Health

Thyroid disease and breast cancer: Is there a link?

Mallika Marshall, MD
Mallika Marshall, MD, Contributing Editor

Researchers have wondered for a long time whether there might be a link between excess thyroid hormone and an increased risk of breast cancer. High levels of thyroid hormone have been shown to mimic estrogen, which fuels many breast cancers. A new study has suggested that there may indeed be a link — but it’s important to put the results into context.

Could lack of sleep trigger a food “addiction”?

Stuart Quan, MD
Stuart Quan, MD, Contributing Editor

Many people cite a lack of “motivation” or “willpower” as the reason that overweight people can’t control their eating habits. But a wealth of evidence has come to light that obesity is linked to insufficient sleep. Most recently, an experimental study has found that restricted sleep can increase the levels of brain chemicals that make eating pleasurable. Could it be that insufficient sleep makes the brain addicted to the act of eating?

FDA warns parents about arsenic in rice cereal

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

Rice has an unusually high arsenic content — and high amounts of arsenic in the body can increase the risk of cancer and learning difficulties. The FDA has recently proposed an upper limit on the amount of arsenic in infant rice cereal, but it hasn’t yet been adopted. In the meantime, we’ve listed steps you can take to reduce your — and your child’s — consumption of arsenic.

Is there a “best” pain reliever for osteoarthritis?

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

Osteoarthritis can contribute significantly to a reduced quality of life, and many arthritis sufferers have come to rely on pain medication for symptom control. A recent study compared NSAIDs against opioids for pain relief and found no significant difference between them. But as always, the right treatment choice for any individual person depends on their unique medical situation and what works best for them.

A monthly shot for opioid addiction: An option for some

Wynne Armand, MD
Wynne Armand, MD, Contributing Editor

Several long-term treatments can help people overcome opioid addiction. One of them, naltrexone, may help people who have trouble sticking with taking a pill every day. Naltrexone can be offered as a monthly injection called Vivitrol, which has been shown to help more people stay on treatment as compared to the pill form. However, it’s not for everyone, and like all treatments for opioid addiction, it must be used very carefully.

News flash: Teens need adequate sleep!

Dennis Rosen, M.D.
Dennis Rosen, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School

The amount of sleep that’s “enough” to let you wake up feeling rested and refreshed varies dramatically from person to person. But the effects of chronically not getting enough sleep are incredibly detrimental—and especially so in children and teens. Here, we’ve explored some of the effects of sleep deprivation in teens, as well as shared our favorite tips for helping your child get a great night’s sleep.

How useful is the body mass index (BMI)?

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

The body mass index (BMI) has long been considered an important way to gauge your risk for many chronic conditions, from arthritis to sleep apnea to heart disease. But like all medical measures, BMI is not perfect — and a recent study has revealed that BMI alone may not be a solid measure of cardiovascular health. Here, we’ve examined the pros and cons of the BMI, and whether it’s a number worth knowing.

We should be ashamed if we don’t pass Tobacco 21 laws

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

Ninety percent of smokers had their first cigarette before turning 18. A movement to raise the legal age to buy tobacco in the United States to 21 hopes that making it more difficult for young people to start smoking may lead to a healthier population overall.

How simply moving benefits your mental health

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

The connection between your brain and your body is a two-way street. This means that how you feel affects how you move — and that the opposite is true, too. Here, we’ve assembled plenty of evidence that movement — whether it’s aerobic exercise in a gym or a simple meditative walk — is incredibly effective not only for boosting your mood, but for reducing symptoms of many common mental disorders, too.

A twist on the genetic link between Alzheimer’s and heart disease

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Although the two conditions seem unrelated, Alzheimer’s and heart disease actually share a genetic link. People who have a certain gene variant have both a somewhat elevated heart disease risk and a significantly elevated Alzheimer’s risk. Fortunately, a recent study has suggested that when people know they have this variant, they’re more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices that benefit their heart — and what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.