Health

The times, they are a-changin’ (and bringing new syndromes)

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

If you spend lots of time looking at a screen, you may be at risk for “computer vision syndrome,” a cluster of eye-related symptoms that tend to afflict computer users. But is this really a new “syndrome,” or just a fancy name for eye strain? Here, we explore exactly what a syndrome is — and give you some tips to combat this newest addition to the list of technology-related “syndromes.”

The (not-so-hidden) costs of caregiving

Leo Newhouse, LICSW
Leo Newhouse, LICSW, Contributor

Americans provide nearly $650 billion worth of unpaid caregiving for their ill or aging loved ones every year. But the less tangible costs are important, too. A new study has revealed that caregivers of critically ill family members are at high risk for depression — and that this risk remains high long after the initial health crisis is over. Fortunately, there are several strategies caregivers can use to keep their bodies — and minds — healthy.

The whole grain goodness of modern and ancient grains

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Whole grains are important for a healthy, nutritious diet. Eating whole grain foods improve your cholesterol, and decrease your risk of drying from cardiovascular disease and cancer. There are different types of whole grains; modern grains are the grains we eat today like wheat, corn and rice, and ancient grains, which include grains like black rice, quinoa, and emmer. These foods are grown just as they were a thousand years ago. Although they offer different benefits, eating a variety of ancient and modern grains are important for a nutritious diet.

A bummer for kids: Nasal flu vaccine not effective

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

For years, many kids could skip the traditional flu “shot” — along with the tears — and still be protected by the nasal spray vaccine also known as the LAIV (live attenuated influenza vaccine). But not this year. Studies now show that the nasal vaccine is quite ineffective, and pediatricians are starting to change their flu recommendations from a nose squirt to a shot.

Single payer healthcare: Pluses, minuses, and what it means for you

Andrea S. Christopher, MD

Although the United States spends more on healthcare than other developed countries, it has the lowest life expectancy and performs poorly in terms of health outcomes. In order to address the problems with the current healthcare system, some doctors and health policy experts suggest transitioning to a single payer healthcare system, where a single public agency would take control of financing healthcare for all residents. Proponents of this system suggest it could better control overall healthcare costs, improve health inequalities and a move towards a universal healthcare system that would provide better care for uninsured or under-insured Americans.

Taking advantage of incidental findings

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

As imaging tests like CT scans and MRIs have become more commonplace, so have incidental findings — abnormalities picked up by the test that weren’t what the test was looking for. In some cases, such as finding calcium deposits in the blood vessels during a routine mammogram, these findings may lead to earlier, potentially lifesaving, treatment for another condition. But in many other cases, these “incidentalomas” are more stressful than helpful.

An easy way to eat healthier this summer: Find a farmers’ market

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

Farmers’ Markets hold many benefits for you and your community. The produce is fresher, and there are no “center” aisles to tempt your sweet tooth. Many farmers’ markets even offer cooking classes to increase your dinnertime variety. Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health saw a decrease in soda consumption and an increase in vegetable consumption among those who frequented farmers’ markets this past year.

Progesterone supplements don’t help prevent miscarriage

Hope Ricciotti, MD
Hope Ricciotti, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Miscarriages can be devastating — especially for women who experience recurrent miscarriage, defined as three or more in a row. Doctors used to give these women supplements of progesterone, a hormone that helps maintain a healthy pregnancy. However, a recent study has confirmed that these supplements don’t improve pregnancy outcomes. For those who experience recurrent miscarriage, the best solution may be to simply keep trying.

Can super-sizing start with baby bottles?

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

Research suggests that super-sizing our meals doesn’t just create problems for adults–– when we increase the amount of food that infants and children eat, they gain weight. This weight gain during infancy can lead to over-weight children, and over-weight children are more likely to become over-weight adults. In order to make sure infants and children are a healthy weight, keeping the portion sizes kid-friendly is key.

Opiates no solution to back pain

Steven J. Atlas, MD, MPH

As the treatment for chronic pain morphs into more opiate prescriptions, the rate of addiction and its consequences continues to climb. This doesn’t mean we should stop treating pain or that everyone prescribed opiates will become addicted. But it should give us pause and make us realize that just taking a pill doesn’t fix chronic pain – and doing so cause harm us in the long run.