Forgetful? When to worry about memory changes

Memory changes can be scary, but they don’t always indicate Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Even so, a physician should evaluate sudden changes in the ability to perform daily activities. Early diagnosis has a number of benefits. (Locked) More »

Is it a cold or allergies?

Q. I feel like I have a perpetual cold all winter, every winter. I'm stuffy and sneezy and it never seems to get better. Do you think it could be allergies? How can I tell the difference? A. Colds and allergies produce many of the same symptoms: a runny nose, tiredness, and sometimes a sore throat. But they have different causes — a virus causes colds, while allergies are an immune system response to trigger substances, known as allergens. There are ways to distinguish one from the other. Colds sometimes produce a fever, but allergies never do. In addition, if you are suffering from allergies, you may also have itchy, watery eyes, symptoms that won't typically accompany a cold. But perhaps the biggest clue that can help you distinguish between a cold and allergies is the duration of symptoms. Cold symptoms rarely last more than two weeks, but allergies can last as long as you are exposed to the substance that is triggering the reaction. So, if your "cold symptoms" appear at the same time every year and last for an extended period of time, the cause may very well be allergies. Many people with seasonal allergies will experience symptoms for six weeks at a time. If you are allergic to something in your home, such as dust mites, mold, or pet dander, your symptoms could get worse during the winter months, because the house is sealed up and fresh air isn't getting in. In addition, your heating system may be recirculating the allergen. Because your symptoms last for an extended period of time, it may be worth a visit to the allergist. — by Hope Ricciotti, M.D., and Hye-Chun Hur, M.D., M.P.H.Editors in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch (Locked) More »

Easy ways you can improve indoor air quality

 Image: © Voyagerix/Getty Images It may feel cozy being sealed in tight against the cold in your home during the chillier months of the year, but for people who are sensitive to indoor allergens or have respiratory problems, winter can exacerbate problems. Stale indoor air and heating systems can increase the amount of allergy-inducing dust mites, pet dander, and mold spores circulating through your house. In late winter and early spring, it may still be too chilly to throw open the windows to pull out the musty air, so while you await the warmer weather it's important to be aware of some of the allergy and respiratory triggers that may be lurking in your surroundings. "Most of the things that cause problems are odorless," says Dr. Nicholas BuSaba, associate professor of otolaryng-ology at Harvard -Medical School. "So, in many cases there's nothing to alert you to the problem." That is, there's nothing other than the symptoms these allergens can trigger — such as respiratory problems (including asthma flare-ups), fatigue and sleepiness, or even digestive issues. More »

Study finds weak link between birth control and breast cancer

 Image: © designer491/Getty Images Hormonal birth control — whether it comes as pills, injections, a ring, an intrauterine device (IUD), or an implant — may raise your risk of breast cancer, according to a study published Dec. 7, 2017, in The New England Journal of Medicine. If you're like many women who currently use one of these contraceptive methods, or if you used one for years in the past, should you be worried? (Locked) More »

6 simple tips to reduce your blood pressure

Many women suddenly found themselves with a diagnosis of high blood pressure when the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association lowered the threshold for high blood pressure to 130/80 from 140/90. Small strategies, such as watching sodium intake and losing even a small amount of weight can help reduce blood pressure. More »