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.

Low levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol) appear connected to many health risks, not just heart disease

Deepak Bhatt, MD, MPH

Low LDL cholesterol and high HDL cholesterol lower your risk for cardiovascular disease. That is what the studies have always shown us. But a new study suggests that low HDL itself may not be the risk factor for heart disease we thought it was. It could merely be a sign of an unhealthy lifestyle, or other health risk factors, that also contribute to heart disease. Trying to find medications to raise HDL cholesterol may not be as effective as encouraging people to adopt healthier habits.

Why experts recommend newborns sleep in their parents’ room for the first year

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

Experts now recommend that new parents sleep in the same room as their new infant for the first 6-12 months of his/her life. While this might wake the parents up more, it’s much safer for the child. Sudden unexplained infant death (SUID) happens much less frequently when the parents sleep in the same room as their baby. And six months will go by faster than you think.

Flu news: Now most people with egg allergies can get a flu shot

Wynne Armand, MD
Wynne Armand, MD, Contributing Editor

If you have been avoiding the flu shot because you’re allergic to eggs, studies suggest that you can safely get vaccinated. Allergic reactions to the flu shot are quite rare. If you’ve never had a reaction to a flu shot, protect yourself by getting one this year. Ideally do it in a doctor’s office or hospital so that you can get prompt treatment in the unlikely event you have an immediate, severe reaction.

The 2 reasons your child needs to get a flu shot this season

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

It’s especially important for children to get flu shots, both because the flu can hit the young with particular severity, and because of the potential to pass the illness to others.

Less than 1 in 10 teens gets enough exercise: What this means for them and says about us

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

Teens don’t exercise enough, and with a third of U.S. adults classified as obese, it’s important that exercise is encouraged in children and teens. Starting healthy habits when they’re young keeps kids healthy into adulthood. Studies show that obese adults rarely lose the weight, so it’s better to keep the weight off in the first place. A lot has to do with our biology but also our lifestyle, and we can change the latter. So let’s get our children and teens moving.

Heart disease, sleep apnea, and the Darth Vader mask too?

Stuart Quan, MD
Stuart Quan, MD, Contributing Editor

A study questions whether CPAP helps to slow the progression of coronary artery disease in those who already have it, but use of the device has still been shown to have quality of life and other health benefits in those with sleep apnea.

The most important health problems (and why they matter)

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

Data from the CDC and elsewhere examining death rates and causes shows that the most common causes of death are not necessarily the ones of greatest concern to Americans. Understanding the causes of death is important, not only because of what they may say about how we live, but also to find ways to increase longevity.

Genital herpes: The painful facts about a tricky virus

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

While most people know that genital herpes is transmitted through sexual contact, many people don’t realize that it’s possible to carry the virus and infect others without showing outward symptoms or even being aware that they have it. A person with confirmed genital herpes can take medication to help decrease the chances of spreading the virus. However, it’s no guarantee, so it’s best to have a frank conversation with a new sexual partner.