Harvard Health Blog

Join the discussion with experts from Harvard Health Publications and others like you on a variety of health topics, medical news and views.

Taking advantage of incidental findings

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

As imaging tests like CT scans and MRIs have become more commonplace, so have incidental findings — abnormalities picked up by the test that weren’t what the test was looking for. In some cases, such as finding calcium deposits in the blood vessels during a routine mammogram, these findings may lead to earlier, potentially lifesaving, treatment for another condition. But in many other cases, these “incidentalomas” are more stressful than helpful.

An easy way to eat healthier this summer: Find a farmers’ market

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Farmers’ Markets hold many benefits for you and your community. The produce is fresher, and there are no “center” aisles to tempt your sweet tooth. Many farmers’ markets even offer cooking classes to increase your dinnertime variety. Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health saw a decrease in soda consumption and an increase in vegetable consumption among those who frequented farmers’ markets this past year.

Progesterone supplements don’t help prevent miscarriage

Hope Ricciotti, MD
Hope Ricciotti, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Miscarriages can be devastating — especially for women who experience recurrent miscarriage, defined as three or more in a row. Doctors used to give these women supplements of progesterone, a hormone that helps maintain a healthy pregnancy. However, a recent study has confirmed that these supplements don’t improve pregnancy outcomes. For those who experience recurrent miscarriage, the best solution may be to simply keep trying.

Can super-sizing start with baby bottles?

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Research suggests that super-sizing our meals doesn’t just create problems for adults–– when we increase the amount of food that infants and children eat, they gain weight. This weight gain during infancy can lead to over-weight children, and over-weight children are more likely to become over-weight adults. In order to make sure infants and children are a healthy weight, keeping the portion sizes kid-friendly is key.

Opiates no solution to back pain

Steven J. Atlas, MD, MPH

As the treatment for chronic pain morphs into more opiate prescriptions, the rate of addiction and its consequences continues to climb. This doesn’t mean we should stop treating pain or that everyone prescribed opiates will become addicted. But it should give us pause and make us realize that just taking a pill doesn’t fix chronic pain – and doing so cause harm us in the long run.

Your resting heart rate can reflect your current — and future — health

Matthew Solan
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

How many times your heart beats per minute when you’re resting — also known as your resting heart rate (RHR) — can provide important clues to your current overall health and even predict possible future health problems.

Farewell to the fasting cholesterol test?

Naomi D. L. Fisher, MD
Naomi D. L. Fisher, MD, Contributor

If you’ve ever fasted overnight before having blood drawn, you know how uncomfortable and inconvenient this can be. But for many people, fasting blood draws might be a thing of the past. Recent guidelines reinforce that fasting is not required to have your cholesterol levels checked. This move, along with the advent of a non-fasting test to monitor diabetes, means you might not have to skip breakfast before your next visit to the doctor.

Tai chi may be as good as physical therapy for arthritis-related knee pain

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Treatment options for osteoarthritis of the knee are limited, and many people turn to surgery as a last resort — so there’s a lot of interest in non-invasive treatments for this common condition. Researchers have just completed a head-to-head trial of standard physical therapy versus the traditional Chinese practice of tai chi, and they’ve found the latter is just as good as the former. If it’s something you’d like to try, go for it!

When treating stomach bugs, the best solution may be the simplest one

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

When your child has a stomach bug, it’s tempting to reach for over-the-counter oral rehydration solutions. After all, doctors have recommended them in the past. But a new study has revealed that most children don’t need them. In fact, juice diluted with water may be all your child needs.

When “life” gets in the way of good health

Lori Wiviott Tishler, MD, MPH
Lori Wiviott Tishler, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

As it turns out, the things your doctor spends so much time focusing on at your yearly check-up account for just 10% of your health needs. Over half of the total “picture” of your health comes from social, environmental, and behavioral factors. This means that people who have unmet environmental needs — such as being unable to afford healthy food — suffer real consequences to their physical health. We’ve described one initiative that aims to change that.