Health

Confessions of a breakfast skipper

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

While most of us have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, there is debate about the importance of breakfast continues. Research findings on breakfast and weight loss are inconsistent and inconclusive. And a recent study suggests that eating breakfast may not matter as much as has been previously believed, and skipping breakfast is fine for some people. But we probably haven’t heard the final word on this topic.

Postpartum depression: The worst kept secret

Andrea Chisholm, MD
Andrea Chisholm, MD, Contributor

Postpartum depression carries an unfortunate stigma, as symptoms of depression affect nearly 20% of new mothers. Early detection is key to ensure the best health for not just women, but for their new infants and family members as well. Once diagnosed, there are several treatment options that can support new mothers during a time that can be both joyous and challenging.

The 4 symptoms that mean your child must stay home from school or daycare

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

Children get sick, and when it happens parents have to decide whether or not to keep their kid home from school or daycare. Certain symptoms are signs that a child should definitely stay home. If you’re really not sure, your doctor can help guide your decision. To help your child recover, and prevent spreading illness to others, better safe than sorry.

Not just for women: Kegel exercises good for men too

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

Kegel exercises have long been considered “for women only,” but older men may be wise to reconsider this point of view. These simple and subtle pelvic floor exercises can can be performed while lying down, sitting, or standing and are known to help with some common unpleasantries that can come with age.

When a nasty stomach virus strikes…

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

When one person in your household catches a stomach bug, it seems the rest of the household becomes sick almost instantly. This winter has been particularly difficult, which makes it all the more useful to know more: Why does this bug spread so quickly? And how do I prevent it?

When are self-help programs “helpful”?

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

There is an explosion of books, tapes, podcasts, programs, and apps that claim to provide self-help. If you are considering any sort of self-help program, making the effort to evaluate its merits (underlying research, if any; reputation and qualifications of its source; whether or not the program is a good match for your needs) will increase the odds you find something appropriate and effective.

Attention shoppers: Be wary of health claims on food packaging

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

The term “healthy” has evolved greatly in the quarter century it has been used in the food industry. Despite recent updates in food labeling, which aim to create more well-informed consumers, inaccuracies remain in packaged foods with “healthy” claims. A closer look at nutrition data on packages can help you ensure you’re getting what you pay for.

What parents need to know about baby monitoring apps

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

Smartphone apps claim to help parents monitor their babies, but there is no evidence that using any app will help keep babies safer. More importantly, it’s vital for new parents need to spend time observing their babies in person, in order to learn their range of behaviors. Technology can definitely help make life safer and better. But it’s important to be really thoughtful and careful in how we choose and use technology when it comes to the health and safety of our children.

Taking medications correctly requires clear communication

David Scales, MPhil, MD, PhD

Taking medications incorrectly means that patients don’t get the full benefit of the drugs and may experience unnecessary (or unnecessarily severe) side effects. The result can even cause a simple ailment to turn into a hospital stay. It’s essential that patients understand when to take their medications, and why they’re taking them in the first place. This understanding relies heavily on successful communication between patients and their doctors. Gaps, such as language barriers, can be bridged in a number of ways.

Personalized activity intelligence: A better way to track exercise?

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Small devices and smart phone apps that are designed to track fitness activities don’t necessarily provide the most accurate information. A recent Norwegian study, involving thousands of participants, has led researchers to develop a more precise method for measuring cardiovascular activity on electronic devices. Personalized Activity Intelligence, or PAI, is a formula that converts your heart rate to a number of points, based on your age, gender, resting heart rate, and maximum heart rate.