Archive for December, 2015

Teens with upbeat friends may have better emotional health

Nandini Mani, MD
Nandini Mani, MD, Contributing Editor

Generations of parents have worried about their kids having friends who are a “bad influence.” But what about friends who are a good influence? Recent research suggests that teens whose friends are emotionally healthy are less likely to suffer from depression, and that such friends can help improve the mood of teens who show signs of depression. This study is one of several in an emerging area of research on the relationship between our social networks and our health and well-being.

Reversing the effects of the new anti-clotting drugs

Samuel Z. Goldhaber, MD
Samuel Z. Goldhaber, MD, Contibuting Editor

Anticoagulants — drugs that reduce the blood’s ability to clot — are used to treat clots in the lungs and legs and to prevent strokes in people with the heart rhythm abnormality called atrial fibrillation. The anticoagulant warfarin has been used for these purposes for many years. But it is difficult and time-consuming to find the optimal warfarin dose, and it carries a risk of difficult-to-control bleeding. Newer anticoagulants offer an easier and equally effective way to control the blood’s clotting ability, but until recently, there was no way to reverse the effects of these drugs if necessary. The approval of new antidotes to these newer anticoagulants will enable doctors to prescribe these drugs with increased confidence.

Exercise: You may need less than you think

Gregory Curfman, MD
Gregory Curfman, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Publications

Getting regular physical activity is one of the most important things one can do to protect and promote health, yet many people say they don’t have time to exercise. A recent study has confirmed that even a little exercise — just 8 to 15 minutes a day — reduced the risk of death. When it comes to exercise, some is always better than none.

Awake, alert, and alive: Is two hours’ sleep enough?

Stuart Quan, MD
Stuart Quan, MD, Contributing Editor

According to an estimate from the Institute of Medicine, up to 20% of all motor vehicle crashes are related to drowsy driving. A panel of experts recently concluded that anyone who has slept less than two hours in the previous 24 hours is not fit to drive. This is only a rough guideline, however, because the relationship between sleep and safe driving is complex. (For example, a pre-existing sleep debt and driving at night increase the effects of drowsiness.) In general, driving while sleep-deprived is a dangerous undertaking for you — and others on the road with you.

Yoga for Better Sleep

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD
Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor

Yoga is a gentle and restorative way to wind down your day. A national survey found that over 55% of people who did yoga found that it helped them get better sleep. Over 85% said yoga helped reduce stress. Dr. Marlynn Wei shares a bedtime yoga routine and explains how to use the breath to relax deeper into the poses.

The gender gap in sports injuries

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

For a variety of reasons, women are more prone to suffer many of the most common sports-related injuries than men are. This has led to some innovative approaches to prevent injuries among women in sports. Certain strategies, such as muscle conditioning, can help reduce the risk of some injuries. However, more research is needed to help close this particular gender gap.

Nutrition shortcuts when you live alone

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Loneliness affects the dinner table. Whether it’s a busy, single professional, a college student, or an elderly adult, a person eating solo may wind up skipping meals or relying on convenience foods, such as cereal, frozen dinners, or canned foods. But healthy meals don’t need to be complicated or time-consuming. Sharing meals with friends and family on a regular basis is good for your health and well-being.

Beyond the 2-hour screen rule: 10 tips for parenting in the digital age

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

You may have heard of the “2-hour rule,” a guideline from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that states children should get no more than 2 hours of “screen time” a day (and none at all for those under age 2). But given the sheer amount of handheld devices available today, not to mention the increasing need for children to use technology to do homework and talk with their friends, does the rule still apply? Recently, the AAP released 10 tips to help parents navigate the digital age. We’ve explained them all here.