Harvard Health Blog

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

Articles

How much sleep do you actually need?

Just how many hours of sleep are enough for you? The answer varies and it might be better to track sleep quality than focus on the number of hours you log each night.

FDA approves new surgical treatment for enlarged prostates

A transurethral resection of the prostate is considered the gold-standard treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia. But newer, less invasive procedures offer faster recovery times and fewer risks of complications. Earlier this year another new procedure won the FDA's approval.

Kidneys, eyes, ears, and more: Why do we have a spare?

The human body has excess capacity — that is, our organs have more reserve than most of us will ever need. Why are we built with this natural redundancy? And which body parts can safely fail or be removed without impairing health?

Produce prescriptions may promote better heart health

The typical American diet isn't very healthy, and dietary shortfalls are more pronounced among people living in lower-income neighborhoods. A study analyzing data from produce prescription programs suggests that improving access to fresh vegetables and fruits may improve heart health.

Rare and often aggressive, Merkel cell cancer is best caught early

Merkel cell cancer is a rare form of skin cancer that often spreads aggressively to other areas of the body. Here's what to know about it, including who is more likely to get it and how you can take steps to help prevent it.

Which skin creams are most effective for eczema?

A common form of eczema called atopic dermatitis can interfere with daily activities. There are a number of prescription creams available to ease this chronic skin condition, but some are more effective than others, and a recent study compared them.

Wondering what your lymph nodes have done for you lately?

The human body has hundreds of lymph nodes, one part of the immune system that helps defend the body against health threats. They aren't usually noticeable, but they are always working to deal with potential health problems.

Navigating middle school is tough: How parents can help

Middle school can be challenging for many students, with increased time demands, more homework, and social situations to navigate. What can parents do to support their kids and strengthen family bonds during this period in their lives?

Is online gambling harming you?

Online gambling is a popular and growing business, but for millions of Americans, what begins as occasional fun can lead to devastating problems. Trouble with gambling often builds gradually and severe gambling problems share risk factors with substance-related disorders.

Fall shots: Who's most vulnerable to RSV, COVID, and the flu?

Learn which vaccines can help protect you against serious illness and hospitalization from RSV, COVID, and the flu this fall.

 

Got immunity? Thank your thymus

The thymus gland is very important in the development of the immune system during fetal growth, infancy, and early childhood. As we grow into adulthood the thymus shrinks, but growing evidence suggests the gland may play a role in adult health for much longer than previously thought.

When — and how — should you be screened for colon cancer?

In the US population as a whole, deaths from colon cancer have been declining, but in people under 50 that rate has increased. Most major medical organizations recommend screening beginning at age 45 for people at average risk.

7 organs or glands you may do just fine without

Removing tonsils in childhood was once routine care for healthy children, but is no longer recommended. Why are some organs and glands — appendix, tonsils, adenoids and more — considered expendable and why do we have them if they're not needed?

What color is your tongue? What's healthy, what's not?

The tongue's appearance gives doctors an idea about certain aspects of your health, and its color is an important clue. Some changes in the tongue's color or appearance are signs of health issues and should be seen by a doctor.

Immune boosts or busts? From IV drips and detoxes to superfoods

Ads for products that promise to supercharge the body's immune system make claims that sound too good to be true. But do these products actually work? 

The new RSV shot for babies: What parents need to know

RSV is a common virus that just causes cold symptoms for most people. But for infants up to eight months, and for babies and young children with certain health problems, it can be very dangerous. A new immune-boosting shot may help.

Dealing with thick, discolored toenails

Nail fungal infections affect up to 14% of the adult population. While completely curing these infections is difficult, the right treatments can discourage the problem from spreading and make your nails look better.

Prostate cancer: A new type of radiation treatment limits risk of side effects

A new technique for prostate cancer treatment can limit side effects from radiation therapy. It relies on specialized types of medical imaging scans that allow doctors to visualize the cancer during treatment.

Harvard Health Ad Watch: Why are toilets everywhere in this drug ad?

An ad for a medication featuring a person sitting on a toilet in multiple settings is eye-catching, but as with most drug ads, it doesn't provide some important information — such as common symptoms of the condition the drug is meant to treat.

Chronic stomach pain in children: What's the most common cause?

Mind and body are tightly connected. If a child experiences stomach pain lasting two months or more, it may be functional abdominal pain caused by stress, depression, or anxiety. While common, this is challenging to diagnose and treat.

Monitoring blood pressure at home? Make sure you follow these steps

Your doctor may ask you to track your blood pressure at home to help decide if you need to start taking medication or to track your response to treatment. Here's how to get accurate readings.

Heat rash: How to spot it and what to do

Lingering heat waves have brought warnings about recognizing and preventing heat-related illnesses. Heat rash, while not dangerous itself, can signal heat exposure that may lead to more serious conditions. Here's how to avoid and treat it.

Leprosy in Florida: How worried should we be?

News coverage of a case of leprosy in central Florida may have made it seem like there is an increased threat the disease would spread. Misconceptions about this disease have persisted for a long time, but the facts are reassuring.

Validation: Defusing intense emotions

Validation is a valuable communication technique that can help people feel heard and understood. When used correctly it helps us understand  another person's feelings and establishes trust, particularly in situations with heightened emotions.

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