Archive for January, 2017

What parents need to know about baby monitoring apps

Claire McCarthy, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Smartphone apps claim to help parents monitor their babies, but there is no evidence that using any app will help keep babies safer. More importantly, it’s vital for new parents need to spend time observing their babies in person, in order to learn their range of behaviors. Technology can definitely help make life safer and better. But it’s important to be really thoughtful and careful in how we choose and use technology when it comes to the health and safety of our children.

Taking medications correctly requires clear communication

Taking medications incorrectly means that patients don’t get the full benefit of the drugs and may experience unnecessary (or unnecessarily severe) side effects. The result can even cause a simple ailment to turn into a hospital stay. It’s essential that patients understand when to take their medications, and why they’re taking them in the first place. This understanding relies heavily on successful communication between patients and their doctors. Gaps, such as language barriers, can be bridged in a number of ways.

Personalized activity intelligence: A better way to track exercise?

Small devices and smart phone apps that are designed to track fitness activities don’t necessarily provide the most accurate information. A recent Norwegian study, involving thousands of participants, has led researchers to develop a more precise method for measuring cardiovascular activity on electronic devices. Personalized Activity Intelligence, or PAI, is a formula that converts your heart rate to a number of points, based on your age, gender, resting heart rate, and maximum heart rate.

Does your doctor’s gender matter?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

A recent study involving over one million Medicare enrollees found that these older patients had more successful outcomes when under the care of a female physician verses a male physician. A thorough reading of the study seems to support that gender made the difference, but the takeaway is that it’s important to understand the differences between how women and men practice medicine and why these might be important. Most likely each gender has something to learn from the other.

What is prediabetes and why does it matter?

Considering the range and severity of health problems caused by diabetes, the focus on treating prediabetes in order to prevent it from becoming diabetes is sensible, and a large study found that it is possible. A healthy diet and adequate physical activity can help most people side step this condition. For some, medication is also necessary.

Why medical experts say that teens should be allowed to make the abortion decision without telling their parents

Claire McCarthy, MD

Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

The belief that teens should have the right to an abortion without parental knowledge or consent is supported by a group of medical associations, and is based primarily on concerns about safety and the medical consequences of requiring that parents be informed.

Let the sun shine: Mind your mental health this winter

Dominic Wu, MD

Contributing Editor

There are several ways to tackle the changes in mood and energy levels that can arise as the days get the shorter and the weather more dreary. A form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects many people during the winter months. It’s also important to take steps to mind your mental health during the winter months and to know when to seek the help of a medical professional.

5 ways to hold on to optimism — and reap health benefits

Beverly Merz

Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Despite many Americans feeling discouraged as 2016 ended, optimism abounds for the future. Such an attitude is not just a trait of those with a sunny disposition: Research indicates that optimism can positively impact both mental and physical health. If you find yourself with a more cynical mindset, there are methods that can improve your outlook on life. We offer five ways to help you see the world through rosier glasses.

What the 21st Century Cures Act means for behavioral health

The 21st Century Cures Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in December, provides or extends funding for a variety of health initiatives, including support for people with mental health and substance use issues. It builds on important innovations introduced in the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act and the Affordable Care Act.

Understanding head injuries

Treatment for a head injury depends on the nature of the injury, whether or not there is bleeding in the brain, whether the bleeding is coming from an artery or a vein, and several other factors. Imaging may or may not be needed and doctors rely on well-established guidelines to determine when a CT or other scan is necessary. Most important, do everything you can to avoid head injuries, including proper use of helmets.