Prevention

A healthy lifestyle may help you sidestep Alzheimer’s

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

By now it’s evident that healthy lifestyle habits have clear benefits, and evidence suggests that keeping Alzheimer’s disease at bay may eventually be added to the list. Data are strongest for regular exercise, a Mediterranean diet, and sufficient sleep as important ways to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Other lifestyle choices may help as well.

The data are in: Eat right, reduce your risk of diabetes

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

Data from surveys of 200,000 people spanning two decades add support to the belief that eating a diet made up largely of plant-based foods is likely to lower a person’s risk of developing diabetes.

Is aspirin a wonder drug?

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

People at high risk for heart problems are often prescribed a daily low-dose aspirin, but many more people who could benefit from taking aspirin do not do so. A recent analysis suggests that for people ages 51 to 79 in the United States, regular low-dose aspirin can help reduce rates of heart disease and some cancers as well as save substantial health care dollars.

Understanding suicide in children and early adolescents may lead to more effective prevention

Ellen Braaten, Ph.D.
Ellen Braaten, Ph.D., Contributor

Though suicide in children and young adolescents is rare, it is still a far-too-frequent occurrence. It is also one that is increasing, particularly in black youth. There are differences in the characteristics and circumstances of children and adolescents who commit suicide. A better understanding of these could lead to more effective prevention programs.

Cervical cancer screening update: Not your mother’s Pap smear

Andrea Chisholm, MD
Andrea Chisholm, MD, Contributor

Recent research supports the theory the human papilloma virus (HPV) plays a critical role in the development of abnormal cervical cells and cervical cancers. Based on this knowledge, experts believe that many women are being over-screened and treated for abnormal cells that are unlikely to ever become cancerous. Testing for strains of HPV associated with cervical cancer, along with the Pap smear, may do a better job preventing cervical cancer than the Pap smear alone. Guidelines are evolving and that yearly Pap smear may be unnecessary for many women.

6 tips for making the most of your child’s checkup

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

Planning ahead of your child’s annual check-up can help you and the doctor get the most out of the visit. And be sure to take advantage of the resources available to you, such as email portals and the nurses and other staff in the doctor’s office. You might even consider making an appointment before the checkup. Doing so can be really helpful, especially when there is something complicated going on — like asthma acting up, school problems, worries about behavior, or a family crisis.

Sexually transmitted infections on the rise

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

Rates of several common sexually transmitted infections have been rising during the past few years. Many people with an STI have no idea they have been infected, so testing is crucial. If someone doesn’t know that they are infected, they can’t get treated. If they don’t get treated and have unprotected sex they will pass these infections to others.

Movember: Stashing prostate and testicular cancer awareness into the limelight

Paul G. Mathew, MD, FAAN, FAHS

The Movember movement began in 2003 to help raise awareness of prostate and testicular cancers as well as other health concerns including mental health issues. One of the primary goals of this initiative is to encourage men to take the time to pay attention to their health. This includes doing self-exams and getting the necessary screenings so that cancers can be detected and treated earlier.

Heart disease and brain health: Looking at the links

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

To keep your brain in tip top shape as you age, work to lower your risk for heart disease. Steps that can help protect both your heart and cognitive abilities include getting regular physical activity, quitting smoking, managing blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Teens who use flavored e-cigarettes more likely to start smoking

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

E-cigarette smoking among teens is on the rise, and teens are more likely to transition from smoking e-cigarettes to smoking traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes are marketed towards young people, emphasizing the need for dialogue between teens and the adults in their lives on the health risks surrounding this trend.