Harvard Health Blog

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


Take the lead on lead poisoning

The use of lead in consumer products was banned in the United States in 1978, but lead exposure is still a serious problem today, especially for young children. This led the CDC to lower the blood lead reference value, which is used to identify those at highest risk. When should children be tested for lead exposure, and what should parents do if there is lead in their home?

New guidance on return to youth sports and activity after COVID-19

Early in the pandemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that any child who tested positive for COVID-19 have an in-person evaluation with their pediatrician before returning to sports, but recently the AAP updated its guidance with recommendations based on the severity of a child's illness.

Scoring highly on Alternative Healthy Eating Index lowers risk for many illnesses

Most of us know a healthy diet reduces the risk of heart disease but may not know it's possible to choose a combination of foods that help lower risks for many illnesses. An index created by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health grades food choices and it's easy to incorporate components of this into daily eating habits.

Is a mobile app as good as a therapist?

Due to the lengthy wait for an appointment with a therapist, many people have turned to the numerous mental health apps available on smartphones. Research did not find convincing evidence that use of any such app resulted in significant improvement in symptoms, but some may be useful as a complement to therapy.

Paths to parenthood: Receiving an embryo donation

Paths to parenthood vary and people thinking about a pregnancy achieved with donated embryos or with donated eggs or sperm might also be considering adoption. Here are some key questions and issues to consider when thinking about these decisions.

Can ALS be caused by traumatic brain injury?

Though decades of research have suggested risk factors for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a specific cause remains unknown. New research studied professional football players and found that they had a much higher risk of developing ALS than men in the general population, though the study was only observational.

The rising tide of dementia and the need for nondrug therapies

As the number of people living with dementia continues to increase, the hope that a medication will be able to slow the progression of the disease has not yet been successful. Meanwhile, research has also progressed in nonpharmacological treatments that can help people with memory issues and increase their comfort, potentially helping their families as well.

Are certain fruits healthier than others?

Most people have heard the nutritional recommendation to eat five servings of fruit per day. But are some fruits better for you than others? Is it okay to eat dried or frozen fruit, or to drink fruit juice? Does it have to be organic?

Treatment with abiraterone significantly improves survival in advanced prostate cancer

Currently, the medication abiraterone is approved for treatment of men with prostate cancer that has spread beyond the prostate gland and nearby lymph nodes. But a study found that men who received the drug at earlier stages (before the cancer had spread) in combination with another type of treatment were more likely to live longer than those who received only the control treatment.

Exercise, metabolism, and weight: New research from The Biggest Loser

Studies of contestants from the TV show The Biggest Loser found that due to changes in metabolism, people who have lost large amounts of weight have to follow an extremely low-calorie diet in order to maintain the weight loss. Subsequent research indicates that these metabolic changes are related to calorie restriction while weight is being lost, but later become a function of sustained physical activity.

When the doctor becomes the patient: A transformative experience

A doctor's serious health threat prompts reflection on the power of spirituality, the value of mindfulness practice, and acknowledgment of mortality as a motivator to reassess one's priorities.

5 skills teens need in life — and how to encourage them

All parents want their children to be happy and able to successfully navigate life's challenges. Five core skills form a great foundation, and while parents can and should support young children in building these skills, encouraging teens to reinforce and refine their skills is important.

Stretching studios: Do you need what they offer?

One trend in the world of fitness is the stretching studio, providing assisted stretching sessions marketed as a way to improve flexibility and ease chronic pain. But those looking to boost their overall health are more likely to benefit from regular, moderate physical activity, and do their stretching at home.

Why are women more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease?

Of the more than six million people over 65 in the US who have Alzheimer's disease, almost two-thirds are women. This is partly because women live longer than men, but other factors make women more likely to develop the disease, especially later in life.

Seeing red? 4 steps to try before responding

Simple coping strategies like counting to 10 are often useful to help you avoid an outburst. But as multiple challenges in recent years have amped up stress levels, those strategies may not be enough. So what steps can you take to avoid reaching your boiling point?

Tics and TikTok: Can social media trigger illness?

For hundreds of years there have been documented instances of groups of people developing similar, medically inexplicable, and sometimes bizarre symptoms, such as paralysis, involuntary tics, or uncontrollable laughter. Known as sociogenic illness, a recent example appears to be fueled by social media postings—meaning physical proximity is no longer a factor.

Pandemic challenges may affect babies — possibly in long-lasting ways

The first three years of life are crucial for brain development. Interactions between babies and their caregivers build neural connections in the brain and lacking sufficient interactions may affect brain development. A study found that babies born during the pandemic scored lower in several areas of development than babies born before it started.

4 immune-boosting strategies that count right now

With colds, flu, and COVID variants circulating, keeping your immune system healthy is even more important. Advertising would have you believe that some supplement or other is the key to protecting yourself from getting sick, but the best strategies to protect yourself involve common sense and simple steps.

If you have knee pain, telehealth may help

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the number one cause of chronic knee pain, affecting nearly a quarter of people 40 or older. A recent study of people with overweight or obesity and OA showed that telehealth visits can be an effective way to provide care and may even help with weight loss, which can improve symptoms and prevent OA from worsening.

How to address opposition in young children

Parents may feel exasperated when young children persistently resist small or big requests. Yet this behavior pattern can be disrupted: first it's necessary to identify the reasons for the opposition, then apply appropriate strategies to invite better behavior.

New study investigates treatment-associated regrets in prostate cancer

Men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer have to make difficult choices about medical therapy, and hope that they will not later regret their treatment decisions. But a study found that such regrets are common, mainly because of differences between their expectations and actual experience.

Minimizing successes and magnifying failures? Change your distorted thinking

Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we question our own abilities, minimize our successes, and overemphasize what we perceive to be our failures. When this happens, it's helpful to try to view the situation more clearly and from a more balanced point of view. This takes practice, but the process starts with awareness.

Are poinsettias, mistletoe, or holly plants dangerous?

It's commonly believed that poinsettia plants are poisonous, but are they? If they are dangerous, what can happen if some is ingested? What about other popular holiday-season plants like mistletoe or holly? If you have any of these in your home, what should you know about them?

Waiting for motivation to strike? Try rethinking that

We all know that motivation is key to accomplishing our goals, but even if you have a much-desired goal in mind, it's too easy for motivation to dissipate. Before setting a goal, it's critical to identify why it is important to you, to create a detailed plan that outlines how you will achieve it, and to make a to-do list so you can track your progress.

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