to-toe daily scrub.

Can flavonoids help fend off forgetfulness?

Eating a broad variety of fruits and vegetables is a good way to get a sufficient intake of flavonoids, chemicals that contribute to many aspects of health. Now, a study suggests that flavonoid-rich foods may also play a role in protecting memory and thinking as people get older.

Can physical or cognitive activity prevent dementia?

The number of people worldwide with Alzheimer's disease is predicted to climb drastically in the coming decades. Is there anything people can do to protect their cognitive health? New evidence from two studies shows that cognitive and physical activities can make a real difference in delaying the onset of cognitive decline.

Wondering how much your medical care will cost? New rules could help

Even with insurance, the cost of a medical visit or procedure can be a mystery. Pricing varies widely depending on who your insurer is, which health plan you have, and exactly what that covers. Will new rules attempting to bring some transparency to the pricing structures of hospitals and other healthcare facilities help?

Long-lasting healthy changes: Doable and worthwhile

Abundant research shows that healthy lifestyle factors protect people against serious health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and more. Even small steps toward a healthier lifestyle can make a big difference in our lives––here's practical advice for making healthy changes stick.

The sore throat checklist: What parents need to know

Children get sore throats all the time — and most of the time they are nothing to worry about. But it is important for parents to know the common causes of sore throats, and to be aware that that certain instances are serious and should be seen by a doctor immediately.

A new treatment for obesity

A new medication for the treatment of obesity has been approved by the FDA, and it received significant media attention in the months leading up to its approval. A high-dose injectable hormone, it already existed in a different form as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, but in this form and dosage it has advantages over other available weight-loss medications, as well as its own potential risks.

Remember the flu? Yep, it's that time again

Last winter's flu season was mild, partly due to record high rates of flu vaccination and steps people were already taking to protect themselves from COVID-19. But don't let that fool you — some flu seasons are severe, so it it's wise to get a flu shot and take other precautions that can help you stay healthy this winter.

3 ways to build brain-boosting social connections

Most people know that as they age, they need to put effort into staying healthy by eating carefully, exercising, and getting enough sleep. But there is another element to healthy aging: keeping your mind engaged helps protect brain health, and one way to do that is by maintaining an active social life.

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.

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