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Harvard Health Blog

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


What it takes to achieve world-changing scientific breakthroughs

In science, true breakthroughs are rare. Some are the result of fortunate accidents, while others come from scientists with the will to pursue a dream despite challenges and obstacles. And when such breakthroughs do happen –– think of penicillin or COVID vaccines –– the whole world benefits from them.


Do weighted blankets help with insomnia?

Insomnia affects approximately 10% of adults in the United States, and it is common with mental illness. Insomnia is unlikely to get better on its own if not actively treated. Many people are interested in treatment options that do not involve prescription medications, and a study from Sweden investigated the effectiveness of a weighted blanket on insomnia symptoms for people with insomnia and mental health problems.

Careful! Health news headlines can be deceiving

Eye-catching media headlines are intended to snag our attention and can influence whether we decide to read, click on, or tune into a story. When it comes health and medicine, though, it's best to be careful: headlines may be written in a way that is misleading, confusing, or deceptive, so understanding the thinking behind them and focusing on the facts is important.

Why is topical vitamin C important for skin health?

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, meaning it fights harmful toxins that come in contact with your skin either externally or from inside the body. Products containing vitamin C that are applied to the skin may help slow early skin aging, prevent sun damage, and improve the appearance of wrinkles, spots, and acne.

Preventing preeclampsia may be as simple as taking an aspirin

Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy that can cause serious health issues. While it can happen during any pregnancy, certain risk factors increase its likelihood. Now, a statement from the US Preventive Services Task Force supported by a review of research recommends that doctors prescribe a low-dose daily aspirin for those at risk.

Caring for an aging parent? Tips for enjoying holiday meals

When you are a caregiver for an aging parent, the joy of gathering for holiday meals can be overshadowed by stress. Planning in advance for things like the day's schedule, timing of the meal, what food your parent can or will eat, and making sure medications are taken will help children and parents enjoy the meal with as little stress as possible.

A conversation about reducing the harms of social media

Social media can connect people across the globe, with a potential audience of millions of users. But no matter how many likes a post gets, it can feel like it's not enough, opening users — particularly young people — to potential mental health issues, and raising the question of whether the government should impose regulations on social media companies.

Wondering about COVID-19 vaccines for children 5 to 11?

While the FDA has authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, and the CDC recommends it, parents are still likely to have questions about the vaccine and how COVID-19 affects younger children.

Menopause and memory: Know the facts

The number of people in the US with Alzheimer's disease is expected to climb drastically over the coming decades, and two-thirds of those people will be women. Understanding factors that happen earlier in life, and how they impact the brain later, is critical for developing strategies to prevent this public health crisis. Studies are examining the ways menopause affects the brain and how to maintain memory.

Preparing for the holidays? Don't forget rapid tests for COVID-19

As the holiday season approaches again, the desire to gather is tempered by lingering concerns about COVID-19. Rapid COVID-19 tests could provide some reassurance if testing is done as guests arrive at a host's home, though it's important to be aware of the limitations of this approach, including cost, availability, reliability, and how results are obtained.

How to get your child to put away toys

If you frequently find yourself tripping over your child's toys, then you know the challenges of getting younger children to clean up. Taking a calm, rational approach and issuing clear and specific instructions will enhance your chances of success.

Is a common pain reliever safe during pregnancy?

A recent statement from a group of doctors and scientists raised concerns around taking acetaminophen during pregnancy, but research backing this is based on observational studies and animal studies, so that no firm conclusions can be drawn from it. Here's what to consider if you're pregnant.

Can vaping help you quit smoking?

While considered less harmful than smoking tobacco, vaping is not risk-free, so the FDA's recent announcement authorizing sales of new vaping products was surprising. Some research suggests e-cigarettes may help some people quit or cut back on smoking, but there are many concerns about their known and potential health risks — especially for children and teens.

Gastroparesis: A slow-emptying stomach can cause nausea and vomiting

Gastroparesis is a condition that causes delay in the emptying of food from the stomach. This can cause uncomfortable symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, and can affect nutrition and quality of life. Treatment may involve medication or a procedure, but a correct diagnosis is necessary first.

Can blue light-blocking glasses improve your sleep?

Exposure to blue light during the daytime is desirable: it helps synchronize the body's circadian clock and helps people stay alert. But stimulation from certain wavelengths of blue light in the hours leading up to bedtime can interfere with sleep. Glasses that block stimulating blue light, whether prescription or not, are being touted as helping with sleep, but the evidence is questionable.

Skills children need to succeed in life — and getting youngsters started

All parents want their children to be happy and able to successfully navigate life's challenges. Five core skills form a great foundation and the early childhood window is particularly important for developing them. Parents can help their children learn and strengthen these skills in the course of everyday activities.

Thinking about COVID booster shots? Here's what to know

Now that a booster shot is recommended for some people who had COVID-19 vaccines, many of us have questions about the right timing, dose, and type of vaccine to seek.

Cancer survivors' sleep is affected long after treatment

According to a new study, many people who have survived cancer treatment experience poor sleep long after treatment has ended. These people also reported emotional distress, financial hardship, and concern that their cancer might return. Many sleep disorders can be treated successfully, but an accurate diagnosis is essential to choosing the correct treatment.

Do I have to yell so much?

Do you frequently find yourself in situations where you resort to yelling? If you feel like doing that doesn't help and doesn't make the situation better, that is a good first step. It helps to understand why people yell, but beyond that it's up to you to take control and employ strategies to regulate yourself in tense situations.

What to do when elective surgery is postponed

When hospitals fill with COVID-19 patients, elective surgeries need to be postponed. If your elective surgery is temporarily derailed, what steps can you take to help yourself cope and be prepared for when the surgery is rescheduled?

What happened to trusting medical experts?

In all aspects of our lives, we rely on the knowledge and advice of experts. So why are hundreds of thousands of people in the US rejecting advice on COVID-19 from well-respected health authorities, and embracing advice from those with dubious expertise –– and unproven and potentially dangerous remedies?

Stuttering in children: How parents can help

Stuttering in children is fairly common: as many as 10% of children stutter between the ages of 2 and 6. Although the majority of them stop, it can be distressing for both the children and their parents. Here's how to help your child manage stuttering and when to talk to your pediatrician or a speech-language specialist.

Icy fingers and toes: Poor circulation or Raynaud's phenomenon?

Some people have poor circulation, but if your fingers pale and go numb when exposed to quick changes in temperature, it could be Raynaud's phenomenon, a different kind of circulation problem. Generally, avoiding sudden exposure to cold and other factors that cause blood vessels to constrict, and being prepared with gloves and extra layers of clothing, helps.

Evoking calm: Practicing mindfulness in daily life helps

It's easy to feel too busy to be mindful, but everyone can find a few minutes during the day to pause and reflect. Even a brief, regular mindfulness practice provides a respite from the pace and stress of life, and can help with memory, concentration, and focus.

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