Archive for July, 2016

Buying into generic drugs

Matthew Solan

Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Generic versions of drugs are just as effective as their name-brand counterparts, and they cost less than the brand names. Although there are various reasons why your doctor might not always recommend switching to the generic version, it is important to speak with your doctor about the cost of your prescriptions and ask if there is a generic version available.

Summer is the perfect time to fine tune your diet

If you’re feeling down about not sticking to your New Year’s Resolution to eat better, don’t fret! Summer is the perfect time to kick start your new eating routine. It’s important to establish an eating pattern and stay with it. Eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are some great ways to eat healthfully. These tips can help you eat swap the sugar for fruit and the red meat for lean protein.

What Michelangelo’s hands (can and can’t) tell us about arthritis

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

A recent journal article describes Michelangelo’s hands as depicted in an attempt to figure out potential joint diseases he may have had. Theories suggest some myths and misconceptions about the causes and symptoms of osteoarthritis and gout. This report has implications for today’s medical care. While a picture may tell a story, there is nothing like a thorough, in person exam to know accurately make sense of signs and symptoms.

The right reasons to choose a sunscreen—and the right way to use it

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

There are a wide variety of sunscreen products on the market today that can help to prevent sunburns and skin cancer, but in a recent study published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, researchers found that 40% of the top 65 most popular sunscreens didn’t meet American Academy of Dermatology guidelines. When buying sunscreen, it is important to choose a product that is broad-spectrum, has an SPF over 30, and is water resistant. In addition to choosing the right sunscreen, it’s important to use it correctly in order to truly protect your skin from the sun.

For the good of your heart: Keep holding the salt

A recently published study claimed that people who ate a low sodium diet were more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and death. However, there were problems with this study – including difficulty with accurately measuring each study volunteer’s daily intake of sodium. Low sodium diets may be harmful for small subsets of people, but for the majority of people restricting salt intake is still important for cardiovascular health.

What’s the best way to quit smoking?

Wynne Armand, MD

Contributing Editor

Quitting smoking can add years to your life. The earlier the better, but the benefits of quitting are real and significant, even if you’re 80. There are several ways to quit and it often takes multiple attempts to become and ex-smoker for good. Research suggests that for some people, quitting “cold turkey” may be the most effective approach.

A placebo can work even when you know it’s a placebo

Mallika Marshall, MD

Contributing Editor

You may have heard of the “placebo effect,” in which people taking an inactive drug as part of a study actually experience an improvement in their symptoms. As it turns out, the placebo effect still exists if you tell people they’re taking a placebo. This “open-label placebo” strategy doesn’t work for every condition, of course, but it’s a promising way to relieve many common symptoms without medication.

“Superbugs” and the very real threat of untreatable infections

Michaela Kane


Doctors recently discovered a gene in E. coli bacteria that makes it resistant to an antibiotic that is typically used when other drugs fail. This new finding suggests that effectiveness of last-resort antibiotics is at risk. As more bacteria evolve to “outsmart” antibiotics, scientists are increasingly concerned about infections caused by “superbugs” that cannot be treated with existing antibiotics.

Good — and bad — news about today’s teens

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

The results of the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, suggests that few teens are smoking cigarettes, having sex, getting into physical fights, and drinking less soda. This good news is tempered by concerning trends, for example fewer adolescents use condoms when they do have sex, and more of them are trying e-cigarettes.

The times, they are a-changin’ (and bringing new syndromes)

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

If you spend lots of time looking at a screen, you may be at risk for “computer vision syndrome,” a cluster of eye-related symptoms that tend to afflict computer users. But is this really a new “syndrome,” or just a fancy name for eye strain? Here, we explore exactly what a syndrome is — and give you some tips to combat this newest addition to the list of technology-related “syndromes.”