Why we do what we do: good health information can save lives

Anthony Komaroff, MD

Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter

My colleagues at Harvard Health Publishing and I have a mission: to provide accurate, reliable information that will help readers live healthier lives. We work hard to fulfill that mission, and the feedback we get from folks who read our newsletters, Special Health Reports, books, and online health information indicates we are on the right track. Every so often we hear something from a reader that makes me especially proud of the work we do.

This letter was recently sent to the editor of the Harvard Women’s Health Watch:

One of your mailings undoubtedly saved me a lot of grief. (My kids, anyway.) I was aware of a woman’s heart attack symptoms being different from a man’s, and your brochure contained a paragraph confirming that. Early in June I was packing for a trip to celebrate my brother’s 90th birthday, at the same time a ditching project was being done in my back lot. Trying to deal with several matters at the same time is a talent I’ve outgrown, at 88, so didn’t think too much of the sudden fatigue and vague aches I felt in jaw & arms. I crashed for a nap in my recliner, felt OK afterwards, and figured it was just stress. The next day I was ready to leave, but got to thinking of those symptoms, and the fact the brochure had arrived at just that time, and wondered if it was more than coincidence and maybe I should pay attention? Didn’t much like the idea of something happening out in the middle of nowhere, so took myself to the fire hall where an EMT was on duty. He ushered me into the ambulance, did an EKG, and soon I was being helicoptered on doctor’s orders to St. Joseph’s Hospital. There I had 3 stents installed, and they apparently are doing their job. Thank you!

This echoes what a reader of the Harvard Heart Letter told us a couple years ago:

This past Friday the 13th, in the a.m., I attended mass at a nearby church and when I returned home I felt aches across my chest, on my back, and down both arms. I also felt a bit nauseous. I tried to shrug it off thinking that a visit to the gym a few days before was my problem. I sat down in a chair and on a nearby table I spied a copy of the Harvard Heart Letter. We subscribe to this for my wife who has a heart condition. The cover story cited 10 symptoms of a heart attack. I had 4. We called 911. A few hours later a stent was implanted. I was released on Sunday—Father’s Day—and the surgeon’s parting words were, “Tim Russert had a 100% blockage—yours was 98%”. I believe very strongly in the Hand of God. Had I not sat down on that particular chair—and had that particular issue not been there—the outcome might have been decidedly different. My time had not yet come. Thank you.

In the New Year and beyond, the Harvard Health Publishing team will continue to bring you honest, practical, on-target information that we hope will make a difference in your life.

From Harvard Medical School and Harvard Health Publishing, I wish you good health in 2011.


  1. Marcus Gaunt

    Thank you for the information you put out. I am a strong believer in being an educated and informed patient. The advent of the internet allows all of us to research any health issue, allowing us to ask our doctors the right questions. It is important that information such as yours is used more by being available to as many people as possible.

  2. Andy

    Hats off to the bloggers for providing such valuable information! The internet sure has brought about a revolutionary age in information and I’m always excited to hear stories of the positive impacts of this technology. I too run a blog that serves to inform others about the risks associated with lasik eye surgery and it has been such a rewarding experience witnessing the impact this information has made on the lives of others.

  3. Vlad

    Hello! I have a blog regarding gallstones. Could you help me to find an article for the study regarding the influince of uts to the gallstones. I knew it was made by Harvad but cannot find it. Thank you in advance!

    • P.J. Skerrett

      There are two studies:
      Tsai CJ, Leitzmann MF, Hu FB, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. A prospective cohort study of nut consumption and the risk of gallstone disease in men. Am J Epidemiol. 2004 Nov 15;160(10):961-8.


      Tsai CJ, Leitzmann MF, Hu FB, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. Frequent nut consumption and decreased risk of cholecystectomy in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jul;80(1):76-81.

  4. Joe Frontera

    I suffer from kidney stones and was looking for articles on the subject and found that the most recent one is from the year 2005. I also had 4 bypass surgery 6 years ago and have had laser surgery for kidney stones twice in the last 5 years. I noticed in other articles that for the heart I should eat peanuts but for kidney stones this is a no. I wonder if there are other contradictions that Im not aware of. I also had my gall bladder removed due to gall stones.

  5. Joseph Baker

    Hello, I was born with a heart defect called (ASD) which was repaired in 1964 at the University of Florida Gainsvile, which was successfully repaired.

    In my early 20’s I developed an irregular heart beat A-fib. Which I dealt with through medication for several years. The problem proceeded and the medication over the years slowed my heart rate, at the time the only course of action was a pacemaker implant that works as best as can be expected.

    A couple years later there was a new procedure called ablation. My problem is that the repair was done so long ago that some of the files were lost or miss placed and the micro film had degraded to the point it was mostly unreadable.

    Which brought up the question that has stopped me from being able to have the ablation procedure. I would like to ask the question my cardiologist needs to know, in your opinion do you think in the early 60’s was the repair done with plastic or tissue?

    Is there anyway I could find out? I’m now 50 years old and have mostly lived a normal life but as I am getting older I have noticed that my health is deteriorating with age. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


  6. compression socks running

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  7. Asifus

    Pretty impressive! 🙂

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