Archive for September, 2016

What exactly is cupping?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

The ancient practice of cupping received attention during the summer’s Olympic games. This application of suction to the skin is supposed to promote healing of sore muscles, but precisely how it helps remains unclear. Most experts agree that cupping is safe. As long as those treated don’t mind the circular discolorations, side effects tend to be limited to the pinch experienced during skin suction.

Treating the primary tumor can improve survival in men whose prostate cancer has spread

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

For men with prostate cancer that has metastasized, treatment usually focuses on the tumors that develop elsewhere in the body. But treating the primary tumor in the prostate with radiation or surgery could result in longer overall survival.

Health benefits of hiking: Raise your heart rate and your mood

Hiking is good for you both physically and mentally. It provides a great cardiovascular workout, improves balance, and is a natural stress reliever. Hikes can range from gentle strolls to uphill terrain, so there’s always a way to challenge yourself. Look for trails near you by checking out local, state, and national parks.

Less than 1 in 10 teens gets enough exercise: What this means for them and says about us

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Teens don’t exercise enough, and with a third of U.S. adults classified as obese, it’s important that exercise is encouraged in children and teens. Starting healthy habits when they’re young keeps kids healthy into adulthood. Studies show that obese adults rarely lose the weight, so it’s better to keep the weight off in the first place. A lot has to do with our biology but also our lifestyle, and we can change the latter. So let’s get our children and teens moving.

When do you really need antibiotics for that sinus infection?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH

Contributing Editor

Many people with sinus infections expect to be given antibiotics for treatment, but in most cases the infection will improve on its own. If a person’s symptoms meet certain criteria — for example, when colorful nasal discharge and facial pressure and pain last for more than 10 days — then antibiotics are recommended.

The truth behind standing desks

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Because sitting for long periods is linked to a greater risk of premature death, the popularity of standing desks is growing, but a study of calories burned while doing various activities suggests the caloric benefit of using a standing desk is not as significant as previous studies suggested.

Your best cycling days may still be ahead

I loved riding my bicycle as a kid, and whizzing along wooded roads with friends on crisp autumn days. For me, the images of blurred leaves and sunshine are still fresh, as are the feelings of freedom, joy, and the wind on my skin. Now, only an occasional bike ride with my children reminds me […]

Treating the primary tumor can improve survival in men whose prostate cancer has spread

Charlie Schmidt

Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases

New research has shaken up a time-honored strategy for treating advanced prostate cancer that’s begun to metastasize, or spread. Doctors ordinarily treat these cases with systemic therapies designed to kill off metastatic tumors appearing throughout the body. But they don’t use local therapy to treat the primary tumor in the prostate. That’s because the primary tumor — unlike the metastases that it spawns — is rarely lethal. So doctors have been reluctant to give local therapy, such as radiation to the prostate or surgery to remove the organ, if it’s not going to improve the odds of survival. Now investigators are turning that assumption on its head. According to their findings, men who received local therapy while being treated for metastatic prostate cancer lived longer than those who didn’t, “and that makes a case for being more aggressive in how we manage patients who present with metastatic disease,” said Dr. Chad Rusthoven, a radiation oncologist and assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, and the study’s first author.

Heart disease, sleep apnea, and the Darth Vader mask too?

Stuart Quan, MD

Contributing Editor

A study questions whether CPAP helps to slow the progression of coronary artery disease in those who already have it, but use of the device has still been shown to have quality of life and other health benefits in those with sleep apnea.

New study says that it’s safe to skip the spoon and let babies feed themselves

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

A study suggests that a new approach to baby-led weaning is safe and has some benefits. With parent supervision, babies can feed themselves solids without a spoon — foods that they can pick up and get into their mouths, but that are also low risk for choking. Benefits of this approach include babies starting solids when they’re ready rather than when parents are ready and babies learn early to be in charge of what and how much they eat.