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Harvard Health Blog

Join the discussion with experts from Harvard Health Publishing and others like you on a variety of health topics, medical news, and views.


Cell phone use stimulates brain activity

Published February 23, 2011

An elegant new study showing that a cell phone can stimulate brain activity is certain to heat up the debate about whether or not cell phone use is linked to cancer. It’s an important signal that it’s high time scientists take a harder look at how the energy radiated by a cell phone, a mobile phone, or any other energy-emitting device we hold next to our heads affects the brain.

Zinc for the common cold? Not for me

Published February 17, 2011

The latest hubbub about taking zinc to shorten a cold is media hype at its finest. The review that sparked the media storm on zinc and colds says there’s a lot more to be done before recommending taking zinc for the common cold. The negative side effects of zinc are also worth considering.

Deep brain stimulation: Experts raise alarms about aggressive marketing

Published February 16, 2011

Deep brain stimulation, an experimental treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), is being misused, say prominent neuroscientists and ethicists in a hard-hitting paper in the journal Health Affairs. Their concerns echo cautions reported last year in the Harvard Mental Health Letter.

What to do when health problems or medical treatments thwart your love life

Published February 12, 2011

Health problems, or treatments for them, sometimes thwart sexual desire and sexual function. There may not be a quick fix for health-related sexual problems, but there are things you can do to enjoy your love life while taking care of the rest of your health.

Heart disease forecast: Gloomy, with boom time ahead

Published February 08, 2011

The American Heart Association is predicting a big increase in cardiovascular disease over the next 20 years, fueled largely by the aging of baby boomers. Greater attention to heart-healthy living among boomers, their children, and grandchildren, could prove the AHA wrong.

Football and concussions: Old school, new school, and a conversation with Jerry Kramer

Published February 05, 2011

Tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m., tens of millions of television sets will be turned on as Americans sit down and participate in that unofficial national holiday called “watching the Super Bowl.” For many, it’s an excuse to see funny ads and the half-time show and to eat (how many of those spanking new Dietary Guidelines will be broken?), drink, and socialize. But […]

Use your brain to avoid weight gain—by fighting portion inflation

Published February 02, 2011

The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend portion control as a way to maintain or lose weight. The inflation of portion sizes makes that difficult. But you can use your brain to help you control portions and eat less.

New dietary guidelines offer little new guidance

Published February 01, 2011

The latest iteration of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans focuses on weight and lowers the recommended salt intake for African Americans, people with diabetes, and others. Beyond that, the guidelines don’t offer much that is new. And what’s in there is often spoiled by vague language.

Feeling S.A.D.? Lighten up if it’s seasonal affective disorder

Published January 26, 2011

This picture shows the view from my office window in Boston: dull, dreary, and depressing — at least on overcast days like today. Lack of light is one of the reasons that people feel mentally foggy. One of the bloggers I follow, Rachel Zimmerman of WBUR’s CommonHealth blog, recently wrote that she’s been drinking three […]

End-of-life planning makes it easier to say goodbye

Published January 22, 2011

By Barbara Okun and Joseph Nowinski. Saying goodbye as the end of life approaches can be difficult, even for someone like writer Joyce Carol Oates. Her recent essay in The New Yorker about the impending death of her husband highlights the need for each of us to think about death and dying—and discuss them with loved ones—long before they become a likelihood.

FDA approves new treatment for head lice

Published January 19, 2011

A new FDA approved treatment for head lice, called Natroba, could be a useful addition to the anti-lice armamentarium, since some head lice have become resistant to the active ingredients in current over-the-counter anti-lice products.

Protect your heart when shoveling snow

Published January 15, 2011

Snow shoveling is a known trigger for heart attacks. Emergency departments in the snow-belt gear up for extra cases when enough of the white stuff has fallen to force folks out of their homes armed with shovels or snow blowers. What’s the connection? Many people who shovel snow rarely exercise. Picking up a shovel and […]

The Tucson shooting and mental illness

Published January 12, 2011

When reports arrived that accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner had opened fire in Tucson, Arizona on January 7, journalistic first responders linked the incident to the fierceness of political rhetoric in the United States. Upon reflection, some of the discussion has turned to questions about mental illness, guns, and violence. And plenty of reflection is […]

“Just in case” heart tests can do more harm than good

Published January 07, 2011

Here’s an important equation that all of us—doctors included—should know about health care, but don’t: More ≠ Better “More does not equal Better” applies to diagnostic procedures, screening tests meant to identify problems before they appear, medications, dietary supplements, and just about every aspect of medicine. That scenario is spelled out in alarming detail in […]

Good investigative reporting may finally debunk the myth that vaccines cause autism

Published January 06, 2011

For years now, both individual researchers and respected scientific organizations such as the Institute of Medicine have tried to refute a persistent myth — that childhood vaccines cause autism. The myth began after a small study published in 1998 in the Lancet by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues at Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine […]

Our newest book: Saying Goodbye

Published January 04, 2011

I’m excited to introduce one of Harvard Health Publishing’ newest books, Saying Goodbye: How Families Can Find Renewal Through Loss. The book, by psychologists Barbara Okun and Joseph Nowinski, explores the concept of “new grief” — the way that people now grieve when medical science prolongs lives for weeks, months, or even years. A recent […]

Why we do what we do: good health information can save lives

Published December 28, 2010

My colleagues at Harvard Health Publishing and I have a mission: to provide accurate, reliable information that will help readers live healthier lives. We work hard to fulfill that mission, and the feedback we get from folks who read our newsletters, Special Health Reports, books, and online health information indicates we are on the right […]

Echinacea for colds

Published December 20, 2010

Does echinacea, the popular natural cold remedy, really work? It depends on what you mean by “work.” Results reported in today’s Annals of Internal Medicine found that echinacea may reduce the length of a weeklong cold by 7 to 10 hours and make symptoms a little less onerous. That can’t be characterized as a major effect, so many people may figure that […]

The safety of painkillers

Published December 20, 2010

Perhaps as many as one in every 5 American adults will get a prescription for a painkiller this year, and many more will buy over-the-counter medicines without a prescription. These drugs can do wonders—getting rid of pain can seem like a miracle—but sometimes there’s a high price to be paid. Remember the heavily marketed COX-2 inhibitors? Rofecoxib, sold as Vioxx, […]

A Chia Pet for diabetes?

Published December 17, 2010

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified […]

Decline in stroke deaths reinforces importance of preventing “brain attack”

Published December 10, 2010

Stroke killed 2,000 fewer Americans in 2008 (the last year with complete numbers) than it did in 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said yesterday in its latest annual Deaths report. That dropped stroke from the third leading cause of death in the United States to the fourth. Good news? Yes and […]

New insights into treatment-resistant depression

Published December 09, 2010

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.  […]

Vitamin D recommendations

Published November 30, 2010

Vitamin D has been talked about as the vitamin — the one that might help fend off everything from cancer to heart disease to autoimmune disorders, if only we were to get enough of it. “Whoa!” is the message from a committee of experts assembled by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to update recommendations for vitamin D (and for calcium). […]