Archive for May, 2011

Guest Blogger

Testing the Harvard 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating: Making sense of snacks

Two volunteers testing the new “Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating” describe following Week 5 of the plan: Making sense of snacks. Both related the challenge of avoiding the bowl of M&Ms in the office. Tonya realized how many calories she got from snacking each day, while Helen made herself some simple rules, like planning her snacks and drinking water first if she thinks she’s hungry.

Christine Junge

How your friends make you fat—the social network of weight

One of the big health news stories of 2007 was a study showing that your friends influence your weight. A new study from Arizona State University suggests that this happens because people consciously and subconsciously change their habits to mirror those of their friends. Here’s an example: You’re at a restaurant with friends and the waiter brings over the dessert menu. Everyone else decides not to order anything, so you pass, too, even though you were dying for a piece of chocolate mousse cake. The study provides another motivation for making healthy diet choices—in addition to helping your weight, it could help your friends and family members weights, too.

Christine Junge

In case of zombie apocalypse, check with the CDC

Do you know how to protect yourself and your family during a zombie attack? If not, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help. In addition to information on how to prepare for emergencies from anthrax to wildfires, the CDC Web site has added a page on dealing with a zombie apocalypse. […]

Guest Blogger

Testing the Harvard 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating: Making dinner a winner

Two volunteers testing the new “Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating” describe following Week 4 of the plan: Make dinner a winner. Week 4 came at a tough time for Helen, since she had several business dinners. She describes how she navigated restaurant menus and big portions in ways that fit the 6-Week Plan. Tonya, who often eats out, made a week’s worth of dinners and discovered that eating at the table, instead of in front of the television, has its rewards.

Patrick J. Skerrett

Study renews caution on painkiller use after heart attack

A new study linking painkiller use by heart attack survivors to increased risk of heart attack or death generated some pretty scary headlines, like “NSAIDs following a heart attack greatly increase risk of a repeat heart attack” and “Painkillers risky for heart attack patients.” Although correct, they overstate the danger. Taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen, diclofenac, or Celebrex increased the chances of having a heart attack or dying from 3 to 4 per 10,000 people per year to 5 to 6 per 10,000 people per year. The results are in line with an American Heart Association recommendation to limit the use of NSAIDs if possible.

Patrick J. Skerrett

Gaining awareness about arthritis and its prevention

Many Americans are remarkably unaware and uninformed about arthritis, a disease that affects about one of every five U.S. adults. Arthritis runs under the public’s radar because it isn’t a killer like heart disease and cancer. Yet it can take a huge toll on the quality of life through the pain and problems it causes. Arthritis is often viewed as an inevitable part of growing old. But it isn’t—there are many things you can do to keep your joints healthy. If you do have joint pain, a new Special Health Report from Harvard Health Publications called Arthritis: Keeping Your Joints Healthy, can help you manage your condition.

Guest Blogger

Testing the Harvard 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating: Reality strikes on the Jersey Turnpike

Helen and Tonya, two volunteers testing the new “Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating,” share their experiences from week three, which focuses on healthier lunches. Helen writes about trouble finding healthy lunch options at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, and the importance of planning for lunch the day before. Tonya relied on salads, with one small break–a bit of fried calamari she purloined from a lunch buddy.

Suzanne Rose

Surprising findings on omega-3 fats, trans fats, and prostate cancer risk

A new study challenges the conventional wisdom that heart-healthy omega-3 fats from fish, walnuts, and other sources are good for the prostate and that artery-damaging trans fats are bad for it. Suzanne Rose, editor of Harvard Health’s Annual Report on Prostate Diseases, explains.

Guest Blogger

Testing the Harvard 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating: Week 2 — Longing for bacon but eating mindfully

Two volunteers testing the new “Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating” share their experiences from week two. Helen Hoart writes about her efforts to eat more mindfully and to have a healthy breakfast every day. Tonya Phillips regretted starting week two on Easter Sunday. She talks about her efforts to swap a breakfast bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich for multi-grain toast and some fruit or toast and oatmeal with fruit, as well as getting more exercise by walking up and down the stairs at work.

Patrick J. Skerrett

Does eating less salt lead to heart disease? New JAMA study is more wishful thinking than a diet changer

A new study from Europe published in the May 4 Journal of the American Medical Association shows that taking in less salt may increase the risk of heart disease and has little effect on the development of high blood pressure. The findings contradict results of many other studies showing that less salt prevents heart disease. Flaws in the new study, from the young age of the participants to the small number of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems that occurred over the course of the study, suggest that it is not a game changer. If you are leery about the low-salt message for whatever reason, there are other ways to keep your blood pressure in check, like more exercise, weight loss, and following a diet like the DASH diet.