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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.


A new Alzheimer’s drug has been approved. But should you take it?

Updated July 15, 2021
The FDA has granted accelerated approval to the first new drug in nearly two decades for Alzheimer’s disease. But there are potential side effects, and results of studies of this drug have been mixed. It is not yet known whether the drug truly works, or how effective it will be, so the approval is contingent on the drug’s maker conducting further studies over the next several years.

Need physical therapy? 3 key questions your PT will ask

Published June 7, 2021
Physical therapy can be helpful if you have an injury or a condition that affects mobility or is causing pain. But before you embark on a course of treatment, your physical therapist will ask crucial questions that will help shape your program.

COVID-19 vaccines: Safe and effective for American Indian and Alaskan Native communities

Published June 4, 2021
Concerns circulating about the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in American Indian/Alaskan Native communities, compared to the other available vaccines for COVID-19, have been answered by responses from medical professionals within the Indigenous population, as well as by statistics showing that all three vaccines are safe and effective in people of all races and ethnic backgrounds.

Should we track all breakthrough cases of COVID-19?

Published June 3, 2021
Despite the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines, a small number of people develop cases even after being fully vaccinated. Most of these "breakthrough" cases are mild or moderate, and the CDC has decided to track only the ones that require hospitalization, which has disadvantages.

Period equity: What is it, why does it matter?

Published June 1, 2021
Menstruation is a basic fact of human existence, yet millions of people in the US struggle to afford –– or can’t afford –– products like tampons and pads, a problem known as period poverty. Menstrual hygiene products are necessities, not luxuries, and period equity addresses this.

Common questions about medical cannabis

Published May 28, 2021
While cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, more than two-thirds of US states have made it partly or fully legal for medical purposes. People who decide to use marijuana for a medical condition often have questions about its safety and proper use — the same considerations doctors weigh when determining whether it should be prescribed for a particular patient.

Mouth-watering summer fruits and vegetables to fill your plate

Published May 27, 2021
Summer is the perfect time to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your meals. Packed with health-promoting nutrients, many can be prepared without needing to use your stove or oven. And there are lots of ways to use them besides just making salads.

Pregnancy problems may predict heart health decades later

Published May 26, 2021
Growing evidence suggests women who experience certain health complications during pregnancy face a higher risk for cardiovascular disease later in life, such as heart attack and narrowing arteries. Lifestyle changes can help.

The pandemic isn’t over — particularly for people with disabilities

Published May 25, 2021
While the pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives, its effects on the lives of people with disabilities are especially evident. And COVID-19 may pose a greater risk to some people with intellectual and physical disabilities, though this may depend on a variety of factors.

Sleep to solve a problem

Published May 24, 2021
Are you the sort of person who gets into bed and fixates on a problem or an interaction you may have had that day? It's better to let your thoughts go and try to fall asleep — even though that might not be easy — because our brains are made to process and synthesize information while we are sleeping.

Sickle cell disease: Ways to help teens and parents

Published May 21, 2021
Children with sickle cell disease are at higher risk for many health problems and possible complications get more serious as children grow into adults. Here are ways for parents to support teens with SCD in learning to take care of themselves.

Harvard Health Ad Watch: Aches, pains, and muscle cramps — do well-advertised remedies actually work?

Published May 19, 2021

Several heavily-advertised products that are applied to the skin claim to relieve muscle or joint pain, but are not regulated by the FDA, and none of them offers any solid scientific evidence to back up their claims. So are they worth trying?

Resistance bands: 3 great ways to build upper body strength

Published May 18, 2021
Resistance bands don’t look impressive, but they work muscles in different ways than other pieces of strength-building equipment. The bands offer varying levels of resistance, can be used to strengthen a variety of muscle groups, and may be easier to use for some people.

American Heart Association issues statement on cardiovascular side effects from hormonal therapy for prostate cancer

Published May 18, 2021
The American Heart Association issued a statement addressing cardiovascular risks from hormonal therapy for prostate cancer, emphasizing the need to identify men with pre-existing cardiac risk factors or a family history of cardiovascular diseases who should be monitored closely during treatment.

More movement, better memory

Published May 17, 2021
Regular exercise is known to boost cognitive function and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. This protection occurs because the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory) is especially sensitive to the effects of exercise. A study investigated whether older adults who participated in an exercise program could improve nerve connections in their brains.

Improving access to hearing aids

Updated May 14, 2021
Many people who need hearing aids do not have them, and while there are a variety of reasons for this, cost is a significant factor for many people. The US government is in the process of establishing regulations for the over-the-counter sale of hearing aids for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, which should help to make them easier and less expensive to obtain.

Can mindfulness change your brain?

Updated May 13, 2021
A lot has been written about the benefits of mindfulness, but does it actually work? Can it produce detectable changes in the brain? Researchers in Australia investigated whether mindfulness training improved a person’s ability to pay attention

Five lifestyle factors that can help prevent gastroesophageal reflux disease

Updated May 12, 2021
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a common condition that affects approximately one out of every five people in the western world. Despite the effectiveness of medications, there are concerns about the long-term effects of some of these drugs. A recent study identified five lifestyle factors that can affect the chance of developing GERD.

Transient ischemic attacks: Varied symptoms, all important

Updated May 11, 2021
A transient ischemic attack is a temporary change in nerve function due to disrupted blood flow. It may affect speech, vision, or movement for a short time, and is considered a warning sign for a stroke. Some symptoms of a TIA may go unnoticed, so knowing all the signs could help you recognize a risk factor for an imminent stroke.

5 inflammation-fighting food swaps

Updated May 10, 2021

Inflammation can be a beneficial sign that the body’s immune system is fighting an infection, but it can also linger over time, damaging the body. There is evidence that eating a diet heavy in foods that promote inflammation can increase the risk for certain health problems, and also that a healthy diet can reduce inflammation.

Is IBD an underrecognized health problem in minority groups?

Published May 7, 2021

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a treatable condition once considered a disease that largely affects people who are white, although in recent years it has been diagnosed more often in other racial and ethnic groups, in the US and around the world. Recognizing this condition early can make a difference in care and quality of life.

Sickle cell disease in newborns and children: What families should know and do

Published May 6, 2021

Millions of people around the world have sickle cell disease, a genetic condition that can cause pain and damage to organs or tissues, and can make children more susceptible to other health problems. In the US, most cases are diagnosed through screening in newborns. Getting connected to the proper care early in a child’s life can help prevent complications from the disease.

COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens: What we do — and don’t — know

Updated May 5, 2021
Every day, more and more adults are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, helping us build toward herd immunity. But what about children and teens? What is the status of research on the vaccines in these groups, and when might vaccines be available for them?

Happy trails: Take a hike, now

Published May 4, 2021

After too much time spent indoors (and probably less active than is healthy), getting outside and taking a hike is a great way to get some exercise while enjoying nature. But before you hit the trail, make sure you’re well prepared.

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