Prevention

Biking to work linked to reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and early death

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

A five-year study of more than a quarter of a million commuters in the United Kingdom found that those who commute to work by bicycle had lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, or of dying from any cause.

Room sharing with your baby may help prevent SIDS—but it means everyone gets less sleep

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

Having a baby sleep in the same room as its parents can help with feeding and safety, but will probably result in less sleep for everyone. Parents have to decide when it makes sense to move a baby to its own room.

Bad viruses travel fast: Measles vaccine important for travelers

John Ross, MD, FIDSA
John Ross, MD, FIDSA, Contributing Editor

Because measles is so highly contagious, and because there is a significant delay before symptoms manifest, a person can carry the virus and infect others without knowing it, and many adults may not have received an effective dose of the vaccine. Many outbreaks of measles could probably be prevented if more travelers received MMR vaccine prior to foreign travel.

Run for your (long) life

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

A large, long-term study confirms that running decreases a person’s overall risk of death, and while the benefits from other forms of physical activity are not as significant, any activity is still better than none.

Why vaccines are important for our country’s financial health, too

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

Vaccinating babies and toddlers prevents many illnesses, but it also helps the avoid high costs associated with treating those illnesses, helps reduce sick time taken by parents, and contributes to greater immunity in a population.

The problem with tanning (and the myth of the base tan)

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

The earlier one starts tanning, the longer the lifetime skin damage and the higher the skin cancer risk. As the number of people with skin cancer increases, it has become especially important to convey to teenagers the message that tanning is an unhealthy choice, whether it’s outdoors or in a tanning bed.

The flu shot saves children’s lives

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

Even though this year’s flu season is just about over, parents should be thinking about protecting their children next winter. Despite short-term reactions in some people, the flu shot is safe for nearly everyone.

Eat better, live longer

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

With a study showing that 400,000 cardiovascular-disease deaths could be prevented each year with dietary changes, it’s time to consider adopting a healthier eating approach. Limiting unhealthy foods is a good start, but it’s also important to eat more healthful foods.

Making health social: Friends and family as part of the health care team

David Scales, MPhil, MD, PhD

Healthy choices can be hard to make, but it becomes much easier when your entire social circle helps you keep up with it. According to a recent study, engaging your friends and family in your lifestyle changes will hold you accountable, and you will be more likely to stick with those changes. Making them a regular part of your “health care team” could go a long way to maintaining your health.

Time spent in “green” places linked with longer life in women

Elizabeth Pegg Frates, MD

Greenery might do more than just cheer us up. A recent study shows it lowers the mortality rate in women. Green spaces decrease levels of depression and pollution while increasing levels of social engagement and physical activity. If you are lucky enough to be surrounded greenery, get out there and enjoy it more. Even urban areas can increase their greenery by planting more trees and shrubs. See if you can get your community to plant more plants. It will help everyone out in the long run.