Prevention

Farewell to the fasting cholesterol test?

Naomi D. L. Fisher, MD
Naomi D. L. Fisher, MD, Contributor

If you’ve ever fasted overnight before having blood drawn, you know how uncomfortable and inconvenient this can be. But for many people, fasting blood draws might be a thing of the past. Recent guidelines reinforce that fasting is not required to have your cholesterol levels checked. This move, along with the advent of a non-fasting test to monitor diabetes, means you might not have to skip breakfast before your next visit to the doctor.

The many ways volunteering is good for your heart

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

If you’ve ever volunteered for a school, community center, or other nonprofit organization, you’ve probably felt the emotional reward that comes with helping others. But volunteering has other benefits, too. Multiple studies have confirmed that volunteering is, quite literally, good for your heart — and for the rest of your body. We’ve described the positive effects of volunteering on your health, plus listed some organizations that can help you get started.

The truth about tequila and your bones

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

You may have seen the recent headlines proclaiming that tequila is good for bone health. While that sounds appealing to many, the truth is that there are many caveats to the study behind those headlines. This latest story is just one example of news articles that proclaim our favorite foods, like coffee and chocolate, are actually good for us. As with all these stories, it’s important to look deeper than the flashy headline.

Should you swaddle your baby?

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

Swaddling a baby—wrapping him or her tightly in a blanket to give a sense of comfort and security—has been practiced for millennia. But it’s not right for all babies. In particular, several studies have revealed that swaddling can potentially cause problems hip problems and can even be dangerous if not practiced correctly. As always, if you have questions about swaddling your baby, it’s best to talk with your doctor.

Can aspirin protect against cancer?

Lori Wiviott Tishler, MD, MPH
Lori Wiviott Tishler, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

You may have heard somewhere that an aspirin a day can prevent cancer. It almost sounds too good to be true. For many people, it is, but for a select few, it might not be. We’ve taken a look at the (often confusing) evidence that gave rise to this statement.

Sugar: Its many disguises

Uma Naidoo, MD
Uma Naidoo, MD, Contributor

Excess sugar in the diet can cause a whole host of health problems, both physical and mental. If you’re concerned about cutting down on sugar, you might think you’re covered if you skip the soda and pastries. But there are plenty of hidden and added sugars lurking in all kinds of foods — even those traditionally considered “healthy.” Here, we’ve given you some tips on what to watch out for.

Avoid this common hazard of being in the hospital

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

A hospital stay can be confusing and disorienting for anyone — but especially for older people, who are prone to episodes of delirium when in the hospital. Several hospital-based programs exist to help identify people at risk for delirium and prevent episodes before they happen. We’ve discussed one such successful program, plus listed tips to help you or your loved one avoid delirium during a hospital stay.

Exercise: It does so much more than burn calories

Elizabeth Pegg Frates, MD

You’ve probably heard that if you want to lose weight, it’s as simple as “eat less, exercise more.” A recent study suggests that a lot of exercise doesn’t always translate into a lot of extra calories burned. But even if you never lose a single pound with exercise, it has so many other benefits for your body and mind that it’s always worth it to be active. Give it a try today!

High blood pressure: Why me?

Naomi D. L. Fisher, MD
Naomi D. L. Fisher, MD, Contributor

It can be tough to accept a diagnosis of hypertension. It often causes no symptoms, and when doctors diagnose it, they often mention the consequences that may someday happen if it isn’t controlled. This can be a lot to take in if you’re feeling fine! Fortunately, hypertension is easily controlled — and staying on top of the treatment is the first step toward taming this “silent killer.”

Pressed coffee is going mainstream — but should you drink it?

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Pressed coffee, once the darling of trendy coffee houses the world over, has broken out of its upscale origins and can now be found in kitchens all across America. Aficionados have been raving for years that pressed coffee tastes better than regular coffee — and they may be right. But it can potentially harm your health. Here, we’ve explored the health drawbacks — and benefits — that coffee has to offer, no matter the brewing style.