Harvard Health Blog

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

Hormone therapy for depression: Are the risks worth the benefits?

Many women going through menopause experience symptoms of depression. Hormone therapy may help some women avoid depression, but carries an increased risk of blood clots or stroke. A woman should talk with her doctor and carefully evaluate of the risks and benefits of hormone therapy compared to other treatments for depression.

Inducing labor at full term: What makes sense?

Toni Golen, MD

Contributor

A large study of first-time mothers compared inducing labor with waiting for labor to begin. Under certain circumstances, it found inducing labor may be safer for some women. A pregnant woman considering induction should discuss the option with her doctors and providers.

The introvert’s guide to social engagement

Matthew Solan

Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Research shows that regular social interaction can lower risk for heart disease, depression, and early death, but not everyone is comfortable in social settings. If this describes you, there are still ways you can socialize without going beyond your comfort zone.

Is hand sanitizer better at preventing the flu than soap and water?

John Ross, MD, FIDSA

Contributing Editor

In an eight-month study of toddlers in day care, researchers compared handwashing with soap and water to frequent and rigorous use of hand sanitizer. While the results were better for the hand sanitizer group, the study conditions may not reflect real-world hand hygiene.

Behavioral weight loss programs are effective — but where to find them?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH

Contributing Editor

Behavioral programs (intensive diet and lifestyle change) work well for weight loss, but they are not common, and many are not covered by insurance. There are other options, such as creating your own program, joining a group, or using a smartphone app.

AFM: The scary polio-like illness

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is an illness with symptoms that are somewhat similar to polio — weakness and loss of muscle tone in the arms and legs — but with an unknown cause. AFM is more common in children and emerges suddenly, but there is no known treatment or cure.

Personal sound amplification products: For some, an affordable alternative to hearing aids

Personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) are devices that provide some measure of hearing assistance, less than that of a full-fledged hearing aid but at a more reasonable price, that may encourage more people to accept hearing assistance and to do so starting younger.

Medical scribes let the doctor focus on you

The use of medical scribes in doctor’s offices and other healthcare settings is growing in popularity. Using scribes is intended to shift the record-keeping responsibilities from physicians, allowing them to focus on patient care during visits.

Mindfulness apps: How well do they work?

James Cartreine, PhD

Contributing Editor

The goal of mindfulness training is to enhance well-being by increasing your awareness of the world around you through sensory immersion. People who are interested in trying mindfulness meditation may want to consider starting with a smartphone app.

No more counting sheep: Proven behaviors to help you sleep

Millions of people have trouble sleeping, or don’t get enough quality sleep. Changes to your daytime habits and pre-bedtime behavior can consistently help you get better sleep.