Recent Blog Articles
Close relationships with neighbors influence cardiovascular health in Black adults
Why play? Early games build bonds and brain
5 numbers linked to ideal heart health
Rating the drugs in drug ads
Postpartum anxiety is invisible, but common and treatable
The popularity of microdosing of psychedelics: What does the science say?
Pouring from an empty cup? Three ways to refill emotionally
Is pregnancy safe for everyone?
New pediatric guidelines on obesity in children and teens
Screening tests may save lives — so when is it time to stop?
Harvard Health Blog
Read the latest posts from experts at Harvard Health Publishing covering a variety of health topics and perspectives on medical news.
FDA panel finds no link between artificial food colorings and hyperactivity in most children
Artificial food coloring has been blamed for causing hyperactivity in children. For most kids, there is no connection between food coloring and hyperactivity, an FDA panel has concluded. But it also noted that certain children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be uniquely vulnerable, not just to food colorings, but to any number of food additives. The panel said that food additives themselves are not inherently toxic to the nervous system, but that some children have a unique intolerance to these substances.
Play Ball: Will new rules for bats make baseball safer?
When a hitter makes solid contact with a baseball, the ball leaves the bat travelling very fast. The type of bat matters — ball speeds are higher with aluminum and newer composite bats than they are with wood bats. Why? Wood bats are solid. When one smacks a ball, the bat stays fairly rigid and the ball flattens out for a millisecond, absorbing some of the energy in the bat-ball collision. Aluminum and composite bats are hollow. When they strike a baseball, the bat gives. That means more of the energy of the bat-ball collision is transferred to the “bounce” of the ball off the bat. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein talks with experts in sports injury, the physics of baseball, and bat testing to explain connections between bat type and injury.
Visual and audio guides to radiation risk
It can be hard to understand what the release of radiation from Japan’s earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant means in terms of human health. Are the radiation levels dangerous and, if so, how dangerous. Most reporters put the risk into perspective using words. Cartoonist Randall Munroe and nuclear reactor operator Ellen McManis have put together different ways of illustrating the risk visually, while radio producer Adam Ragusea offers an audio illustration of various radiation exposures.
At Harvard Forum, experts debate how much vitamin D is enough
A panel discussion at Harvard School of Public Health called “Boosting Vitamin D: Not Enough or Too Much?” highlights the current controversy over the once-overlooked sunshine vitamin. A panel of experts assembled by the Institute of Medicine recommends a daily dose of 600 IU per day for everyone from ages 1 to 70 and 800 IU for those over 70. Other experts think the IOM recommendation is too low. One way to get vitamin D is to spend a few minutes a day outside in the sun, but that’s a hot-button issue because sun exposure is a cause of skin cancer.
The mental and emotional challenges of surviving cancer
New government statistics show that there are nearly 12 million cancer survivors in the United States. In many ways this is terrific news, and a testament to improved diagnosis and treatment options. But there’s a flip side to surviving cancer, and many survivors are never totally “free” of the disease. The ongoing psychological and emotional issues can be almost as much a challenge as cancer treatment was. Harvard Health editor Ann MacDonald explores the ongoing fear of recurrence, survivor guilt, the “Damocles syndrome,” and more.
Video: Are PSA tests beneficial?
Two international and large randomized studies provide the most convincing evidence thus far that PSA based testing does nothing or meaningfully little to reduce the death rate from prostate cancer and confirm many earlier studies that came to the same conclusions. In this video, Marc Garnick, MD, discusses the implications.
Update: Harmful radiation from Japan is not reaching the United States—no need for Americans to take potassium iodide
Minutes after I posted my article today about radiation from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant not reaching the United States in harmful amounts, I heard a news report about iodine-131 from the plant being detected in rainwater in Massachusetts. Iodine-131 is a radioactive form of iodine. It’s a byproduct of the reaction that […]
Harmful radiation from Japan is not reaching the United States—no need for Americans to take potassium iodide
Even though the situation at the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan remains unsettled, the likelihood that radiation released by the crippled power plant will reach the United States is slim. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein talks with Dr. Richard Zane, a disaster planning expert at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, about potassium iodide pills: what they can—and can’t—do, their benefits and hazards, and why Americans should not be stockpiling or taking them.
Meditation helps manage stress and other tips from Harvard Medical School
• LINK TO VIDEO • In early March, I had the privilege of participating in a seminar on stress at Harvard Medical School. The talk was part of a free series called the Longwood Seminars which covers common medical topics. Although I was asked to talk about stress and the heart, I devoted most of […]
Understanding heart failure
Heart failure, the condition that took Elizabeth Taylor’s life, affects millions of Americans. The term “heart failure” is a scary one, conjuring up images of a heart that is suddenly unable to work. In truth, it represents a gradual decline in the heart’s ability to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. As the heart weakens, all parts of the body suffer the consequences. Harvard Heart Letter editor PJ Skerrett explains what heart failure is, how it affects the body, and what can be done to treat it.
Oh please, not the “sex causes heart attack” story again
Having sex (or performing any kind of physical activity) triples the risk of having a heart attack, according to a new study. But there’s more to the story. The odds of having a heart attack during sex are about 1 in one million; tripling the risk boosts it to 3 in one million. In other words, sex can cause a heart attack, but usually doesn’t. And the more a person exercises, or has sex, the lower the chances of having a heart attack during the activity.
Suicide is forever, but the stress leading up to it is often temporary
Many suicides are impulsive, with just minutes or an hour elapsing between the time a person decides upon suicide and when he or she commits the act. Yet the stressful events that lead to suicidal thoughts are often temporary, such as losing a job or having a romantic relationship end.
Radiation risk in Japan: an update
Several people who read my earlier post about radiation readings at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan pointed out that the time period over which the radiation exposure occurs is important. They’re right—the radiation dose and how long you are exposed to it determine how much radiation you are receiving. That is why […]
Radiation risk in Japan: understanding radiation measurements and putting them in perspective
News from Japan is full of talk about radiation risk and millisieverts. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein explains radiation doses and compares what’s happening in Japan with other exposures, from medical testing to Chernobyl and more.
Why Japan’s crisis causes worry, fear of radiation risk in the U.S.
Your perception of risk depends on many factors, including whether the risk is natural or man-made, imposed or voluntary, and how it affects you and your family. Harvard Health editor Ann MacDonald explains why Japan’s radiation crisis from earthquake-damaged nuclear power plants makes us worry on many levels.
Sudden death in young athletes—can it be prevented?
In a seven-day span, three high-school athletes died while pursuing their sports. An epidemic? No. Approximately 100 youth, high school, and college athletes die each year, many from a cardiovascular problem. The deaths renewed a hot debate among parents, coaches, and physicians: should the pre-sports checkup for competitive athletes include an electrocardiogram (ECG)?
Potassium iodide pills and prevention of thyroid cancer from Japanese nuclear power plant
Japanese officials are preparing to distribute potassium iodide pills to people living near the nuclear power plants crippled by last week’s earthquake. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein explains what these pills do and who needs them.
Thyroid cancer a hazard from radioactive iodine emitted by Japan’s failing nuclear power plants
The steam emitted by Japan’s failing nuclear reactors contains radioactive iodine-131. People living near the reactors can get substantial doses of iodine-131 by breathing the vapor from the reactors or ingesting iodine-131 from food or water. It accumulates in the thyroid gland, and significantly increases the risk of developing thyroid cancer.
How to do CPR when the heart suddenly stops: Press hard, press fast, don’t stop
When a fellow shopper suddenly collapsed in the grocery store, Harvard Health editor Ann MacDonald couldn’t exactly remember how to do CPR, even though she took a class some years ago. She knows now how to help when someone is having a sudden cardiac arrest. Her post offers basic instruction and resources for getting prepared.
Bridge the intention-behavior gap to lose weight and keep it off
The hardest part of trying to lose weight is the “intention-behavior gap.” That’s the disconnect between knowing what you need to do and actually doing it. A behavior chain can help you bridge the gap. This tool can help you recognize how a series of seemingly minor events can lead to an unfavorable outcome, such as overeating, and how to break the links.
Sugary soda and juice can boost blood pressure, weight
A large new study links drinking sugar-sweetened sodas and juices with higher blood pressure and extra pounds. The results are in line with earlier studies, and with some clinical trials, showing that daily consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages isn’t so good for the body.
Teens who smoke pot at risk for later schizophrenia, psychosis
Teenagers and young adults who use marijuana may be messing with their heads in ways they don’t intend. Ongoing research shows a possible link between early use of marijuana and later development of psychosis or schizophrenia.
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