Prevention

What is prediabetes and why does it matter?

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

Considering the range and severity of health problems caused by diabetes, the focus on treating prediabetes in order to prevent it from becoming diabetes is sensible, and a large study found that it is possible. A healthy diet and adequate physical activity can help most people side step this condition. For some, medication is also necessary.

5 ways to hold on to optimism — and reap health benefits

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

Despite many Americans feeling discouraged as 2016 ended, optimism abounds for the future. Such an attitude is not just a trait of those with a sunny disposition: Research indicates that optimism can positively impact both mental and physical health. If you find yourself with a more cynical mindset, there are methods that can improve your outlook on life. We offer five ways to help you see the world through rosier glasses.

Understanding head injuries

Jonathan Nadler, MD
Jonathan Nadler, MD, Contributor

Treatment for a head injury depends on the nature of the injury, whether or not there is bleeding in the brain, whether the bleeding is coming from an artery or a vein, and several other factors. Imaging may or may not be needed and doctors rely on well-established guidelines to determine when a CT or other scan is necessary. Most important, do everything you can to avoid head injuries, including proper use of helmets.

New guidelines for preventing peanut allergy in babies

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

New guidelines to prevent peanut allergies in children involve careful exposure to peanut products. Experts identify three levels of “allergy risk.” The safest approach to exposure depends on which category a baby is in. It is always important to discuss this with your doctor before introducing peanut products. Some babies may need allergy testing before trying this. No matter the strategy, parents need to remember that peanuts are a choking hazard for young children and many babies have trouble managing peanut butter, so it needs to be used carefully.

Preventing and treating colds: The evidence and the anecdotes

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

No one wants to deal with the misery of a cold, and nothing is guaranteed to prevent you from catching one, but some basic precautions can help reduce the risk. If you already have a cold, certain treatments are definitely more effective than others.

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.