Harvard Health Blog

Read posts from experts at Harvard Health Publishing covering a variety of health topics and perspectives on medical news.


Gaining awareness about arthritis and its prevention

Many Americans are remarkably unaware and uninformed about arthritis, a disease that affects about one of every five U.S. adults. Arthritis runs under the public’s radar because it isn’t a killer like heart disease and cancer. Yet it can take a huge toll on the quality of life through the pain and problems it causes. Arthritis is often viewed as an inevitable part of growing old. But it isn’t—there are many things you can do to keep your joints healthy. If you do have joint pain, a new Special Health Report from Harvard Health Publishing called Arthritis: Keeping Your Joints Healthy, can help you manage your condition.

Testing the Harvard 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating: Reality strikes on the Jersey Turnpike

Helen and Tonya, two volunteers testing the new “Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating,” share their experiences from week three, which focuses on healthier lunches. Helen writes about trouble finding healthy lunch options at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, and the importance of planning for lunch the day before. Tonya relied on salads, with one small break–a bit of fried calamari she purloined from a lunch buddy.

Surprising findings on omega-3 fats, trans fats, and prostate cancer risk

A new study challenges the conventional wisdom that heart-healthy omega-3 fats from fish, walnuts, and other sources are good for the prostate and that artery-damaging trans fats are bad for it. Suzanne Rose, editor of Harvard Health’s Annual Report on Prostate Diseases, explains.

Surprising findings on omega-3s, trans fats, and prostate cancer risk don’t warrant a change in diet

Study finds that men with the highest blood levels of omega-3s were more likely to develop high-grade prostate cancer than those with the lowest levels, and that men with the highest blood levels of trans fat were less likely to develop the disease than those with the lowest.

Testing the Harvard 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating: Week 2 — Longing for bacon but eating mindfully

Two volunteers testing the new “Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating” share their experiences from week two. Helen Hoart writes about her efforts to eat more mindfully and to have a healthy breakfast every day. Tonya Phillips regretted starting week two on Easter Sunday. She talks about her efforts to swap a breakfast bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich for multi-grain toast and some fruit or toast and oatmeal with fruit, as well as getting more exercise by walking up and down the stairs at work.

Does eating less salt lead to heart disease? New JAMA study is more wishful thinking than a diet changer

A new study from Europe published in the May 4 Journal of the American Medical Association shows that taking in less salt may increase the risk of heart disease and has little effect on the development of high blood pressure. The findings contradict results of many other studies showing that less salt prevents heart disease. Flaws in the new study, from the young age of the participants to the small number of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems that occurred over the course of the study, suggest that it is not a game changer. If you are leery about the low-salt message for whatever reason, there are other ways to keep your blood pressure in check, like more exercise, weight loss, and following a diet like the DASH diet.

FDA approves abiraterone for advanced prostate cancer

The drug, approved at the end of April 2011, may be helpful for men with metastatic disease that no longer responds to hormone therapy.

Get rid of your old drugs this Saturday

Is your medicine cabinet, refrigerator, or pill drawer overflowing with unused or expired medications? Don’t know how to get rid of them? Hand them over tomorrow (Saturday, April 30) as part of the second National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. From 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, you can bring your old prescription and over-the-counter drugs to one of 5,300 sites across the country. Last year’s program collected more than 242,000 pounds of drugs. If you miss the program, this article offers tips from the FDA on the safest ways to get rid of old and unused medications.

How to survive a tornado

The storms that have recently ripped through the South included dozens of tornadoes. And as the bad weather barreled north today, the National Weather Service declared a tornado watch for eastern parts South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland, and warned of severe weather as far north as Boston. Strong wind from any sort of severe weather can wreak havoc, but the speed and spinning winds of a tornado are especially destructive. In most years, tornadoes kill about 60 Americans, about the same number killed by lightning strikes. But this is not going to be an average year. The death toll from the terrible storms in the South is approaching 300 and the number is climbing. Advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center can help you survive a tornado if one is headed your way.

Why pathologists may disagree

Some disagreements involve objective factors, such as how biopsies are done. But usually, when pathologists disagree, to comes down to interpretation and judgment, both subjective qualities.

Questions to ask about your pathology report

It should be clear by now that pathology reports vary in large part because the clinical features they analyze often require some subjective interpretation. This means it’s important to question the findings and make sure you understand them before you make any decisions about treatment. Start by studying your pathology report closely. Circle anything that […]

Harvard 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating goes live! You can participate, too

Two volunteers are testing the new “Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating.” This plan offers week-by-week steps to help you analyze your diet, establish goals for healthy meals and snacks, and incorporate practical changes to make your healthy diet a reality. Each week builds on what you accomplished in the previous weeks. At the end, you’ll have made important changes that can last a lifetime. Tonya Phillips and Helen Hoart share their experience from Week 1 of the 6-week plan.

Kate Middleton’s pre-royal weight loss: stress, “brideorexia,” or the Dukan Diet?

One of many hot topics about the upcoming royal wedding of Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton is whether Middleton has lost too much weight in preparing for the ceremony. Prevailing theories about Middleton’s presumptive weight loss include stress, “brideorexia,” and a popular French diet. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein discusses all three possibilities.

Stretching exercises

Because stretching cold muscles can lead to injury, it’s best to stretch after your muscles have been adequately warmed up — either at the end of your workout or after you’ve completed your warm-up. Stretching at the end of your workout can be a good way to cool down. Stretch several times a week for […]

Balance exercises

Balance plays no role in preventing prostate problems or major diseases. Still, balance is important for health. A good sense of balance can keep you steady on your feet and reduce your risk of falling. This special set of exercises can be done at any time, every day of the week or just a few […]

Exercise and prostate cancer

Some studies have suggested that more physically active men many have a lower risk of prostate cancer — or prostate cancer progression — than sedentary men. And somewhat paradoxically, exercise can combat the fatigue that strikes some prostate cancer patients during treatment.

Exercise and erectile dysfunction (ED)

Emerging scientific evidence suggests that engaging in a few hours of exercise a week — including strength training, stretching, and balance exercises — may reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED).

Exercise and chronic prostatitis

Physical activity could be a valid treatment option for men with chronic prostatitis who have not found relief through medication or other measures.

Exercise and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)

Researchers have found an inverse relationship between physical activity and BPH syptoms: simply put, men who are more physically active are less likely to suffer from symptoms of an enlarged prostate such as frequent urination, urgency, and a weak urinary stream.

Try exercise to ease arthritis pain, stiffness

If you have arthritis, exercise can help keep your joints mobile and your muscles strong. Swimming and other water-based exercise are especially good because they’re easy on the joints. Harvard Health editor Julie Corliss discusses ways in which exercise can help you cope with—and even improve the symptoms of—arthritis.

Good planning is a recipe for home-cooking success

It’s so easy to pick up fast food or take out food that no one really needs to cook anymore. That’s great if you’re short on time, but not so great if your goal is healthy eating. The Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating offers tips for planning and preparing healthy food at home.

Belly fat is the shape of cardiovascular risk

Extra fat that accumulates around the abdomen goes by many names: beer belly, spare tire, love handles, apple shape, middle-age spread, and the more technical “abdominal obesity.” No matter what the name, it is the shape of risk.

How Boston Marathon runners can avoid hitting the wall

Perhaps up to 40% of runners in tomorrow’s Boston Marathon will end up “hitting the wall,” notes Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein. This means that their bodies have run out of the carbohydrates needed to sustain intense physical activities like long-distance running. But one Harvard/MIT student and marathon runner has developed an online tool that allows runners to calculate just how many extra calories they should get from high-carbohydrate food or drink before a marathon to avoid hitting the wall.

Statin use is up, cholesterol levels are down: Are Americans’ hearts benefiting?

The latest annual snapshot of health in America, a report called Health, United States, 2010 offers hours of browsing and food for thought for anyone interested in health trends. Harvard Health Letter editor Peter Wehrwein connects the dots between use of cholesterol-lowering statins and fewer deaths from heart disease.

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