Archive for April, 2011

Get rid of your old drugs this Saturday

Patrick J. Skerrett, Executive Editor, Harvard Health

Is your medicine cabinet, refrigerator, or pill drawer overflowing with unused or expired medications? Don’t know how to get rid of them? Hand them over tomorrow (Saturday, April 30) as part of the second National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. From 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, you can bring your old prescription and over-the-counter drugs to one of 5,300 sites across the country. Last year’s program collected more than 242,000 pounds of drugs. If you miss the program, this article offers tips from the FDA on the safest ways to get rid of old and unused medications.

Peter Wehrwein

How to survive a tornado

Peter Wehrwein, Contributor, Harvard Health

The storms that have recently ripped through the South included dozens of tornadoes. And as the bad weather barreled north today, the National Weather Service declared a tornado watch for eastern parts South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, and warned of severe weather as far north as Boston. Strong wind from any sort of severe weather can wreak havoc, but the speed and spinning winds of a tornado are especially destructive. In most years, tornadoes kill about 60 Americans, about the same number killed by lightning strikes. But this is not going to be an average year. The death toll from the terrible storms in the South is approaching 300 and the number is climbing. Advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center can help you survive a tornado if one is headed your way.

Harvard 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating goes live! You can participate, too

Two volunteers are testing the new “Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating.” This plan offers week-by-week steps to help you analyze your diet, establish goals for healthy meals and snacks, and incorporate practical changes to make your healthy diet a reality. Each week builds on what you accomplished in the previous weeks. At the end, you’ll have made important changes that can last a lifetime. Tonya Phillips and Helen Hoart share their experience from Week 1 of the 6-week plan.

Peter Wehrwein

Kate Middleton’s pre-royal weight loss: stress, “brideorexia,” or the Dukan Diet?

Peter Wehrwein, Contributor, Harvard Health

One of many hot topics about the upcoming royal wedding of Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton is whether Middleton has lost too much weight in preparing for the ceremony. Prevailing theories about Middleton’s presumptive weight loss include stress, “brideorexia,” and a popular French diet. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein discusses all three possibilities.

Is fructose bad for you?

Patrick J. Skerrett, Executive Editor, Harvard Health

High-fructose corn syrup has been blamed for causing the paired epidemics of obesity and diabetes that have swept the U.S. and many other parts of the world. The real problem may be fructose, warned Dr. Robert H. Lustig, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, in a talk at Harvard School of Public Health. Fructose, sometimes called fruit sugar, is just as abundant in refined sugar as it is in high-fructose corn syrup. When the liver metabolizes fructose, it makes triglycerides (a form of fat) and can lead to insulin resistance, a precursor of diabetes. Although researchers haven’t completely connected all the dots between high intake of fructose from sugared soft drinks, juices, and sugar-sweetened foods and the onset of diseases like diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, the findings so far offer another reason to limit sugary beverages and foods.

Julie Corliss

Try exercise to ease arthritis pain, stiffness

Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

If you have arthritis, exercise can help keep your joints mobile and your muscles strong. Swimming and other water-based exercise are especially good because they’re easy on the joints. Harvard Health editor Julie Corliss discusses ways in which exercise can help you cope with—and even improve the symptoms of—arthritis.

Kay Cahill Allison

Good planning is a recipe for home-cooking success

Kay Cahill Allison, Former Editor, Harvard Health

It’s so easy to pick up fast food or take out food that no one really needs to cook anymore. That’s great if you’re short on time, but not so great if your goal is healthy eating. The Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating offers tips for planning and preparing healthy food at home.

Harvey B. Simon, M.D.

Belly fat is the shape of cardiovascular risk

Harvey B. Simon, M.D., Editor, Harvard Health

Extra fat that accumulates around the abdomen goes by many names: beer belly, spare tire, love handles, apple shape, middle-age spread, and the more technical “abdominal obesity.” No matter what the name, it is the shape of risk.

Peter Wehrwein

How Boston Marathon runners can avoid hitting the wall

Peter Wehrwein, Contributor, Harvard Health

Perhaps up to 40% of runners in tomorrow’s Boston Marathon will end up “hitting the wall,” notes Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein. This means that their bodies have run out of the carbohydrates needed to sustain intense physical activities like long-distance running. But one Harvard/MIT student and marathon runner has developed an online tool that allows runners to calculate just how many extra calories they should get from high-carbohydrate food or drink before a marathon to avoid hitting the wall.

Peter Wehrwein

Statin use is up, cholesterol levels are down: Are Americans’ hearts benefiting?

Peter Wehrwein, Contributor, Harvard Health

The latest annual snapshot of health in America, a report called Health, United States, 2010 offers hours of browsing and food for thought for anyone interested in health trends. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein connects the dots between use of cholesterol-lowering statins and fewer deaths from heart disease.