Harvard Health Blog

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


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.

Thinking of trying Dry January? Steps for success

If you want to cut down on your alcohol consumption, or just want to start the new year on a healthy note, consider joining the Dry January challenge. Does a month seem like a long time? Here are steps you can take to improve your chances of success.

5 numbers linked to ideal heart health

Five numbers give a thumbnail assessment of overall heart health and what factors people might need to address to lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke. These numbers offer ideal goals for most people, although targets vary for individuals based on age or other health conditions.

How can mindfulness practices help with migraine?

Many common medication treatments for migraine can cause side effects, underlining the need for more tolerable treatments. Mindfulness practice has been associated with improvement in people with chronic pain, including migraine. A study investigated whether mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques provided benefit for people experiencing migraine.

Navigating a chronic illness during the holidays

The holiday season is full of parties, gatherings, food, and drink — making it an ideal time to adopt healthier eating habits. Doing so can help you manage stress and avoid overeating, and will set you up for success in the new year.

Gift giving for family or friends in assisted living

If you have a family member or other loved one in an assisted living facility, it might seem difficult to choose a useful and meaningful gift for that person. But thinking about the person's particular circumstances, needs, and interests will help you select a gift that will be appreciated and enjoyed.

Got back pain? Can virtual reality provide real pain relief?

Chronic low back pain is a leading cause of long-lasting pain and disability worldwide. Treatment options help some people but not all, leaving millions seeking safe, effective treatment. An 8-week program using a virtual reality device aims to offers lasting relief, but valid questions about evidence of effectiveness have not yet been answered.

Saturated fat and low-carb diets: Still more to learn?

Low-carbohydrate diets have been popular for many years, but due to the high amounts of saturated fat, doctors and nutritionists worry about possible increased risk of cardiovascular disease. A study comparing three diets found that eating a high-fat diet did not necessarily raise heart risk, but the types and quantities of food make a difference.

Tinnitus: Ringing or humming in your ears? Sound therapy is one option

Millions of people have tinnitus, a condition where a person hears a sound inside the head that does not come from any external source. There are many possible causes and no cure, but there are ways to ease the symptoms, one of which is sound therapy, which uses external sound to alter a person's perception of or reaction to tinnitus.

Naps: Make the most of them and know when to stop them

As babies become toddlers, when they need to nap and for how long evolves, so parents and caregivers need to know how to handle the changes, as well as how to know when naps are no longer needed.

Making holiday shopping decisions quicker and with less stress

The holiday season often makes people feel stressed out over choosing gifts. Everyone wants to give a gift that the recipient will be excited about, but expectations and the fear of making the wrong choice undermine the thinking process. Can people get better at making decisions? Yes, but it requires accepting that there is no ideal choice, and approaching the process with the proper focus.

Yoga for weight loss: Benefits beyond burning calories

Obesity is a complex disease, and many factors contribute to weight gain and hinder efforts to lose weight. There is no single solution to weight loss, but there is good research that yoga may help manage stress, improve mood, curb emotional eating, and create a community of support, all of which can help with weight loss and maintenance.

Embryo donation: One possible path after IVF

In vitro fertilization (IVF) has helped countless people who were unable to conceive to have children. Frequently, the process results in additional embryos remaining, eventually leading to the question of what to do with them. Embryo donation is one of several options and deciding which path to pursue may not be easy.

How to stay strong and coordinated as you age

Many physical abilities decline with age, along with changes that occur in coordinating the movements of the body. One of the most significant causes of this decline is reduced physical activity. In fact, as people age it becomes even more important to exercise regularly, and regular activity can help improve strength and coordination.

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