Prevention

My fall last fall: Reaction time and getting older

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

Being able to react to a fall — throwing out a hand, grabbing a railing — often makes the fall less serious. But our reaction times slow as we age, making this kind of quick adjustment much harder as we get older. We’ve examined some of the biological reasons why falling becomes more serious as we age and some ways to make falling less likely — including the possibility of improving slowed reaction times.

Decline in dementia rate offers “cautious hope”

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

Last year, the Alzheimer’s Association predicted that rates of dementia would continue to rise. However, a report recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that rates of dementia have actually dropped steadily over the past three decades. Whether the drop in rates applies to everyone, and whether it will continue, remain to be seen. But the evidence also confirms that there’s quite a lot you can do to lower your dementia risk.

New depression screening guidelines benefit pregnant women and new moms–and everyone

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

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recently updated their guidelines on depression screening to include pregnant and postpartum women, which will be a great help to the many new moms who experience mood changes that go beyond the “baby blues.” The updated guidelines offer other benefits, too, that help improve everyone’s access to mental health care — especially those who can’t currently afford it.

Neuroscience can help you live a healthier life

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

Even when we’re determined to make healthy changes for the better, our brains can sometimes undermine us. But there are three things we can do — namely, decreasing stress, making our goals a priority, and being more specific — that will help our brains avoid old habits and make a positive change.

Vitamin D and physical function: Is more better?

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

Much has been promised about the potential health benefits of vitamin D, but the evidence behind many of these promises is lacking. In fact, a recent study that tested whether vitamin D supplements protected older people from physical decline found that those on higher doses were more likely to have a fall. It’s important to get enough vitamin D in your diet. But when it comes to supplements, more is not always better.

4 ways to protect your family from mosquitoes

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

With all the news about the spread of Zika virus, it’s natural to be concerned if you live in, or are traveling to, an area notorious for mosquitoes. We’ve listed four tips to help you keep mosquitoes at bay, plus alternatives to standard DEET insect repellents that work just as well as the big name brands.

Zika, pregnancy, and winter travel: Many unknowns, and a cautious message

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

If you’re planning an escape from the dreary winter weather, and you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you may want to plan your destination carefully. There’s still a lot we don’t know about Zika virus — which is now widespread in several favorite tropical destinations, such as the Caribbean — and its potential pregnancy-related complications. Until we know more, it’s better to be safe and follow the precautions we’ve listed here.

Protection from the TdaP vaccine doesn’t last very long

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

Unfortunately, according to a recently published study, the TdaP vaccine is less effective than previously thought. It could even be a factor in the recent California outbreaks. Other versions of the vaccine offer more protection, but also have more side effects. Protecting kids from pertussis might require a substantial public health effort to get just right.

Is football safe for kids?

Mark Proctor, MD
Mark Proctor, MD, Contributing Editor

Many team sports have tremendous health benefits for children, but youth football, in particular, continues to pose a concern because of the high risks of concussion and other injuries. A recent NEJM article has taken a stance against allowing tackling in youth football. But is this position really the best way to promote the health and safety of youth athletes?

New depression screening guidelines outline very helpful, yet achievable goals

Michael Craig Miller, M.D.
Michael Craig Miller, M.D., Senior Editor, Mental Health Publishing, Harvard Health Publications

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently updated their guidelines on screening for depression. This time around, they recommended widespread screening through primary care practices, plus gave special attention to women who are pregnant or recently gave birth. These matter-of-fact, achievable guidelines and goals have the potential to reap enormous health benefits.