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.

Caring for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

James Cartreine, PhD
James Cartreine, PhD, Contributing Editor

People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience challenging physical and emotional problems. Those caring for loved ones affected by PTSD need to balance self-care, limits, and realistic expectations. While the symptoms of PTSD may never completely go away, there are effective treatments that can reduce the effects and improve the lives of sufferers and the ones who care for them.

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.

When a cough just won’t go away

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

There are a number of conditions that can cause a cough to linger for weeks or months. Doctors treating patients with a chronic cough should consider both the more likely and less common possibilities. When a cough persists after those possibilities have been ruled out or treated, new research suggests that irritated nerve ending in the “cough centers” of the airways could be behind a chronic cough.

There’s no sugar-coating it: All calories are not created equal

Celia Smoak Spell
Celia Smoak Spell, Assistant Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The view that calories are calories regardless of their source has been shown to be outdated. Foods with a low glycemic index are better because they tend to raise blood sugar more slowly, and they are also more likely to be healthier foods overall. By choosing the low-glycemic foods and thus the minimally processed foods, people can lose more weight, feel fuller longer, and remain healthier.

Water, water everywhere

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

It may be tempting to carry a water bottle everywhere you go so you can “stay hydrated.” Doctors may advise those taking certain medications or with certain health conditions, to drink more, but most people can get all the water their bodies need from the food they eat and by drinking water when thirsty.

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.

Physicians, paperwork, and paying attention to patients

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

If it seems like your doctor spends more time during your appointment looking at a computer or paperwork than examining you and listening to you, you’re right, and your doctor is just as frustrated by this. Tasks that distract from time with patients include making sure codes are correct for insurance purposes, completing forms, and updating electronic medical records.

Talk to the animals: Animal-assisted therapy offers emotional support

Matthew Solan
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Interacting with animals can be helpful to people dealing with issues like anxiety and depression. Animal-assisted therapy is used in settings such as retirement communities and hospitals, and can be helpful for those affected by traumatic events.