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.

Lost in translation: Getting your doctor to be fluent in “patient”

Paul G. Mathew, MD, FAAN, FAHS

Medical knowledge is growing at a rapid pace and technology is playing a larger role in medical practice. Office visits are becoming shorter in length and there is usually much to cover. That can make a doctor’s appointment challenging for both patient and physician. Strong communication is essential to help ensure that both patient and doctor make the best use of this time. Some simple steps can help you get the most from your time with your doctor and help ensure that you understand and can successfully act on his or her recommendations.

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.

Antibiotics don’t speed recovery from asthma attacks

Nandini Mani, MD
Nandini Mani, MD, Contributing Editor

Winter is often a tough season for asthma sufferers, who generally more likely to become sick than those without asthma. It’s important for asthma patients to receive proper care when ill, and a recent study sheds new light on a common treatment that might not be the best course of action for most asthmatics.

Bronchiolitis: What parents of infants need to know

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

While all babies get colds, bronchiolitis, a respiratory infection that works its way into the lungs. Treatment is usually “supportive,” which means steps to relieve the symptoms, and most babies start to get better after a week or so. But bronchiolitis can make some babies very sick, so parents need to be alert for signs of worsening illness.

Immediate radiation when PSA levels spike after prostate cancer surgery helps reduce risk of recurrence

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

After prostate cancer surgery, the patient’s prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is monitored by his doctor via a simple blood test. New research indicates that if the PSA increases following surgery, immediate radiation therapy can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.

Spinning out of control: Vertigo

Paul G. Mathew, MD, FAAN, FAHS

Vertigo occurs when the systems the body uses to maintain balance send contradictory information to the brain, causing a sensation of movement when you’re actually standing still. It’s very common for people to experience vertigo while on board boats. There are several medications that can ease the discomfort of vertigo.

Don’t tolerate food intolerance

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

Food intolerances become more common with age, and such problems are not necessarily linked to an allergy or disease. There are ways to pinpoint what is disturbing your digestive system and there are simple steps you can take to ease digestive distress and even continue to enjoy many of the foods you love.

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.

Making health decisions in the face of uncertainty: Let your values be your guide

David Scales, MPhil, MD, PhD

One of the biggest challenges for doctors and their patients is making decisions without complete certainty, so they must work together to determine the point at which the risk of further testing ceases to be acceptable. A patient’s personal values and health goals are important factors in health decisions, especially in the face of uncertainty.

5 (relatively) easy New Year’s resolutions for healthier, happier kids (and families)

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

As the year draws to a close, many of us take on well-intentioned, and often ambitious New Year’s resolutions. But improved health and happiness can be obtained through smaller lifestyle changes that will benefit both adults and children.