Archive for 2015

Yoga in pregnancy: Many poses are safer than once thought

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD
Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor

Yoga can help relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress, all of which are common during pregnancy. A new study shows that many yoga poses are safe for mothers-to-be and their babies. However, pregnant women should take certain precautions when doing yoga — for example, avoiding heated yoga classes and being careful not to over-stretch. It’s also important for pregnant women to check with their doctors to be sure there are no underlying health concerns before starting yoga.

Finding omega-3 fats in fish: Farmed versus wild

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Fatty fish are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But do is farm-raised salmon have a better or worse omega-3 level than wild-caught? While a recent study found that the omega-3 content of farm-raised salmon varies widely, the type of fish you choose probably isn’t as important as following the American Heart Association’s advice to eat two servings of fish a week, letting affordability and availability guide your choices.

Does fewer PSA tests mean less prostate cancer?

Charlie Schmidt
Charlie Schmidt, Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Disease

Fewer men are being given PSA tests to screen for prostate cancer. As screening rates have fallen, so have the number of prostate cancer diagnoses. This probably also means that fewer men are receiving potentially unnecessary treatment, with its attendant negative side effects. At the same time, it isn’t yet clear whether that comes at the cost of more aggressive cancers being caught at an incurable stage. Better screening tests may make the difference in helping strike the right balance between limiting harm and preventing prostate cancer deaths.

Holiday travels: Keeping kids safe and healthy

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

At this time of year, travel brings the opportunity to enjoy the company of family and friends or perhaps splurge on a “destination holiday.” If you’re planning to travel with children, a little preparation can go a long way toward making your trip memorable for all the right reasons. We’ve included our favorite tips for planning a trip with your children.

The “right” goal when managing pain

Robert R. Edwards, Ph.D.
Robert R. Edwards, Ph.D., Contributing Editor

When it comes to pain management, focusing only on reducing the intensity of pain may lead to treatments that do as much harm as good. Ideally, pain-management plans should be tailored to each patient and include a range of therapies that not only reduce pain but also help improve pain-related quality-of-life problems.

Can computer-guided cognitive behavioral therapy improve depression treatment?

James Cartreine, PhD
James Cartreine, PhD, Contributing Editor

In a recent study, online cognitive behavioral therapy programs didn’t appear to improve depression any more than standard primary care for depression. But that study was conducted in the United Kingdom, where primary care for depression includes a much wider variety of resources than are typically available in America. Even though these online programs have proven to be helpful, simply making them available isn’t sufficient —they have to be engaging and rewarding enough that people will be motivated to stick with them.

Medicare Advantage: When insurance companies make house calls

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

Home visits from insurance companies reimbursed by Medicare are intended to help ensure that patients who are frail or have chronic health conditions can still get coverage. However, these visits may also contribute to higher health care costs. Before you welcome your health plan’s clinician into your home, here’s what you should know.

Are protein bars really just candy bars in disguise?

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

Eating on the go can be a challenge, so many of us turn to protein meal-replacement bars, or even to the ever-popular candy bar. While the protein bars may be a little better for you in terms of the nutrients they contain, they probably do not offer any significant health benefits, and the occasional candy bar won’t hurt provided you eat a balanced diet most of the time.

Only the overworked die young

John Ross, MD, FIDSA
John Ross, MD, FIDSA, Contributing Editor

Multiple studies have found a link between working long hours and having a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. The reasons why aren’t entirely clear, but may be related to chronically elevated levels of stress hormones, as well as lifestyle factors such as little exercise, poor eating habits, and a greater use of alcohol and tobacco among those who work the longest. But you can take steps to reduce the effects of long work hours on your health.

Imaging tests: Using them wisely

Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH
Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans are among the many advanced imaging options available to doctors and patients today. Although these tests have revolutionized medical care, they also come at a cost. But not only are these tests expensive — many of them expose patients to radiation, and all of them can reveal potential problems that turn out to be harmless, but require follow-up tests to be sure. Rather than have insurance companies act as gatekeeper, it may be more effective to have clinicians consult with imaging experts when deciding on which, if any, tests are necessary.