Archive for December, 2016

Immediate radiation when PSA levels spike after prostate cancer surgery helps reduce risk of recurrence

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

After prostate cancer surgery, the patient’s prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is monitored by his doctor via a simple blood test. New research indicates that if the PSA increases following surgery, immediate radiation therapy can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.

Spinning out of control: Vertigo

Paul G. Mathew, MD, FAAN, FAHS

Vertigo occurs when the systems the body uses to maintain balance send contradictory information to the brain, causing a sensation of movement when you’re actually standing still. It’s very common for people to experience vertigo while on board boats. There are several medications that can ease the discomfort of vertigo.

Don’t tolerate food intolerance

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

Food intolerances become more common with age, and such problems are not necessarily linked to an allergy or disease. There are ways to pinpoint what is disturbing your digestive system and there are simple steps you can take to ease digestive distress and even continue to enjoy many of the foods you love.

Is aspirin a wonder drug?

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

People at high risk for heart problems are often prescribed a daily low-dose aspirin, but many more people who could benefit from taking aspirin do not do so. A recent analysis suggests that for people ages 51 to 79 in the United States, regular low-dose aspirin can help reduce rates of heart disease and some cancers as well as save substantial health care dollars.

Making health decisions in the face of uncertainty: Let your values be your guide

David Scales, MPhil, MD, PhD

One of the biggest challenges for doctors and their patients is making decisions without complete certainty, so they must work together to determine the point at which the risk of further testing ceases to be acceptable. A patient’s personal values and health goals are important factors in health decisions, especially in the face of uncertainty.

5 (relatively) easy New Year’s resolutions for healthier, happier kids (and families)

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

As the year draws to a close, many of us take on well-intentioned, and often ambitious New Year’s resolutions. But improved health and happiness can be obtained through smaller lifestyle changes that will benefit both adults and children.

Vitamin D: What’s the “right” level?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

Agreement on the adequate level of vitamin D is difficult to come by in the medical community, with respected organizations offering widely divergent guidelines on how much is enough for most people. All that said, most experts agree that doctors should be checking vitamin D levels in high-risk people — those most at risk for a true deficiency.

Can genetic testing help determine the best medications for you?

Shannon Manzi, PharmD
Shannon Manzi, PharmD, Contributor

The use of pharmacogenomics, the study of how a person’s genes affect the body’s metabolizing of medications, can help doctors predict if a person will have a negative reaction to a particular medication, or whether one drug may provide better results than another. However, this information is just one piece of the puzzle when trying to help find the medication that will provide the greatest benefit with the fewest side effects.

The “thinking” benefits of doodling

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

Remaining focused for extended periods of time is difficult, but researchers believe that doodling gives a break to parts of the brain, making it possible to absorb and retain more information overall. While this phenomenon is not well understood, neuroscience is starting to learn how doodling might help boost attention and and focus.

How much artificial trans fat is still in our food?

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Although the FDA has mandated that trans fats must be removed from processed foods in 2018, many products still contain the fats. Because small amounts are not required to be listed on the Nutrition Facts label, consumers must read ingredient lists to find these fats. The trick to finding trans fats: read the ingredient lists on Nutrition Facts labels. If partially hydrogenated oil is among the ingredients, you’ll know the food contains trans fat, even if the label states that a serving has zero grams of trans fat.