Archive for February, 2016

Neuroscience can help you live a healthier life

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

Even when we’re determined to make healthy changes for the better, our brains can sometimes undermine us. But there are three things we can do — namely, decreasing stress, making our goals a priority, and being more specific — that will help our brains avoid old habits and make a positive change.

Vitamin D and physical function: Is more better?

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

Much has been promised about the potential health benefits of vitamin D, but the evidence behind many of these promises is lacking. In fact, a recent study that tested whether vitamin D supplements protected older people from physical decline found that those on higher doses were more likely to have a fall. It’s important to get enough vitamin D in your diet. But when it comes to supplements, more is not always better.

The latest ways to relieve the burden of decision-making at life’s end

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

A POLST order goes beyond what a DNR can cover: it allows you to set your preferences for treatments such as nutrition, pain medicine, and antibiotics at the end of life, and it applies both inside and outside the hospital. However, it’s not without its drawbacks. Ultimately, it’s safest to draw up not only a POLST, but other types of tried-and-true directives, to ensure you get the end-of-life care you want.

A stronger heart may keep your brain young

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Regular exercise offers a wealth of benefits for your body — and recent studies have confirmed that people who are physically fit have fitter brains, too. In fact, an active person’s brain can effectively be up to seven years “younger” than the brain of someone who doesn’t exercise! Fortunately, shaping up your brain is as easy as shaping up the rest of your body — a little activity goes a long way.

4 ways to protect your family from mosquitoes

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

With all the news about the spread of Zika virus, it’s natural to be concerned if you live in, or are traveling to, an area notorious for mosquitoes. We’ve listed four tips to help you keep mosquitoes at bay, plus alternatives to standard DEET insect repellents that work just as well as the big name brands.

Zika, pregnancy, and winter travel: Many unknowns, and a cautious message

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

If you’re planning an escape from the dreary winter weather, and you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you may want to plan your destination carefully. There’s still a lot we don’t know about Zika virus — which is now widespread in several favorite tropical destinations, such as the Caribbean — and its potential pregnancy-related complications. Until we know more, it’s better to be safe and follow the precautions we’ve listed here.

Why men often die earlier than women

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

Although it may sound alarming, the statistics don’t lie: on average, men are likely to die at earlier ages than women. There are a number of factors that might explain this; some of them can’t be changed, but others can. Regardless of the reasons, the best thing men can do to enjoy a long life is to proactively protect their health, with their doctor’s help.

Don’t shrug off shingles

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

Shingles, an itchy and painful rash that occurs when the chickenpox virus reactivates in your body, shouldn’t be written off as just a nuisance. If it’s not treated promptly with an antiviral drug, it can cause a host of serious long-term complications. Fortunately, there’s a vaccine that can slash your risk of shingles by half, and another, even more effective one in the pipeline.

Managing worry in generalized anxiety disorder

Srini Pillay, MD
Srini Pillay, MD, Contributor

For people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), worrying actually has a protective benefit: if they worry all the time, they don’t have to experience a sudden outpouring of negative emotion when something bad really does happen. Fortunately, people with GAD — and all the other “worriers” out there — can retrain their brain to accept the worry and then look past it.

Starting your baby on solids? Here are three new things I tell parents to do

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

Over the past few years, research has changed pediatricians’ recommendations for when — and how — to introduce babies to solid foods. For example, many doctors now recommend giving young children peanut products and fish very early, as this actually reduces the risk of developing allergies. Of course, every baby and family is different, so it’s always best to run your baby’s “first foods” by his doctor before giving them.