Harvard Health Blog

Join the discussion with experts from Harvard Health Publications and others like you on a variety of health topics, medical news and views.

Silent heart attacks: Much more common than we thought in both men and women

Deepak Bhatt, MD, MPH

We typically think of heart attacks as sudden, chest-clutching agony. But the reality is that nearly half of all heart attacks have no symptoms at all and go completely unnoticed by the people experiencing them — and, alarmingly, these “clinically silent” heart attacks are nearly identical to more overt heart attacks in terms of the damage they cause and the risk to a person’s future health.

Lung disease in smokers who don’t have COPD

Wynne Armand, MD
Wynne Armand, MD, Contributing Editor

You probably know that smoking has enormous consequences for your health. One of the most common is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disorder involving damage to the lungs. If you smoke, but you don’t have COPD, you may be tempted to think your lungs are relatively unharmed — but a recent study suggests that some smokers without COPD might still suffer lung damage.

The opioid crisis and physician burnout: A tale of two epidemics

Steven A. Adelman, MD
Steven A. Adelman, MD, Contributor

Like many of us these days, doctors are feeling the pressure of being asked to do more work in less time. This burnout is a big problem for both doctors and their patients, and it has big consequences — some obvious, some less so. In this post, Dr. Adelman explores the relationship between physician burnout and another big problem facing the country — the opioid epidemic.

3 reasons your child shouldn’t go “gluten-free” (unless your doctor says so)

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

Recently, many parents have begun cutting gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) out of their children’s diet in an effort to be healthy. Although children with celiac disease or wheat allergy should avoid gluten, a gluten-free diet is unnecessary for the vast majority of children — and it can even endanger their health. We’ve identified three specific ways this diet can do more harm than good for your child.

Here’s something unexpected: Sunbathers live longer

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

You’ve probably been told all your life that spending lots of time in the sun can be bad for you. Surprisingly (and just in time for summer), a new study has reported health benefits — including an extended life span — from sun exposure. But before you shut off the computer and head for the beach, you should know that this study also comes with some important caveats.

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.

What to do when blood test results are not quite “normal”

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

If you’ve ever looked through your bloodwork results, you may have noticed that some of your results are barely within the normal range—or even just outside it. Many of these results simply reflect the fact that what’s perfectly normal for you doesn’t always fit within the laboratory’s “normal” range. It’s the trends in your results over time, not any one number, that tell the most accurate story about your health.

Opioid crisis: The difference between sympathy and empathy

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributor

When a patient calls a new doctor begging for a refill on their pain medication, what should the doctor do? Denying medication to someone in significant pain seems unethical — but denying it to someone who’s suspected to be reselling it is a whole different story. Doctors now have systems in place to help them make the right call. But even these systems can’t replace the most critical piece of the puzzle — empathy.

New study says that it’s okay to let babies cry at night

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

Just about every new parent has wrestled with the idea of whether to comfort a baby who cries during the night or whether to let him or her “cry it out.” A recent study adds more evidence to what researchers (and our own parents and grandparents) have long known: It’s okay to let your baby cry it out. It won’t harm them — and you’ll get a much better night’s sleep, too!

The risks of active surveillance for men with intermediate-risk prostate cancers

Charlie Schmidt
Charlie Schmidt, Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Disease

Many men with prostate cancer benefit from active surveillance, in which treatment doesn’t begin unless the cancer spreads. There has been some debate about whether this strategy is safe for men with intermediate-risk prostate cancer. A new study suggests that this type of cancer is more likely to spread than previously thought — but active surveillance can still be a good option for many intermediate-risk men.