Computer games are being touted as a way to keep the body fit. Can they do the same for your brain? Most experts say “Not so fast.” As described in Improving Memory: Understanding age-related memory loss, a new Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, people who play these games might get better at the tasks they practice while playing, but the games don’t seem to improve users’ overall brain skills, such as attention, memory, use of language, and ability to navigate. To stretch and exercise your brain, choose an activity you enjoy—reading, playing cards, or doing crossword puzzles are some good examples. If you’re feeling ambitious, try learning to speak a new language or play a musical instrument. Most of these activities come at a much lower cost than brain-training programs, and you’ll probably find them to be a lot more enjoyable, too.
Posts by Christine Junge
We tend to think that stopping an addictive behavior means joining a group, seeing a therapist, going to a treatment center, or taking a medication that helps with cravings. Some people manage to break an addiction without any help. These “natural recoverers” tend to take two key steps: They find a new hobby, challenge, or relationship to help fill the void left by the addiction. And they start exercising. Exercise is important because it acts as a natural antidepressant. It also prompts the body to release its own psychoactive substances—endorphins—that trigger the brain’s reward pathway and promote a feeling of well-being. Natural recovery isn’t a sure thing, and the more severe the addiction, the harder it is to do.
Your kitchen cabinets—along with your pantry, refrigerator, and grocery list—are probably more important than your medicine cabinet for maintaining or improving your heart’s health. That’s because what you eat influences many of the things that contribute to heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, inflammation, and electrical instability and function of the heart. The foods you choose can make these factors better, or worse. Healthy Eating for a Healthy Heart, a newly revised Special Health Report from Harvard Health Publications, details a heart-healthy eating plan that you can follow for the rest of your life—while still enjoying the foods you eat. Some of the best choices include fish, vegetables, and whole grains. Healthy Eating for a Healthy Heart also includes 39 recipes of healthy, delicious, and easy-to-make foods.
Many people have trouble telling whether they are having heartburn or a heart attack. “Many people” includes doctors. A personal story from a Harvard physician describes how he treated himself with strong acid-suppressing pills until a near heart attack made him realize he had heart disease. His story appears in an updated Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School called “Heart Disease: A guide to preventing and treating coronary artery disease.”
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.
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. [...]
If you suffer from migraines, does what you eat affect your headaches? It depends on you, and what you eat. There are no magical foods that cause or prevent migraine. Instead, it differs from person to person, says Harvard Health editor Christine Junge, who attended a talk given by Sandra Allonen, a nutritionist at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, as part of Harvard Medical School’s monthly nutrition seminars.