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.

Kids and flu shots: Two common myths

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

“Last time I got the flu shot, it actually made me sick!” “My kids are perfectly healthy. They’ll be fine.” You’ve probably heard a version of these two before. These flu shot myths are so persistent that they prevent countless numbers of people from getting vaccinated each year. We’ve debunked these claims here to help you make your flu shot decision based on facts — not myths.

If you think you’re depressed, don’t wait — find out

Michael Craig Miller, M.D.
Michael Craig Miller, M.D., Senior Editor, Mental Health Publishing, Harvard Health Publications

October 8, 2015 is National Depression Screening Day, which is the embodiment of Dr. Douglas Jacobs’s belief that screening for mental disorders should be no different than screening for other physical illnesses. If you think that you may be suffering from depression, take the first step and find out. Treatment can improve your mood, help you feel more connected, and feel more like yourself again.

Healthy, convenient meals on the go: Yes, you can

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Today’s world runs at a hectic pace. To keep up, more and more people are turning to convenience foods — but many of these are high in calories, sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats. The good news is that healthy convenience foods are out there, and you can find them if you’re willing to spend a few minutes reading ingredient labels. Other ideas for enjoying home-cooked meals in short order include using canned or frozen fruits, vegetables, or seafood in your next recipe, as well as planning meals ahead and cooking in batches.

Too little sleep and too much weight: a dangerous duo

Stuart Quan, MD
Stuart Quan, MD, Contributing Editor

Americans are sleeping less and weighing more. Science tells us this is no coincidence. Inadequate sleep can contribute to weight gain in several ways, including altering levels of the hormones that control appetite and fullness and setting off a chain reaction of poor habits that can increase the risk of weight gain and obesity. Sleep is proving to be as important to health as good nutrition and regular exercise.

A mindful worker is a happier worker

Ronald Siegel, PsyD
Ronald Siegel, PsyD, Contributing Editor

The mental health benefits of mindfulness meditation include greater engagement in your daily activities and a more positive outlook — which can in turn improve your concentration and sense of well-being. But can mindfulness practice really help employees’ mental health? A recent study says yes. Workers participating in mindfulness training found they experienced less stress, anxiety, and depression; improved sleep; fewer aches and pains; and fewer problems getting along with others.

Low-nicotine cigarettes may help determined smokers cut back

Mallika Marshall, MD
Mallika Marshall, MD, Contributing Editor

A study examining the effects of low-nicotine cigarettes on smoking behavior yielded surprising results. The study volunteers who smoked the low-nicotine cigarettes actually smoked less and had fewer cigarette cravings than those who smoked cigarettes with a higher level of nicotine. Although more research is needed before we can draw any conclusions, it’s possible that very-low-nicotine cigarettes might be a way to mitigate the health dangers of smoking for people determined not to quit.

Overweight children are at risk for heart disease as adults

Nandini Mani, MD
Nandini Mani, MD, Contributing Editor

In a recent study of nearly 9,000 overweight and obese children and teens, doctors found that these young people had concerning blood pressure readings and worrisome cholesterol and blood sugar levels. In adults, such test results suggest a much higher risk for heart disease — so they are of particularly great concern in children. The good news is that with help and support, kids can lose weight — the results are a healthier, happier childhood and a greater chance of a healthier, longer adult life.

How well does calcium intake really protect your bones?

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

How much calcium do you really need for strong, healthy bones? The answer isn’t as clear as we once thought. Recent analyses suggest that neither dietary calcium nor calcium supplements reduce the risk of fractures. In the absence of a clear deficiency, it’s impossible to know how exactly much calcium a person needs. Ideally, you should get most of your calcium through food. Be sure you’re getting adequate vitamin D as well.

Why some parents don’t follow the “safe sleep” recommendations for babies

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

The very thought of losing a baby to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is terrifying. Safer sleeping practices for infants have greatly reduced the number of babies lost to SIDS, but many parents are unclear on the reasons behind these recommendations and therefore often don’t follow them. The safest way to put your baby to bed is: on the back; in a crib, minus blankets, bumpers, and stuffed animals; and with a pacifier. Another critical factor is maintaining a smoke-free home and family.

“Not Again!” — When UTIs won’t quit at midlife

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

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur in women of all ages. Physical and hormonal changes can leave women at midlife particularly vulnerable. No woman should have to put up with the inconvenience and discomfort of recurrent UTIs. Self-help measures can be effective, but if they don’t do the trick, see your doctor. He or she can identify and treat any underlying problems and recommend other strategies to keep UTIs at bay.