Managing the new normal: Actively help your family weather the pandemic

When the pandemic first began earlier this year, it seemed like if we could just hunker down until perhaps summer, things would get better and we’d be able to get back to life as usual (or at least something similar to life as usual). We were in survival mode: we cut corners and made do, broke some parenting rules, and otherwise made choices we would never usually make. Because that’s what you do when you are in survival mode.

It’s now very clear that the pandemic is here for at least this school year, and survival mode is taking on a whole new meaning. It’s time to make new habits and routines specifically for the pandemic. It’s time to make better and more durable choices that can help keep us healthier — and happier.

Some things obviously aren’t about choices. If you have lost loved ones, are struggling financially, are … Read more

Continue Reading

Lifestyle medicine for all: Healthy food comes first

“Lifestyle medicine is only for rich people, right?” a colleague asked me several years ago, questioning my involvement in this relatively new field of medicine that guides people toward healthy habits. This has been a common misperception, for sure.

But across the US, a revitalized brand of health activism is intent on bringing lifestyle medicine to a broader range of people. This is backed by a new effort from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine to engage communities most affected by chronic disease.

The first pillar of healthy lifestyle: Food is medicine

Lifestyle medicine is an evidence-based practice of helping people adopt and sustain healthy behaviors like improving diet, increasing activity, managing stress, sleeping well, moderating alcohol consumption, and quitting tobacco. Large studies show such habits can extend our lives by well over a decade. What’s more, these habits can even keep these extra years free of diseases like diabetes, … Read more

Continue Reading

CBD for chronic pain: The science doesn’t match the marketing

If you ask health care providers about the most challenging condition to treat, chronic pain is mentioned frequently. By its nature, chronic pain is a complex and multidimensional experience. Pain perception is affected by our unique biology, our mood, our social environment, and past experiences. If you or a loved one is suffering from chronic pain, you already know the heavy burden.

People are looking for novel, nonaddictive ways to treat pain

Given the ongoing challenges of chronic pain management coupled with the consequences of the opioid epidemic, pain management practitioners and their patients are searching for effective and safer alternatives to opioids to alleviate pain. With the legalization of marijuana in many states and resulting cultural acceptance of this drug for recreational and medical use, there has been an increased interest in using cannabis for a myriad of medical problems, including pain.

Cannabis (most commonly obtained from the Cannabis Read more

Continue Reading

Cough and cold season is arriving: Choose medicines safely

With the summer winding down and fall moving in, colder weather will arrive soon — along with cold and flu season. Millions of Americans get the common cold each year, often more than once. To counter coughs and runny noses, many will turn to over-the-counter (OTC) medications available for relief without a prescription.

Heading to the pharmacy for some relief? Read this first

While OTC medicines do not cure or shorten the common cold or flu, they can ease some symptoms. Finding a product that fits your needs, however, may not be so straightforward. A recent study evaluated brand-name OTC medications marketed as cold, allergy, sinus, and nasal remedies. It found that 14 common brand names, such as Mucinex, Tylenol, Robitussin, Benadryl, and Theraflu, accounted for 211 unique products, yet all of these products contained only eight active ingredients, alone or in combination.

Half of those ingredients turned up in … Read more

Continue Reading

Discrimination, high blood pressure, and health disparities in African Americans

Over the past few months, we have all seen the results of significant disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic, high levels of unemployment, and civil unrest driven by chronic racial injustice. These overlapping waves of societal insult have begun to bring necessary attention to the importance of health care disparities in the United States.

Direct links between stress, discrimination, racial injustice, and health outcomes occurring over one’s lifespan have not been well studied. But a recently published article in the journal Hypertension has looked at the connection between discrimination and increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) in African Americans.

Study links discrimination and hypertension in African Americans

It has been well established that African Americans have a higher risk of hypertension compared with other racial or ethnic groups in the United States. The authors of the Hypertension study hypothesized that a possible explanation for this disparity … Read more

Continue Reading

Shorter dream-stage sleep may be related to earlier death

Time and time again, adequate sleep has been shown to be critical to daily functioning and long-term health. Sleep serves numerous roles: recovering energy for the brain, clearing waste products, and forming memories. Prior studies have clearly linked shortened sleep times to heart disease, obesity, reduced cognitive performance, worsened mood, and even a shorter life. There is now new research that suggests that lack of a certain type of sleep (the dream stage of sleep) may be related to an earlier death in middle-aged and older people.

What is REM sleep?

Normal sleep is broken down into two sleep types: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). NREM is further classified by depth of sleep; N1 and N2 are lighter sleep stages, and N3 is deep sleep, which is most restorative. (REM is the stage where vivid dreaming occurs.) Brainwave activity during this time appears … Read more

Continue Reading

Time for flu shots — getting one is more important than ever!

Wondering when to get your flu shot? The best time is before influenza (flu) starts circulating widely. For most people, September or October is ideal for protection through the whole flu season, as the immune response from the vaccine wanes over time. And while changes and restrictions due to COVID-19 may make getting a flu vaccine less convenient for some this year, the pandemic makes it more important than ever.

Why do I need to get a flu vaccine yearly?

Influenza A and Influenza B cause most cases of flu in humans. Both have many strains that constantly change, accumulating genetic mutations that disguise them from the immune system. Prior exposure to one strain of flu will not necessarily protect you from other strains. Your immune system might not even recognize the same strain if it has mutated enough.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) constantly monitorRead more

Continue Reading

Harvard Health Ad Watch: A feel-good message about a diabetes drug

This 60-second advertisement for Trulicity, a medication for diabetes, is one of the most feel-good medication commercials I’ve ever seen. The narrator never uses the scare tactic of so many other ads, listing the terrible things that could happen if you don’t take the treatment. Instead, from start to finish, music, images, and spoken words deliver empowering, encouraging messages focused on helping your body to do what it’s supposed to be doing despite having diabetes.

There’s a lot of good information here, but as in most direct-to-consumer health marketing there’s also some that’s missing. Let’s go through it, shall we?

Three actors, three positive messages

The ad opens with uplifting music and statements by three people with type 2 diabetes (though all are actors, as noted in text at the bottom of the screen). A woman faces the camera to declare

“My body is truly powerful.”

So far so … Read more

Continue Reading

6 all-natural sex tips for men

If you believe those upbeat, seductive advertisements, men only need to pop a pill to awaken their dormant sex life. Whether the problem is erectile dysfunction (ED) — the inability to maintain an erection for sex — or low libido, ED medications appear to be the quickest and easiest solution.

While these drugs work for most men, they are not right for everyone. ED drugs are relatively safe, but can cause possible side effects such as headaches, indigestion, and back pain. Plus, some men may not want their sex life dependent on regular medication, or simply can’t take them because of high or low blood pressure, or other health conditions.

Fortunately, there are some proven natural ways for men to manage their ED and increase vitality. Bonus: these strategies also can enhance your overall health and quality of life, both in and out of the bedroom.

Six ways to boost

Read more

Continue Reading

Learning to live well with a persistent illness

When we get an acute illness like the flu or a cold, we feel sick for a week or two and then get back to our usual lives. This is how illness is “supposed” to go. But what happens when illness doesn’t fit this bill? What do patients with chronic conditions like diabetes or multiple sclerosis, or with persistent symptoms of Lyme disease or long-haul COVID-19, do when they can’t go back to their normal lives? Having suffered from the latter two — tick-borne illnesses that have plagued me for two decades, and a case of COVID-19 that took four months to shake — I’ve learned a few lessons about living with persistent illness.

Reframe your mindset

The most important — and hardest — lesson I’ve learned is that with debilitating, persistent conditions, there is no going back. I got sick at age 25. I had been working full-time, … Read more

Continue Reading

Getting the best treatment for your fibromyalgia

Imagine being in pain and having your doctor tell you it’s all in your head. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon experience for many of the six million Americans living with fibromyalgia, a chronic, painful condition.

People with fibromyalgia experience widespread pain, aches, and stiffness in muscles and joints throughout the body, as well as unusual tiredness. No one knows what causes this condition, and no apparent physical cause has been identified thus far. The most likely culprit is a brain malfunction that amplifies normal nerve responses, causing people with fibromyalgia to experience pain or other symptoms when nothing seemingly triggers them.

For those seeking relief, finding help can sometimes be a challenge. The best way to find a successful treatment strategy is to seek out a doctor who understands fibromyalgia, knows how to treat it, and can help you understand and cope with this condition. There are ways that … Read more

Continue Reading

5 takeaways for returning to school

School districts in the United States are in a period of profound uncertainty, which will likely persist throughout the 2020–2021 school year. Many agree that remote teaching in spring 2020 was piecemeal and sub-optimal. Now, despite a stated universal commitment to full-time, in-person, high-caliber education, many states have rising rates of COVID-19, and teachers and parents share deep health concerns. Already we have witnessed a rapid and seismic transition from the beginning of this summer — in June, many schools planned to open full-time for in-person learning — to near-universal adoption of hybrid or remote teaching models. In fact, as of August 26th, 24 of the 25 largest school districts in the US will start their school year providing remote-only education.

Seeking perspective on a safe return to school

I began the summer thinking that I could contribute in some small way to fusing together basic public health and educational … Read more

Continue Reading

How can you help a loved one suffering from loneliness?

You are worried about your mother. Before the pandemic, you would visit her every week with your young children. They loved playing in her garden and eating homemade cookies together. You would take your mother to medical appointments and on small excursions. However, due to her chronic lung disease, you made the difficult decision in March not to continue in-person family visits. You call her daily, but she sounds increasingly sad and worried. What can you do?

What is loneliness and how does it affect health?

 Loneliness is a subjective mental state of feeling disconnected from others. It is different from social isolation — you can be lonely even when surrounded by people you care about. Loneliness can be triggered by memories of losing someone, by feeling misunderstood by others, through having emotionally unsatisfying relationships, or by having less access to relationships due to changing life circumstances. According to studiesRead more

Continue Reading

Load More