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.

Female athlete triad: Protecting the health and bones of active young women

Elizabeth Matzkin, MD
Elizabeth Matzkin, MD, Contributor

Women who are especially active may be susceptible to a spectrum disorder known as the female athlete triad, a combination of symptoms rooted in inadequate nutrition that can ultimately lead to a greater risk of osteoporosis.

Protecting children from the dangers of “virtual violence”

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

After recent mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and other reports of danger, it is almost impossible to avoid depictions of violence on our nightly news screens. Between the use of mainstream media and social media, violence is reaching far past the places and people it directly affects. Unfortunately, this means that the violence of the world is also affecting our children. The American Academy of Pediatrics wants people to understand exactly how exposure to violence can affect children, and how we can work to decrease the impact it has on today’s youths.

Beating osteoarthritis knee pain: Beyond special shoes

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

For people suffering from knee osteoarthritis, one long-standing solution to knee pain was the use of “unloading” shoes. These shoes use stiffer soles and slightly tilted insoles that help to reposition the foot and ‘unload,’ or decrease, the pain on the knee. But a new study revealed that these shoes might not be any better than good walking shoes at relieving pain from knee osteoarthritis.

Are fresh juice drinks as healthy as they seem?

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

For people on the go, it’s easy to turn to a fruit juice or a smoothie when you don’t have time to sit and eat a full meal, especially when this seems like a healthy option. There are definite benefits to this decision. After all, cold pressed juices and smoothies are often served fresh, and they contain most of the vitamins and minerals from the pressed fruit. However these fruity drinks can also raise blood sugar levels and pack on the calories, even if they are made with healthy ingredients.

The U.S. longevity gap

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

It may surprise some to realize that life expectancy in the United States is lower than in other developed countries. The reasons include higher rates of motor vehicle accidents, drug overdoses, and gun violence. They have a large effect on longevity because they predominantly affect young people. If there is good news, it’s that these contributors are preventable. Other factors that may be more difficult to tackle include inaccessible or unaffordable health care.

Pace to breathe — New treatments for sleep apnea

Stuart Quan, MD
Stuart Quan, MD, Contributing Editor

Sleep apnea is a common condition that currently affects 26% of all Americans. When a person suffers from sleep apnea, their breathing becomes shallow or even disrupted during their sleep. This results in poor sleep and daytime sleepiness. However, a recent study showed that the use of a pacemaker on the hypoglossal nerve in the neck effectively treated people with moderate to severe sleep apnea. Although there isn’t widespread use of pacemakers to treat this sleeping disorder just yet, it may be an effective solution for people with sleep apnea.

When hot gets too hot: keeping children safe in the heat

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

As temperatures around the U.S. continue to rise, it’s important for parents to recognize the risks that sunny summer days can pose to children. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are some of the most common issues overheated children may face, but simple measures, like taking rest breaks in the shade, watching the weather forecast for excessive heat, and drinking cold water can help keep children safe during the sunny summer days.

E-cigarettes: Good news, bad news

John Ross, MD, FIDSA
John Ross, MD, FIDSA, Contributing Editor

While e-cigarettes do not produce the tar or toxic gases found in cigarette smoke, this doesn’t make them a healthy option. The e-liquid found in e-cigarettes still contains highly addictive nicotine that also increases your risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Nicotine also increases the risk of addiction to other drugs and may impair brain development. Rather than rely on the perceived benefits of e-cigarettes, people should avoid smoking altogether.

Gut reaction: How bacteria in your belly may affect your heart

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Research suggests that the bacteria in your gut may also impact your heart health. Collectively known as the gut microbiota, these microbes assist with digestion, but also make certain vitamins, break down toxins, and train your immune system. These microbes also play a role in obesity and the development of diabetes, both of which can increase your risk of developing heart disease.

Quitting smoking during the second half of the menstrual cycle may help women kick the habit

Hope Ricciotti, MD
Hope Ricciotti, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Studies have shown that not only do women have a harder time quitting than men, but they also experience more severe health consequences from smoking. However, new research suggests that it may be easier for women to quit smoking during the second half of their menstrual cycle. During this time, the hormone progesterone is higher, and this appears to aid in quitting and avoiding relapse.