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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.


Want to improve your memory? Get a good night’s sleep!

Published April 2, 2021

Sleep is important for your memory, as the brain uses the time you are sleeping to process new information and consolidate it for later recall. If you are tired from a lack of sleep, it’s more difficult to pay attention, and attention is necessary to good memory function.

Can fitness counter fatness?

Published April 1, 2021

Some research has suggested that people who are overweight but also active can experience a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk. Researchers examining this “fit but fat” paradox found that being active is somewhat protective compared to being inactive, but ultimately does not offset the other negative effects of having overweight or obesity.

Summer camp: What parents need to know this year

Updated June 2, 2021
Many parents and children hope that this summer will allow a return to typical activities. For families who are considering summer camp for their children, adjustments and adaptations will need to be made because of COVID-19, and parents should be prepared to ask questions about planning and risk management.

Harvard Health Ad Watch: Mitochondria do a lot for you — what can you do for them?

Updated March 31, 2021
Mitochondria are the power stations in our cells that convert nutrients into energy, and research suggests that they play a key role in aging and immune function. Ads for a line of supplements claim that the product renews or replenishes mitochondria –– but is there any scientific proof of this?

Simple, low-cost, low-tech brain training

Published March 29, 2021

Mentally stimulating activities help the brain create new connections that may prevent cognitive decline as people get older, and there are plenty of simple, low-tech ways to sharpen your thinking that are budget-friendly.

School reopening? What parents need to know and can do

Updated March 30, 2021
While some children have been attending school in-person throughout the pandemic, most have been learning remotely, or in a hybrid model. As more schools reopen for in-person learning, parents can ask key questions about their school district’s plans and help their children prepare to go back.

Fully vaccinated against COVID-19? So, what can you safely do?

Updated April 5, 2021
What can you safely do after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine? Many people are eager to resume normal activities and see their family and friends. Some situations are lower-risk than others, and whether or not the other people you will be interacting with have also been vaccinated matters, too.

Omega-3 fatty acids and the heart: New evidence, more questions

Published March 24, 2021

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil have been recommended by the American Heart Association for the past 20 years to reduce cardiovascular events in people who already have cardiovascular disease. But the results of studies of omega-3 supplements have been mixed, leaving both doctors and patients still wondering what to do.

Beyond CBD: Here come the other cannabinoids, but where’s the evidence?

Published March 23, 2021

Given the interest in CBD and the exploding popularity (and big business) of products that contain it, it was only a matter of time before new cannabinoids were discovered and commercialized. But many of these substances have been studied only in animals so far, meaning it is too soon to say if any of their potential benefits will apply to humans.

Zero weight loss from zero calorie drinks? Say it ain’t so

Published March 22, 2021

Trying to cut back on calories by drinking diet soda or flavored sparkling water may not help with weight loss, and some research suggest it may actually lead to weight gain. But why, and what are the alternatives?

Returning to sports and physical activity after COVID-19: What parents need to know

Published March 19, 2021

Most children and teens who have COVID-19 recover completely, but rarely there can be damage to a child’s heart muscle, and the stress of exercise on a damaged heart could lead to a serious condition. Here’s what parents need to know about recent guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics for children returning to physical activity after COVID-19.

Numb from the news? Understanding why and what to do may help

Published March 18, 2021

The daily onslaught of news during the past year has left many people in a steady state of fatigue, resignation, and grief. The symptoms of collective trauma are widespread and familiar, but one merits special attention: numbness, which is one possible response to an overwhelming situation.

Racial disparities and early-onset colorectal cancer: A call to action

Updated March 17, 2021
In the last decade, overall rates of colorectal cancer have been falling among the general population in the US. However, African Americans are more likely to develop colorectal cancer at younger ages, and to die from it. The reasons for this disparity are unclear, but they are rooted in socioeconomic and racial inequities.

4 essential nutrients — are you getting enough?

Updated March 30, 2021
The latest update to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that many people are not getting enough of four essential nutrients: calcium, potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D. But how much of these nutrients should you aim for and what are some good sources for them?

Agoraphobia: Has COVID fueled this anxiety disorder?

Updated May 25, 2021
People with agoraphobia become anxious in places where they feel helpless or out of control, so they try to avoid such situations. But with the threat of COVID-19 still very real, fearing public spaces is a normal, or even prudent, instinct. So, when are anxious feelings normal, and when do they become a cause for concern?

But I don’t feel like exercising…

Published March 12, 2021

For a long time, the implicit message about fitness has been that it only counts if you are doing it with certain clothing, shoes, equipment, and facilities. This can make people feel that exercise is not for them. Expanding the idea of what counts as exercise — and making it fun — can help motivate people.

You got the COVID-19 vaccine? I have vaccine envy

Published March 11, 2021

Got vaccine envy? Not only has the pandemic upended our lives, differing state priorities and restrictions on eligibility for highly effective COVID-19 vaccines are fueling feelings of jealousy and unfairness that encourage questionable actions and ethics.

Glaucoma: What’s new and what do I need to know?

Published March 11, 2021

Glaucoma, the second leading cause of permanent blindness in the US, is a group of disorders that damage the optic nerve. It is a complex disease, and while there is currently no cure, diagnosis and prompt treatment can slow or stop progression of vision loss. All adults should have regular eye exams starting at age 40, whether vision is normal or not.

A look at the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Published March 10, 2021

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are published by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture and are updated every five years, have been updated for the 2020–2025 period. While each iteration builds on the previous set of guidelines, there are some changes this time around, and some items that could have been changed but were not.

Could what we eat improve our sleep?

Published March 9, 2021

Diet, exercise, and sleep work together, and all three can have an effect on our daily well-being and longevity. Sleep impacts our eating patterns, and our eating patterns affect our sleep: lack of quality sleep may make people eat more, and make less healthy food choices, but certain foods contain substances that may enhance sleep.

What is COVID-19 brain fog — and how can you clear it?

Published March 8, 2021

We’ve all experienced the feeling of sluggish, fuzzy thinking and a lack of sharpness, possibly caused by an illness or a medication. But what if that feeling didn’t go away and your thinking didn’t return to normal? That’s the situation for some people who have recovered from COVID-19, and there can be long-term effects on other organs as well.

Heavy metals in baby food? What parents should know and do

Published March 5, 2021

Worrisome levels of arsenic, lead, and other elements called heavy metals that can harm the developing brain are found in some commercial baby foods, according to a recent report. Here’s what parents should know and can do to protect young children.

My COVID-19 vaccine story –– and what happened next

Published March 4, 2021

Now that COVID-19 vaccines are starting to become more widely available, some people wonder what it’s like to receive one. One doctor shares her story –– including what happened when close family members became sick with COVID.

The hidden long-term cognitive effects of COVID-19

Published March 4, 2021

it is becoming increasingly clear that COVID-19 affects the nervous system along with the respiratory system. Research is suggesting that this may result in long-term neurologic damage in those who survive a COVID infection, including evidence of effects on cognitive function.

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