Health

Over 35 and expecting: Is it safer to give birth “early”?

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

For women having children over age 35, the decision to induce labor is usually based on an increased risk of stillbirth. The duration of labor also factors into the decision, as does the possibility that induction could increase the chance of a cesarean birth, though current medical evidence does not necessarily support this assertion.

Running injury? Maybe you’re doing it all wrong

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

The benefits of regular exercise are well understood, but some forms of exercise carry a higher risk of injury than others. A new study of female runners suggests that an individual’s running style may play a role in susceptibility to injury, but it also raises questions about technique that warrant further study.

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.