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Are you eating enough protein? – Harvard Health

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Are you eating enough protein? – Harvard Health

Nutrition

Men need adequate protein in their diet to combat age-related muscle loss, but many don’t get enough.

March 1, 2024


By
,

Executive Editor, Harvard Men’s Health Watch

About the Author

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Matthew Solan,
Executive Editor, Harvard Men’s Health Watch

Matthew Solan is the executive editor of Harvard Men’s Health Watch. He previously served as executive editor for UCLA Health’s Healthy Years and as a contributor to Duke Medicine’s Health News and Weill Cornell Medical College’s …
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About the Reviewer

photo of Howard E. LeWine, MD

Howard E. LeWine, MD,
Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Howard LeWine is a practicing internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Chief Medical Editor at Harvard Health Publishing, and editor in chief of Harvard Men’s Health Watch.
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Our internal clocks regulate the sleep-wake cycle, and light establishes when we should feel wakeful or sleepy. Light exposure at night affects these natural processes, so researchers studied whether wearing an eye mask while sleeping might help learning and alertness.n “,”content”:”

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All of us have an internal clock that regulates our circadian rhythms, including when we sleep and when we are awake. And light is the single most important factor that helps establish when we should feel wakeful (generally during the day) and when we should feel sleepy (typically at night).

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So, let me ask you a personal question: just how dark is your bedroom? To find out why that matters — and whether sleeping in an eye mask is worthwhile — read on.

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How is light related to sleep?

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Our circadian system evolved well before the advent of artificial light. As anyone who has been to Times Square can confirm, just a few watts of power can trick the brain into believing that it is daytime at any time of night. So, what’s keeping your bedroom alight?

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  • A tablet used in bed at night to watch a movie is more than 100 times brighter than being outside when there is a full moon.
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  • Working on or watching a computer screen at night is about 10 times brighter than standing in a well-lit parking lot.
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Light exposure at night affects the natural processes that help prepare the body for sleep. Specifically, your pineal gland produces melatonin in response to darkness. This hormone is integral for the circadian regulation of sleep.

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What happens when we are exposed to light at night?

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Being exposed to light at night suppresses melatonin production, changing our sleep patterns. Compared to sleeping without a night light, adults who slept next to a night light had shallower sleep and more frequent arousals. Even outdoor artificial light at night, such as street lamps, has been linked with getting less sleep.

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But the impact of light at night is not limited to just sleep. It’s also associated with increased risk of developing depressive symptoms, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Light exposure misaligned with our circadian rhythms — that is, dark during the day and light at night — is one reason scientists believe that shift work puts people at higher risk for serious health problems.

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Could sleeping with an eye mask help?

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Researchers from Cardiff University in the United Kingdom conducted a series of experiments to see if wearing an eye mask while sleeping at night could improve certain measures of learning and alertness.

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Roughly 90 healthy young adults, 18 to 35 years of age, alternated between sleeping while wearing an eye mask or being exposed to light at night. They recorded their sleep patterns in a sleep diary.

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In the first part of the study, participants wore an intact eye mask for a week. Then during the next week, they wore an eye mask with a hole exposing each eye so that the mask didn't block the light.

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After sleeping with no light exposure (wearing the intact eye mask) and with minimal light exposure (the eye mask with the holes), participants completed three cognitive tasks on days six and seven of each week:

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  • First was a paired-associate learning task. This helps show how effectively a person can learn new associations. Here the task was learning related word pairs. Participants performed better after wearing an intact eye mask during sleep in the days leading up to the test than after being exposed to light at night.
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  • Second, the researchers administered a psychomotor vigilance test, which assesses alertness. Blocking light at night also improved reaction times on this task.
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  • Finally, a motor skill learning test was given, which involved tapping a five-digit sequence in the correct order. For this task, there was no difference in performance whether participants had worn an intact eye mask or been exposed to light at night.
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What else did the researchers learn?

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No research study is ever perfect, so it is important to take the conclusions above with a grain of salt.

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According to sleep diary data, there was no difference in the amount of sleep, nor in their perceptions of sleep quality, regardless of whether people wore an eye mask or not.

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Further, in a second experiment with about 30 participants, the researchers tracked sleep objectively using a monitoring device called the Dreem headband. They found no changes to the structure of sleep — for example, how much time participants spent in REM sleep — when wearing an eye mask.

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Should I rush out to buy an eye mask before an important meeting or exam?

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If you decide to try using an eye mask, you probably don’t need to pay extra for overnight shipping. Instead, follow a chronobiologist’s rule of thumb: “bright days, dark nights.”

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  • During the daytime, get as much natural daylight as you possibly can: go out to pick up your morning bagel from a local bakery, take a short walk during your afternoon lull at work.
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  • In the evening, reduce your exposure to electronic devices such as your cell phone, and use the night-dimming modes on these devices. Make sure that you turn off all unnecessary lights. Finally, try to make your bedroom as dark as possible when you go to bed. This could mean turning the alarm clock next to your bed away from you or covering up the light on a humidifier.
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Of course, you might decide a well-fitted, comfortable eye mask is a useful addition to your light hygiene toolkit. Most cost $10 to $20, so you may find yourself snoozing better and improving cognitive performance for the price of a few cups of coffee.

“,”excerpt”:”n

Our internal clocks regulate the sleep-wake cycle, and light establishes when we should feel wakeful or sleepy. Light exposure at night affects these natural processes, so researchers studied whether wearing an eye mask while sleeping might help learning and alertness.

n “,”short_excerpt”:”n

Our internal clocks regulate the sleep-wake cycle, and light establishes when we should feel wakeful or sleepy. Light exposure at night affects these natural processes, so researchers studied whether wearing an eye mask while sleeping might help learning and alertness.

n “,”description”:null,”author”:null,”slug”:”does-sleeping-with-an-eye-mask-improve-learning-and-alertness-202402213017″,”sort_date”:”2024-02-21T05:00:00.000000Z”,”contentable_type”:”AppModelsMarketingBlogPost”,”contentable_id”:3017,”replacement_content_id”:null,”landing_page_landing_page_group_id”:null,”ucr_content_id”:”BL022124″,”publication_date”:”2024-02-21T15:30:00.000000Z”,”last_review_date”:null,”imported_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:02.000000Z”,”last_import_type”:”insert”,”last_modified_date”:”2024-02-18T05:00:00.000000Z”,”active”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:02.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:02.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”images_remapped”:0,”old_product_id”:null,”old_content_id”:null,”hide_ads”:0,”primary_content_topic_id”:37,”ecommerce_type”:”CATALOG”,”authors”:[{“id”:397,”cr_id”:770,”featured”:0,”hhp_staff”:0,”hidden”:0,”name”:”Eric Zhou, PhD”,”title”:null,”first_name”:”Eric”,”middle_name”:null,”last_name”:”Zhou”,”suffix”:”PhD”,”slug”:”eric-zhou-phd”,”byline”:”Contributor”,”description”:”Eric Zhou, PhD, is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. His research focuses on how we can better understand and treat sleep disorders in both pediatric and adult populations, including those with chronic illnesses. Dr. Zhou's work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, private foundations, and the pharmaceutical industry. He has published more than 60 manuscripts and chapters in the field of health psychology and behavioral medicine, and serves on the editorial boards of Annals of Behavioral Medicine and the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.”,”image_url”:”https://d2icykjy7h7x7e.cloudfront.net/authors/GQLMCho5bMXCrwYzYcrqhLODLFpv8ZTA9ut5korB.jpg”,”twitter_username”:null,”sort_order”:0,”created_at”:”2021-10-19T21:28:54.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2022-07-19T17:03:50.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”pivot”:{“content_id”:18675,”author_id”:397,”sort_order”:1}}],”contentable”:{“id”:3017,”comments_open”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:02.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:02.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”media”:[]},”content_type”:{“id”:18,”name”:”blog”,”slug”:”blog”,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null},”media”:[{“id”:14937,”model_type”:”AppModelsMarketingContent”,”model_id”:18675,”uuid”:”946f5ad4-8f99-4d0e-9796-35176e418f88″,”collection_name”:”contents”,”name”:”fcff561e-5fc9-4fbd-aac0-b9ea3778052b”,”file_name”:”fcff561e-5fc9-4fbd-aac0-b9ea3778052b.jpg”,”mime_type”:”image/jpeg”,”disk”:”s3″,”conversions_disk”:”s3″,”size”:61811,”manipulations”:[],”custom_properties”:{“alt”:”Red old-fashioned alarm clock next to black sleep mask against a turquoise and white background”},”generated_conversions”:{“micro”:true,”thumb”:true},”responsive_images”:[],”order_column”:14873,”created_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:02.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:05.000000Z”,”full_url”:”https://domf5oio6qrcr.cloudfront.net/medialibrary/14937/fcff561e-5fc9-4fbd-aac0-b9ea3778052b.jpg”}],”primary_content_topic”:{“id”:37,”name”:”Mind & Mood”,”slug”:”mind-and-mood”,”is_primary”:1,”canonical”:”https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/mind-and-mood”}},{“id”:18676,”content_source_id”:2,”content_type_id”:18,”content_access_type_id”:1,”title”:”Does drinking water before meals really help you lose weight?”,”short_title”:””,”subheading”:”Why people think it does and what the evidence says.”,”summary”:”n

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably heard the advice to drink water before a meal because it makes you feel fuller and you’ll stop eating sooner. It seems like a reasonable idea — but does it work? And if it doesn’t, why do people think it does?

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If you’ve ever tried to lose excess weight, you’ve probably gotten this advice: drink more water. Or perhaps it was more specific: drink a full glass of water before each meal.

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The second suggestion seems like a reasonable idea, right? If you fill your stomach with water before eating, you’ll feel fuller and stop eating sooner. But did that work for you? Would drinking more water throughout the day work? Why do people say drinking water can help with weight loss — and what does the evidence show?

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Stretching nerves, burning calories, and thirst versus hunger

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Three top theories are:

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Feel full, eat less. As noted, filling up on water before meals has intuitive appeal. Your stomach has nerves that sense stretch and send signals to the brain that it’s time to stop eating. Presumably, drinking before a meal could send similar signals.

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  • The evidence: Some small, short-term studies support this idea. For example, older study subjects who drank a full glass of water before meals tended to eat less than those who didn’t. Another study found that people following a low-calorie diet who drank extra water before meals had less appetite and more weight loss over 12 weeks than those on a similar diet without the extra water. But neither study assessed the impact of drinking extra water on long-term weight loss.
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Burning off calories. The water we drink must be heated up to body temperature, a process requiring the body to expend energy. The energy spent on this — called thermogenesis — could offset calories from meals.

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  • The evidence: Though older studies provided some support for this explanation, more recent studies found no evidence that drinking water burned off many calories. That calls the thermogenesis explanation for water-induced weight loss into question.
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You’re not hungry, you’re thirsty. This explanation suggests that sometimes we head to the kitchen for something to eat when we’re actually thirsty rather than hungry. If that’s the case, drinking calorie-free water can save us from consuming unnecessary calories — and that could promote weight loss.

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  • The evidence: The regulation of thirst and hunger is complex and varies over a person’s lifespan. For example, thirst may be dulled in older adults. But I could find no convincing studies in humans supporting the notion that people who are thirsty misinterpret the sensation for hunger, or that this is why drinking water might help with weight loss.
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Exercise booster, no-cal substitution, and burning fat demands water

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Being well-hydrated improves exercise capacity and thus weight loss. Muscle fatigue, cramping, and heat exhaustion can all be brought on by dehydration. That’s why extra hydration before exercise may be recommended, especially for elite athletes exercising in warm environments.

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  • The evidence: For most people, hydrating before exercises seems unnecessary, and I could find no studies specifically examining the role of hydration to exercise-related weight loss.
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Swapping out high calorie drinks with water. Yes, if you usually drink high-calorie beverages (such as sweetened sodas, fruit juice, or alcohol), consistently replacing them with water can aid weight loss over time.

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  • The evidence: A dramatic reduction in calorie intake by substituting water for higher-calorie beverages could certainly lead to long-term weight loss. While it’s hard to design a study to prove this, indirect evidence suggests a link between substituting water for high-cal beverages and weight loss. Even so, just as calorie-restricting diets are hard to stick with over the long term, following a water-only plan may be easier said than done.
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Burning fat requires water. Dehydration impairs the body’s ability to break down fat for fuel. So, perhaps drinking more water will encourage fat breakdown and, eventually, weight loss.

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  • The evidence: Though some animal studies support the idea, I could find no compelling evidence from human studies that drinking extra water helps burn fat as a means to lose excess weight.
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The bottom line

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So, should you bump up hydration by drinking water before or during meals, or even at other times during the day?

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Some evidence does suggest this might aid weight loss, at least for some people. But those studies are mostly small or short-term, or based on animal data. Even positive studies only found modest benefits.

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That said, if you think it’s working for you, there’s little downside to drinking a bit more water, other than the challenge of trying to drink if you aren’t particularly thirsty. My take? Though plenty of people recommend this approach, it seems based on a theory that doesn’t hold water.

“,”excerpt”:”n

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably heard the advice to drink water before a meal because it makes you feel fuller and you’ll stop eating sooner. It seems like a reasonable idea — but does it work? And if it doesn’t, why do people think it does?

n “,”short_excerpt”:”n

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably heard the advice to drink water before a meal because it makes you feel fuller and you’ll stop eating sooner. It seems like a reasonable idea — but does it work? And if it doesn’t, why do people think it does?

n “,”description”:null,”author”:null,”slug”:”does-drinking-water-before-meals-really-help-you-lose-weight-202402203018″,”sort_date”:”2024-02-20T05:00:00.000000Z”,”contentable_type”:”AppModelsMarketingBlogPost”,”contentable_id”:3018,”replacement_content_id”:null,”landing_page_landing_page_group_id”:null,”ucr_content_id”:”BL022024″,”publication_date”:”2024-02-20T15:30:00.000000Z”,”last_review_date”:null,”imported_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:03.000000Z”,”last_import_type”:”insert”,”last_modified_date”:”2024-02-18T05:00:00.000000Z”,”active”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:03.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:03.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”images_remapped”:0,”old_product_id”:null,”old_content_id”:null,”hide_ads”:0,”primary_content_topic_id”:44,”ecommerce_type”:”CATALOG”,”authors”:[{“id”:23,”cr_id”:2,”featured”:1,”hhp_staff”:1,”hidden”:0,”name”:”Robert H. Shmerling, MD”,”title”:null,”first_name”:”Robert”,”middle_name”:”H.”,”last_name”:”Shmerling”,”suffix”:”MD”,”slug”:”robert-h-shmerling-md”,”byline”:”Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing”,”description”:”

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School. As a practicing rheumatologist for over 30 years, Dr. Shmerling engaged in a mix of patient care, teaching, and research. His research interests center on diagnostic studies in patients with musculoskeletal symptoms, and rheumatic and autoimmune diseases. He has published research regarding infectious arthritis, medical ethics, and diagnostic test performance in rheumatic disease. Having retired from patient care in 2019, Dr. Shmerling now works as a senior faculty editor for Harvard Health Publishing.

“,”image_url”:”https://d2icykjy7h7x7e.cloudfront.net/authors/OdKCKaVzyx3xPsUxIBc9zJz8m3zvysnJa3UJsGOd.jpg”,”twitter_username”:”RobShmerling”,”sort_order”:4,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T10:05:10.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2023-09-06T15:33:18.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”pivot”:{“content_id”:18676,”author_id”:23,”sort_order”:1}}],”contentable”:{“id”:3018,”comments_open”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:03.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:03.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”media”:[]},”content_type”:{“id”:18,”name”:”blog”,”slug”:”blog”,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null},”media”:[{“id”:14938,”model_type”:”AppModelsMarketingContent”,”model_id”:18676,”uuid”:”e88312cf-ca6d-425a-9113-34160d35cc3d”,”collection_name”:”contents”,”name”:”2000a249-a535-402b-bd6b-32311bd847c7″,”file_name”:”2000a249-a535-402b-bd6b-32311bd847c7.jpg”,”mime_type”:”image/jpeg”,”disk”:”s3″,”conversions_disk”:”s3″,”size”:71889,”manipulations”:[],”custom_properties”:{“alt”:”A stream of water pouring into and splashing around a tall glass with ice against blue background; concept is water and weight”},”generated_conversions”:{“micro”:true,”thumb”:true},”responsive_images”:[],”order_column”:14874,”created_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:03.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-19T10:00:05.000000Z”,”full_url”:”https://domf5oio6qrcr.cloudfront.net/medialibrary/14938/2000a249-a535-402b-bd6b-32311bd847c7.jpg”}],”primary_content_topic”:{“id”:44,”name”:”Staying Healthy”,”slug”:”staying-healthy”,”is_primary”:1,”canonical”:”https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/staying-healthy”}},{“id”:18632,”content_source_id”:2,”content_type_id”:18,”content_access_type_id”:1,”title”:”Still confused after Flovent discontinuation? What to know and do”,”short_title”:””,”subheading”:”Next steps for those who relied on the popular product to control asthma.”,”summary”:”n

Until recently, many people with asthma used a medicine called Flovent. It has been discontinued by its manufacturer, leaving users with questions about what to substitute and which medicines their insurance will cover.

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What happens when a widely used medicine is no longer available at pharmacies across the US? Until recently, Flovent (fluticasone) inhalers were frequently prescribed to help control asthma. If you or your child relied on these products, you may be scrambling to find medicines that will help you stay healthy without breaking the bank.

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What’s essential to know, and what questions should you ask your health care provider? We checked in with Dr. William B. Feldman, a physician in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital to get answers.

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Which medicines are discontinued?

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In January, GlaxoSmithKline stopped producing Flovent, which was available as a prescription metered-dose inhaler (Flovent HFA) and a dry powder inhaler (Flovent Diskus).

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Both contain fluticasone, a steroid. Fluticasone reduces inflammation and swelling in the airways. Both types of inhalers are FDA-approved to help prevent asthma attacks.

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However, children under age 5 and adults with particularly poor lung function may not be able to use a dry powder inhaler. They may lack the lung power necessary to breathe in deeply enough to pull the medicine into their airways, Dr. Feldman explains. A metered-dose inhaler could be the best choice for them.

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Now that Flovent is discontinued, is a generic product available?

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Yes, the drug manufacturer has licensed an authorized generic of both Flovent products: the metered-dose inhaler and the dry powder inhaler.

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However, insurance coverage may not pay for the authorized generic because it may cost an insurer more than some other branded medicines. So, you may need to switch to another brand to stay healthy. Call your insurance company to check.

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What are your alternatives?

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This is a good chance for you and your doctor to review your asthma treatment plan. It may be a good time to make changes.

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If you had been using Flovent daily for symptom control, your doctor may recommend:

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  • Trying an inhaled steroid similar to Flovent. Many types of steroids will work, including beclomethasone (Qvar RediHaler), budesonide (Pulmicort Flexhaler), ciclesonide (Alvesco), and mometasone (Asmanex Twisthaler, Asmanex HFA). “These products use different molecules to do the same job as fluticasone,” says Dr. Feldman.
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  • Switching to a combination inhaler. New studies suggest this approach may help many people who use Flovent daily for symptom control and only use a short-acting medicine to open airways when an asthma flare occurs (see here and here). If you have intermittent asthma symptoms, talk with your provider about whether you could use a combination inhaler when you start to wheeze or have shortness of breath. This combines a medicine called formoterol with a steroid. Symbicort provides this combination in one inhaler. Although not yet approved by the FDA for this specific use, it is approved in many other countries.
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What else do asthma specialists advise people to do?

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If your insurance covers the authorized generic, this may be a good choice because you already know how to use the product. But what if insurance won’t cover this?

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“Any other inhaled steroid should work for most — but not all — people,” says Dr. Feldman. “There are brand-name metered-dose and dry powder inhalers available, such as those mentioned above.”

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Here’s what else to know and do

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  • Discuss whether it’s safe to switch medicines or type of device. For many people, the answer will be yes. But if your health care provider believes that a metered-dose inhaler is the best choice due to age or poor lung function, ask your insurance company for a formulary exception to cover the authorized generic fluticasone or another metered-dose inhaler. Ask your provider to make the same request.
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  • If you have a child under 5, you and your doctor should also ask your insurance company for a formulary exception to cover a metered-dose inhaler with a steroid.
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  • For anyone who needs to switch brands, your new inhaler may look and feel different and may require a new technique when you use it to get the full benefit of the medicine. “When folks switch from one type of inhaler to another, it’s very important to get proper education, ideally from their prescriber. But you can also do this online to understand how to properly use this new product,” says Dr. Feldman.
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If you do switch, ask your health care provider to show you how to use the new inhaler in an in-person or virtual visit. If that’s not possible, check your technique by watching these videos created by National Jewish Health, a leading US hospital for respiratory care.

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What if you’re not feeling as good on a new asthma medicine?

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If you’ve switched and notice worsening symptoms or more asthma attacks, contact your health care provider, Dr. Feldman advises. “They should make sure this isn’t due to improper technique with the new device. It may not be, but it’s important to check and to keep your doctor aware of changes like these.”

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Is there a difference between an authorized generic and independent generic medicines?

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“With an authorized generic, the brand-name company produces the generic or licenses another company to do that. It’s the exact same medicine as the original brand-name drug. It just doesn’t have the label,” says Dr. Feldman.

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Independent generics encourage price competition if several companies make them. “With authorized generics, you don’t see those price decreases to the same extent, because you typically just have one product and it’s totally controlled by the branded company,” he adds.

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What if you don’t have insurance, or insurance won’t cover a medicine you need?

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“These inhalers have extraordinarily high list prices — $200, $300, $400 per month for the product,” notes Dr. Feldman. Manufacturers negotiate rebates with insurers that may substantially lower the price for an insurance plan.

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If you don’t have insurance, you won’t get that lower price. So, it’s worth checking prices for all options: you may find the authorized generic will cost you less than other brand-name inhalers.

“,”excerpt”:”n

Until recently, many people with asthma used a medicine called Flovent. It has been discontinued by its manufacturer, leaving users with questions about what to substitute and which medicines their insurance will cover.

n “,”short_excerpt”:”n

Until recently, many people with asthma used a medicine called Flovent. It has been discontinued by its manufacturer, leaving users with questions about what to substitute and which medicines their insurance will cover.

n “,”description”:null,”author”:null,”slug”:”still-confused-after-flovent-discontinuation-what-to-know-and-do-202402163016″,”sort_date”:”2024-02-16T05:00:00.000000Z”,”contentable_type”:”AppModelsMarketingBlogPost”,”contentable_id”:3016,”replacement_content_id”:null,”landing_page_landing_page_group_id”:null,”ucr_content_id”:”BL021624″,”publication_date”:”2024-02-16T11:30:00.000000Z”,”last_review_date”:null,”imported_at”:”2024-02-17T10:00:24.000000Z”,”last_import_type”:”update”,”last_modified_date”:”2024-02-16T05:00:00.000000Z”,”active”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-16T10:00:03.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-17T10:00:24.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”images_remapped”:0,”old_product_id”:null,”old_content_id”:null,”hide_ads”:0,”primary_content_topic_id”:28,”ecommerce_type”:”CATALOG”,”authors”:[{“id”:141,”cr_id”:454,”featured”:0,”hhp_staff”:1,”hidden”:0,”name”:”Francesca Coltrera”,”title”:null,”first_name”:”Francesca”,”middle_name”:null,”last_name”:”Coltrera”,”suffix”:null,”slug”:”francesca-coltrera”,”byline”:”Editor, Harvard Health Blog”,”description”:”

Francesca Coltrera is editor of the Harvard Health Blog, and a senior content writer and editor for Harvard Health Publishing. She is an award-winning medical writer and co-author of Living Through Breast Cancer and The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Fitness Plan. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, O Magazine, Good Housekeeping, SELF, and the Boston Herald, among other venues. She is interested in many health topics, including coronavirus and COVID-19, emotional and physical wellness, parenting and children’s health, women’s health, exercise, longevity, cancer, caregiving, and end-of-life issues.

“,”image_url”:”https://d2icykjy7h7x7e.cloudfront.net/authors/TqVPF0YGx0xJcBXxPlTy6uaaWpQEzL1twZBXNs9d.jpg”,”twitter_username”:null,”sort_order”:6,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T10:46:14.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2023-12-11T15:51:27.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”pivot”:{“content_id”:18632,”author_id”:141,”sort_order”:1}}],”contentable”:{“id”:3016,”comments_open”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-16T10:00:03.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-16T10:00:03.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”media”:[]},”content_type”:{“id”:18,”name”:”blog”,”slug”:”blog”,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null},”media”:[{“id”:14889,”model_type”:”AppModelsMarketingContent”,”model_id”:18632,”uuid”:”7a04daff-9258-45fd-b6f4-d38382cb307b”,”collection_name”:”contents”,”name”:”0ac39de8-a8b8-4b51-8139-d3b2ef38e708″,”file_name”:”0ac39de8-a8b8-4b51-8139-d3b2ef38e708.jpg”,”mime_type”:”image/jpeg”,”disk”:”s3″,”conversions_disk”:”s3″,”size”:38636,”manipulations”:[],”custom_properties”:{“alt”:”An angled pink counter holding two types of asthma inhalers, one a purple disk, the other silver and frosted plastic and has a white top next to it”},”generated_conversions”:{“micro”:true,”thumb”:true},”responsive_images”:[],”order_column”:14825,”created_at”:”2024-02-16T10:00:03.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-16T10:00:05.000000Z”,”full_url”:”https://domf5oio6qrcr.cloudfront.net/medialibrary/14889/0ac39de8-a8b8-4b51-8139-d3b2ef38e708.jpg”}],”primary_content_topic”:{“id”:28,”name”:”Diseases & Conditions”,”slug”:”diseases-and-conditions”,”is_primary”:1,”canonical”:”https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/diseases-and-conditions”}},{“id”:16213,”content_source_id”:2,”content_type_id”:18,”content_access_type_id”:1,”title”:”Flowers, chocolates, organ donation — are you in?”,”short_title”:””,”subheading”:”Gifts of life are fitting on Valentine’s Day and any other day of the year.”,”summary”:”n

February 14th is more than Valentine’s Day –– it’s also National Donor Day, when health organizations sponsor sign-ups for organ and tissue donation. For those in need, such a donation can be life-changing — or lifesaving. If you wonder what can be donated or how, read on.

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Chocolates and flowers are great gifts for Valentine’s Day. But what if the gifts we give then or throughout the year could be truly life-changing? A gift that could save a life or free someone from dialysis?

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You can do this. For people in need of an organ, tissue, or blood donation, a donor can give them a gift that exceeds the value of anything that you can buy. Fittingly, Valentine’s Day is also known as National Donor Day, a time for blood drives and sign-ups for organ and tissue donation. Have you ever wondered what can be donated? Had reservations about donating after death or concerns about risks for live donors? Read on.

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The enormous impact of organ, tissue, or cell donation

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Imagine you have kidney failure requiring dialysis 12 or more hours each week just to stay alive. Even with this, you know you’re still likely to die a premature death. Or, if your liver is failing, you may experience severe nausea, itching, and confusion; death may only be a matter of weeks or months away. For those with cancer in need of a bone marrow transplant, or someone who’s lost their vision due to corneal disease, finding a donor may be their only good option.

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Organ or tissue donation can turn these problems around, giving recipients a chance at a long life, a better quality of life, or both. And yet, the number of people who need organ donation far exceeds compatible donors. While national surveys have found about 90% of Americans support organ donation, only 40% have signed up. More than 103,000 women, men, and children are awaiting an organ transplant in the US. About 6,200 die each year, still waiting.

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What can you donate?

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The list of ways to help has grown dramatically. Some organs, tissues, or cells can be donated while you’re alive; other donations are only possible after death. A single donor can help more than 80 people!

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After death, people can donate:

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  • bone, cartilage, and tendons
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  • corneas
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  • face and hands (though uncommon, they are among the newest additions to this list)
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  • kidneys
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  • liver
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  • lungs
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  • heart and heart valves
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  • stomach and intestine
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  • nerves
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  • pancreas
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  • skin
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  • arteries and veins.
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Live donations may include:

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  • birth tissue, such as the placenta, umbilical cord, and amniotic fluid, which can be used to help heal skin wounds or ulcers and prevent infection
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  • blood cells, serum, or bone marrow
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  • a kidney
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  • part of a lung
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  • part of the intestine, liver, or pancreas.
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To learn more about different types of organ donations, visit Donate Life America.

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Becoming a donor after death: Questions and misconceptions

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Common misconceptions about becoming an organ donor limit the number of people who are willing to sign up. For example, many people mistakenly believe that

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  • doctors won’t work as hard to save your life if you’re known to be an organ donor — or worse, doctors will harvest organs before death
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  • their religion forbids organ donation
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  • you cannot have an open-casket funeral if you donate your organs.
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None of these is true, and none should discourage you from becoming an organ donor. Legitimate medical professionals always keep the patient’s interests front and center. Care would never be jeopardized due to a person’s choices around organ donation. Most major religions allow and support organ donation. If organ donation occurs after death, the clothed body will show no outward signs of organ donation, so an open-casket funeral is an option for organ donors.

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Live donors: Blood, bone marrow, and organs

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Have you ever donated blood? Congratulations, you’re a live donor! The risk for live donors varies depending on the intended donation, such as:

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  • Blood, platelets, or plasma: If you’re donating blood or blood products, there is little or no risk involved.
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  • Bone marrow: Donating bone marrow requires a minor surgical procedure. If general anesthesia is used, there is a chance of a reaction to the anesthesia. Bone marrow is removed through needles inserted into the back of the pelvis bones on each side. Back or hip pain is common, but can be controlled with pain relievers. The body quickly replaces the bone marrow removed, so no long-term problems are expected.
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  • Stem cells: Stem cells are found in bone marrow or umbilical cord blood. They also appear in small numbers in our blood and can be donated through a process similar to blood donation. This takes about seven or eight hours. Filgrastim, a medication that increases stem cell production, is given for a number of days beforehand. It can cause side effects such as flulike symptoms, bone pain, and fatigue, but these tend to resolve soon after the procedure.
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  • Kidney, lung, or liver: Surgery to donate a kidney or a portion of a lung or liver comes with a risk of complications, reactions to anesthesia, and significant recovery time. It’s no small matter to give a kidney, or part of a lung or liver.
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The vast number of live organ donations occur without complications, and donors typically feel quite positive about the experience.

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Who can donate?

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Almost anyone can donate blood cells –– including stem cells –– or be a bone marrow, tissue, or organ donor. Exceptions include anyone with active cancer, widespread infection, or organs that aren’t healthy.

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What about age? By itself, your age does not disqualify you from organ donation. In 2023, two out of five people donating organs were over 50. People in their 90s have donated organs upon their deaths and saved the lives of others.

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However, bone marrow transplants may fail more often when the donor is older, so bone marrow donations by people over age 55 or 60 are usually avoided.

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Finding a good match: Immune compatibility

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For many transplants, the best results occur when there is immune compatibility between the donor and recipient. Compatibility is based largely on HLA typing, which analyzes genetically-determined proteins on the surface of most cells. These proteins help the immune system identify which cells qualify as foreign or self. Foreign cells trigger an immune attack; cells identified as self should not.

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HLA typing can be done by a blood test or cheek swab. Close relatives tend to have the best HLA matches, but complete strangers may be a good match as well.

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Fewer donors among people with certain HLA types make finding a match more challenging. Already existing health disparities, such as higher rates of kidney disease among Black Americans and communities of color, are worsened by lower numbers of donors from these communities, an inequity partly driven by a lack of trust in the medical system.

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The bottom line

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You can make an enormous impact by becoming a donor during your life or after death. In the US, you must opt in to be a donor after death. (Research suggests the opt-out approach many other countries use could significantly increase rates of organ donation in this country.)

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I’m hopeful that organ donation in the US and throughout the world will increase over time. While you can still go with chocolates for Valentine’s Day, maybe this year you can also go bigger and become a donor.

n “,”excerpt”:”n

February 14th is more than Valentine’s Day –– it’s also National Donor Day, when health organizations sponsor sign-ups for organ and tissue donation. For those in need, such a donation can be life-changing — or lifesaving. If you wonder what can be donated or how, read on.

n “,”short_excerpt”:”n

February 14th is more than Valentine’s Day –– it’s also National Donor Day, when health organizations sponsor sign-ups for organ and tissue donation. For those in need, such a donation can be life-changing — or lifesaving. If you wonder what can be donated or how, read on.

n “,”description”:null,”author”:null,”slug”:”flowers-chocolates-organ-donation-are-you-in-2021021121928″,”sort_date”:”2021-02-11T05:00:00.000000Z”,”contentable_type”:”AppModelsMarketingBlogPost”,”contentable_id”:2385,”replacement_content_id”:null,”landing_page_landing_page_group_id”:null,”ucr_content_id”:”BL021121″,”publication_date”:”2021-02-11T05:00:00.000000Z”,”last_review_date”:”2024-02-08T05:00:00.000000Z”,”imported_at”:”2024-02-09T10:00:05.000000Z”,”last_import_type”:”update”,”last_modified_date”:”2024-02-08T05:00:00.000000Z”,”active”:1,”created_at”:”2021-02-11T15:30:46.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-09T10:00:05.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”images_remapped”:0,”old_product_id”:null,”old_content_id”:21928,”hide_ads”:0,”primary_content_topic_id”:44,”ecommerce_type”:”CATALOG”,”authors”:[{“id”:23,”cr_id”:2,”featured”:1,”hhp_staff”:1,”hidden”:0,”name”:”Robert H. Shmerling, MD”,”title”:null,”first_name”:”Robert”,”middle_name”:”H.”,”last_name”:”Shmerling”,”suffix”:”MD”,”slug”:”robert-h-shmerling-md”,”byline”:”Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing”,”description”:”

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School. As a practicing rheumatologist for over 30 years, Dr. Shmerling engaged in a mix of patient care, teaching, and research. His research interests center on diagnostic studies in patients with musculoskeletal symptoms, and rheumatic and autoimmune diseases. He has published research regarding infectious arthritis, medical ethics, and diagnostic test performance in rheumatic disease. Having retired from patient care in 2019, Dr. Shmerling now works as a senior faculty editor for Harvard Health Publishing.

“,”image_url”:”https://d2icykjy7h7x7e.cloudfront.net/authors/OdKCKaVzyx3xPsUxIBc9zJz8m3zvysnJa3UJsGOd.jpg”,”twitter_username”:”RobShmerling”,”sort_order”:4,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T10:05:10.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2023-09-06T15:33:18.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”pivot”:{“content_id”:16213,”author_id”:23,”sort_order”:1}}],”contentable”:{“id”:2385,”comments_open”:1,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T11:08:38.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2021-05-11T11:08:38.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”media”:[{“id”:10415,”model_type”:”AppModelsMarketingBlogPost”,”model_id”:2385,”uuid”:”54d8c03b-4c3f-4137-b568-67368e47c832″,”collection_name”:”featured”,”name”:”GettyImages-488624012″,”file_name”:”GettyImages-488624012.jpg”,”mime_type”:”image/jpeg”,”disk”:”s3″,”conversions_disk”:”s3″,”size”:84081,”manipulations”:[],”custom_properties”:[],”generated_conversions”:{“micro”:true,”thumb”:true},”responsive_images”:[],”order_column”:10415,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T11:08:38.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2021-06-23T14:36:25.000000Z”,”full_url”:”https://domf5oio6qrcr.cloudfront.net/medialibrary/10415/GettyImages-488624012.jpg”}]},”content_type”:{“id”:18,”name”:”blog”,”slug”:”blog”,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null},”media”:[{“id”:14840,”model_type”:”AppModelsMarketingContent”,”model_id”:16213,”uuid”:”d57f6906-145a-46ba-bd02-78b73aa79f5c”,”collection_name”:”contents”,”name”:”77cb4ef9-cfe9-4673-a289-e68cb1017153″,”file_name”:”77cb4ef9-cfe9-4673-a289-e68cb1017153.jpg”,”mime_type”:”image/jpeg”,”disk”:”s3″,”conversions_disk”:”s3″,”size”:64882,”manipulations”:[],”custom_properties”:{“alt”:”photo illustration of a heart shape in dark red with the words organ donors save lives on it in white”},”generated_conversions”:{“micro”:true,”thumb”:true},”responsive_images”:[],”order_column”:14776,”created_at”:”2024-02-08T19:11:23.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-08T19:11:27.000000Z”,”full_url”:”https://domf5oio6qrcr.cloudfront.net/medialibrary/14840/77cb4ef9-cfe9-4673-a289-e68cb1017153.jpg”}],”primary_content_topic”:{“id”:44,”name”:”Staying Healthy”,”slug”:”staying-healthy”,”is_primary”:1,”canonical”:”https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/staying-healthy”}},{“id”:18626,”content_source_id”:2,”content_type_id”:18,”content_access_type_id”:1,”title”:”New research shows little risk of infection from prostate biopsies”,”short_title”:””,”subheading”:”No difference between the two major approaches, according to clinical trial results.”,”summary”:”n

Infections after a prostate biopsy are rare, but they do occur. There are two ways to perform such a biopsy, with the one at higher risk of infection more common in the US. Researchers conducted a trial designed to compare the safety of the two methods.

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Infections after a prostate biopsy are rare, but they do occur. Now research shows that fewer than 2% of men develop confirmed infections after prostate biopsy, regardless of the technique used.

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In the United States, doctors usually thread a biopsy needle through the rectum and then into the prostate gland while watching their progress on an ultrasound machine. This is called a transrectal ultrasound-guided biopsy (TRUS). Since the biopsy needle passes through the rectum, there's a chance that fecal bacteria will be introduced into the prostate or escape into the bloodstream. For that reason, doctors typically treat a patient with antibiotics before initiating the procedure.

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Alternatively, the biopsy needle can be passed through the peritoneum, which is a patch of skin between the anus and the base of the scrotum. These transperitoneal prostate (TP) biopsies, as they are called, are also performed with ultrasound guidance, and since they bypass the rectum, antibiotics typically aren't required. In that way, TP biopsies help to keep antibiotic resistance at bay, and European medical guidelines strongly favor this approach, citing a lower risk of infection.

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Study goals and methodology

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TP biopsies aren't widely adopted in the United States, in part because doctors lack familiarity with the method and need further training to perform it. The technology is steadily improving, and TP biopsies are increasingly being conducted in office settings around the country. But questions remain about how TRUS and TP biopsies compare in terms of their infectious complications.

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To investigate, researchers at Albany Medical Center in New York conducted the first-ever randomized clinical trial comparing infection risks associated with either method. The results were published in February in the Journal of Urology.

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The Albany team randomized 718 men to either a TRUS or TP biopsy. Nearly all the men who got a TRUS biopsy (and with few exceptions, none of the TP-treated men) first received a single-day course of antibiotics. All the biopsies were administered between 2019 and 2022 by three urologists working at the Medical Center's affiliated and nonaffiliated hospitals.

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The men were then monitored for fever, genitourinary infections, antibiotic prescriptions for suspected or confirmed infections, sepsis, and infection-related contacts with caregivers. Researchers collected data during a visit conducted two weeks after a biopsy procedure, and then by phone over an additional 30-day period following this initial meeting.

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What the researchers found

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According to the results, 1.1% of men in the TRUS group and 1.4% of men in the transperineal group wound up with confirmed infections. The difference was not statistically significant. If "possible" infections were counted (for example, antibiotic prescriptions for fever), then the rates increased to 2.6% and 2.7% of men in the TRUS and TP groups, respectively.

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Fever was the most frequent complication, reported by six participants in each group. One participant from each group also developed noninfectious urinary retention, requiring the temporary use of a catheter. None of the men developed sepsis or required post-biopsy treatments for bleeding.

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The study had some limitations: Nearly all the participants were white, and so the results may not be applicable to men from other racial and ethnic groups. Furthermore, since all the men were biopsied by a single institution, it's unclear if the findings are generalizable in other settings. Still, the study provides reassuring evidence that both types of biopsies "appear safe and viable options for clinical practice," the authors concluded.

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Commentary from experts

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"The paper provides needed evidence that TP biopsies without antibiotics are about as safe and efficacious as TRUS biopsies with antibiotics," said Dr. Marc Garnick, the Gorman Brothers Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The findings also help to dispel a growing view that transperineal biopsies are superior, Dr. Garnick pointed out.

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"Recent years have witnessed a marked interest and surge in the transperineal approach, primarily driven by early studies suggesting a lower risk of infectious complications compared with transrectal biopsy," said Dr. Boris Gershman, a urologist at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and a member of Harvard Health Publishing's Annual Report on Prostate Diseases advisory board.

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"Interestingly, the investigators find no difference in infectious complications, and it will be important to see if other ongoing studies report similar results," Dr. Gershman continued. "In addition to safety, we also need to confirm whether there are any meaningful differences between the two approaches with respect to cancer detection rates."

“,”excerpt”:”n

Infections after a prostate biopsy are rare, but they do occur. There are two ways to perform such a biopsy, with the one at higher risk of infection more common in the US. Researchers conducted a trial designed to compare the safety of the two methods.

n “,”short_excerpt”:”n

Infections after a prostate biopsy are rare, but they do occur. There are two ways to perform such a biopsy, with the one at higher risk of infection more common in the US. Researchers conducted a trial designed to compare the safety of the two methods.

n “,”description”:null,”author”:null,”slug”:”new-research-shows-little-risk-of-infection-from-prostate-biopsies-202402123013″,”sort_date”:”2024-02-12T05:00:00.000000Z”,”contentable_type”:”AppModelsMarketingBlogPost”,”contentable_id”:3013,”replacement_content_id”:null,”landing_page_landing_page_group_id”:null,”ucr_content_id”:”BL021224″,”publication_date”:”2024-02-12T15:30:00.000000Z”,”last_review_date”:null,”imported_at”:”2024-02-17T10:00:25.000000Z”,”last_import_type”:”update”,”last_modified_date”:”2024-02-16T05:00:00.000000Z”,”active”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-03T10:00:02.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-17T10:00:25.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”images_remapped”:0,”old_product_id”:null,”old_content_id”:null,”hide_ads”:0,”primary_content_topic_id”:35,”ecommerce_type”:”CATALOG”,”authors”:[{“id”:44,”cr_id”:113,”featured”:1,”hhp_staff”:0,”hidden”:0,”name”:”Charlie Schmidt”,”title”:null,”first_name”:”Charlie”,”middle_name”:null,”last_name”:”Schmidt”,”suffix”:null,”slug”:”charlie-schmidt”,”byline”:”Editor, Harvard Medical School Annual Report on Prostate Diseases“,”description”:”

Charlie Schmidt is an award-winning freelance science writer based in Portland, Maine. In addition to writing for Harvard Health Publishing, Charlie has written for Science magazine, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Environmental Health Perspectives, Nature Biotechnology, and The Washington Post.

“,”image_url”:”https://d2icykjy7h7x7e.cloudfront.net/authors/B8ArUdl31ldNmyg4tWPVPBYhHyJEUiOrbAccVwEB.jpg”,”twitter_username”:null,”sort_order”:0,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T10:22:23.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2022-08-03T16:58:48.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”pivot”:{“content_id”:18626,”author_id”:44,”sort_order”:1}}],”contentable”:{“id”:3013,”comments_open”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-03T10:00:02.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-14T21:04:26.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”media”:[]},”content_type”:{“id”:18,”name”:”blog”,”slug”:”blog”,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null},”media”:[{“id”:14818,”model_type”:”AppModelsMarketingContent”,”model_id”:18626,”uuid”:”26e3ad13-064d-4ad5-a00d-fcd0492e8b7c”,”collection_name”:”contents”,”name”:”8bdf5afc-2fe3-4e6e-9ec6-f22b3d8b48dc”,”file_name”:”8bdf5afc-2fe3-4e6e-9ec6-f22b3d8b48dc.jpg”,”mime_type”:”image/jpeg”,”disk”:”s3″,”conversions_disk”:”s3″,”size”:39257,”manipulations”:[],”custom_properties”:{“alt”:”close-up photo of a vial of blood marked PSA test alongside a pen; both are resting on a document showing the test results”},”generated_conversions”:{“micro”:true,”thumb”:true},”responsive_images”:[],”order_column”:14754,”created_at”:”2024-02-03T10:00:03.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-03T10:00:04.000000Z”,”full_url”:”https://domf5oio6qrcr.cloudfront.net/medialibrary/14818/8bdf5afc-2fe3-4e6e-9ec6-f22b3d8b48dc.jpg”}],”primary_content_topic”:{“id”:35,”name”:”Men’s Health”,”slug”:”mens-health”,”is_primary”:1,”canonical”:”https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/mens-health”}},{“id”:18108,”content_source_id”:2,”content_type_id”:18,”content_access_type_id”:1,”title”:”Discrimination at work is linked to high blood pressure”,”short_title”:””,”subheading”:”Chronic stress from ongoing unfair treatment may be to blame.”,”summary”:”n

A new study finds that experiencing discrimination in the workplace—where many adults spend one-third of their time, on average—may be harmful to heart health.

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Experiencing discrimination in the workplace — where many adults spend one-third of their time, on average — may be harmful to your heart health.

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A 2023 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who reported high levels of discrimination on the job were more likely to develop high blood pressure than those who reported low levels of workplace discrimination.

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Workplace discrimination refers to unfair conditions or unpleasant treatment because of personal characteristics — particularly race, sex, or age.

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How can discrimination affect our health?

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“The daily hassles and indignities people experience from discrimination are a specific type of stress that is not always included in traditional measures of stress and adversity,” says sociologist David R. Williams, professor of public health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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Yet multiple studies have documented that experiencing discrimination increases risk for developing a broad range of factors linked to heart disease. Along with high blood pressure, this can also include chronic low-grade inflammation, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

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More than 25 years ago, Williams created the Everyday Discrimination Scale. This is the most widely used measure of discrimination’s effects on health.

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Who participated in the study of workplace discrimination?

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The study followed a nationwide sample of 1,246 adults across a broad range of occupations and education levels, with roughly equal numbers of men and women.

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Most were middle-aged, white, and married. They were mostly nonsmokers, drank low to moderate amounts of alcohol, and did moderate to high levels of exercise. None had high blood pressure at the baseline measurements.

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How was discrimination measured and what did the study find?

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The study is the first to show that discrimination in the workplace can raise blood pressure.

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To measure discrimination levels, researchers used a test that included these six questions:

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  • How often do you think you are unfairly given tasks that no one else wanted to do?
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  • How often are you watched more closely than other workers?
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  • How often does your supervisor or boss use ethnic, racial, or sexual slurs or jokes?
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  • How often do your coworkers use ethnic, racial, or sexual slurs or jokes?
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  • How often do you feel that you are ignored or not taken seriously by your boss?
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  • How often has a coworker with less experience and qualifications gotten promoted before you?
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Based on the responses, researchers calculated discrimination scores and divided participants into groups with low, intermediate, and high scores.

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    n

  • After a follow-up of roughly eight years, about 26% of all participants reported developing high blood pressure.
  • n

  • Compared to people who scored low on workplace discrimination at the start of the study, those with intermediate or high scores were 22% and 54% more likely, respectively, to report high blood pressure during the follow-up.
  • n

n

How could discrimination affect blood pressure?

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Discrimination can cause emotional stress, which activates the body’s fight-or-flight response. The resulting surge of hormones makes the heart beat faster and blood vessels narrow, which causes blood pressure to rise temporarily. But if the stress response is triggered repeatedly, blood pressure may remain consistently high.

n

Discrimination may arise from unfair treatment based on a range of factors, including race, gender, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. The specific attribution doesn’t seem to matter, says Williams. “Broadly speaking, the effects of discrimination on health are similar, regardless of the attribution,” he says, noting that the Everyday Discrimination Scale was specifically designed to capture a range of different forms of discrimination.

n

What are the limitations of this study?

n

One limitation of this recent study is that only 6% of the participants were nonwhite, and these individuals were less likely to take part in the follow-up session of the study. As a result, the study may not have fully or accurately captured workplace discrimination among people from different racial groups. In addition, blood pressure was self-reported, which may be less reliable than measurements directly documented by medical professionals.

n

What may limit the health impact of workplace discrimination?

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At the organizational level, no studies have directly addressed this issue. Preliminary evidence suggests that improving working conditions, such as decreasing job demands and increasing job control, may help lower blood pressure, according to the study authors. In addition, the American Heart Association recently released a report, Driving Health Equity in the Workplace, that aims to address drivers of health inequities in the workplace.

n

Encouraging greater awareness of implicit bias may be one way to help reduce discrimination in the workplace. Implicit bias refers to the unconscious assumptions and prejudgments people have about groups of people that may underlie some discriminatory behaviors. You can explore implicit biases with these tests, which were developed at Harvard and other universities.

n

On an individual level, stress management training can reduce blood pressure. A range of stress-relieving strategies may offer similar benefits. Regularly practicing relaxation techniques or brief mindfulness reflections, learning ways to cope with negative thoughts, and getting sufficient exercise can help.

“,”excerpt”:”n

A new study finds that experiencing discrimination in the workplace—where many adults spend one-third of their time, on average—may be harmful to heart health.

n “,”short_excerpt”:”n

A new study finds that experiencing discrimination in the workplace—where many adults spend one-third of their time, on average—may be harmful to heart health.

n “,”description”:null,”author”:null,”slug”:”discrimination-at-work-is-linked-to-high-blood-pressure-202305302939″,”sort_date”:”2023-05-30T04:00:00.000000Z”,”contentable_type”:”AppModelsMarketingBlogPost”,”contentable_id”:2939,”replacement_content_id”:null,”landing_page_landing_page_group_id”:null,”ucr_content_id”:”BL053023″,”publication_date”:”2023-05-30T14:30:00.000000Z”,”last_review_date”:null,”imported_at”:”2023-06-05T11:41:24.000000Z”,”last_import_type”:”update”,”last_modified_date”:”2023-06-05T04:00:00.000000Z”,”active”:1,”created_at”:”2023-05-30T09:00:02.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2023-06-05T11:41:24.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”images_remapped”:0,”old_product_id”:null,”old_content_id”:null,”hide_ads”:0,”primary_content_topic_id”:13,”ecommerce_type”:”CATALOG”,”authors”:[{“id”:14,”cr_id”:157,”featured”:1,”hhp_staff”:0,”hidden”:0,”name”:”Julie Corliss”,”title”:null,”first_name”:”Julie”,”middle_name”:null,”last_name”:”Corliss”,”suffix”:null,”slug”:”julie-corliss”,”byline”:”Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter“,”description”:”

Julie Corliss is the executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter. Before working at Harvard, she was a medical writer and editor at HealthNews, a consumer newsletter affiliated with The New England Journal of Medicine. She is co-author of Break Through Your Set Point: How to Finally Lose the Weight You Want and Keep it Off. Julie earned a BA in biology from Oberlin College and a master’s certificate in science communication from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

“,”image_url”:”https://d2icykjy7h7x7e.cloudfront.net/authors/sA3ZdpCgTj4g3UoiGOBnYISWiUDAxrxi2l5SexJz.jpg”,”twitter_username”:null,”sort_order”:0,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T09:59:48.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2023-05-12T20:42:51.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”pivot”:{“content_id”:18108,”author_id”:14,”sort_order”:1}}],”contentable”:{“id”:2939,”comments_open”:1,”created_at”:”2023-05-30T09:00:02.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2023-05-30T09:00:02.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”media”:[]},”content_type”:{“id”:18,”name”:”blog”,”slug”:”blog”,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null},”media”:[{“id”:13950,”model_type”:”AppModelsMarketingContent”,”model_id”:18108,”uuid”:”9ad97bc4-c16e-47ee-ad07-8245c89ccd70″,”collection_name”:”contents”,”name”:”fd54ec35-3d1b-4d73-b79a-9e8f449eaad5″,”file_name”:”fd54ec35-3d1b-4d73-b79a-9e8f449eaad5.jpg”,”mime_type”:”image/jpeg”,”disk”:”s3″,”conversions_disk”:”s3″,”size”:105268,”manipulations”:[],”custom_properties”:{“alt”:”A dictionary with the word "discrimination" magnified and part of the definition shown in black and white”},”generated_conversions”:{“micro”:true,”thumb”:true},”responsive_images”:[],”order_column”:13907,”created_at”:”2023-05-30T09:00:02.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2023-05-30T09:00:05.000000Z”,”full_url”:”https://domf5oio6qrcr.cloudfront.net/medialibrary/13950/fd54ec35-3d1b-4d73-b79a-9e8f449eaad5.jpg”}],”primary_content_topic”:{“id”:13,”name”:”Heart Health”,”slug”:”heart-health”,”is_primary”:1,”canonical”:”https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/heart-health”}},{“id”:18629,”content_source_id”:2,”content_type_id”:18,”content_access_type_id”:1,”title”:”What is a tongue-tie? What parents need to know”,”short_title”:””,”subheading”:”A shorter-than-usual band of tissue may restrict tongue movements yet cause no serious problems.”,”summary”:”n

A band of tissue helps secure the tongue to the front of the mouth. If it is short, it can restrict movement of the tongue. This is called a tongue-tie. Having a tongue-tie is not necessarily a problem — but there are exceptions that parents should be aware of.

n “,”content”:”

n n

n

The tongue is secured to the front of the mouth partly by a band of tissue called the lingual frenulum. If the frenulum is short, it can restrict the movement of the tongue. This is commonly called a tongue-tie.

n

Children with a tongue-tie can’t stick their tongue out past their lower lip, or touch their tongue to the top of their upper teeth when their mouth is open. When they stick out their tongue, it looks notched or heart-shaped. Since babies don’t routinely stick out their tongues, a baby’s tongue may be tied if you can’t get a finger underneath the tongue.

n

How common are tongue-ties?

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Tongue-ties are common. It’s hard to say exactly how common, as people define this condition differently. About 8% of babies under age one may have at least a mild tongue-tie.

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Is it a problem if the tongue is tied?

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This is really important: tongue-ties are not necessarily a problem. Many babies, children, and adults have tongue-ties that cause them no difficulties whatsoever.

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There are two main ways that tongue-ties can cause problems:

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    n

  • They can cause problems with breastfeeding by making it hard for some babies to latch on well to the mother’s nipple. This causes difficulty with feeding for the baby and sore nipples for the mother. It doesn’t happen to all babies with a tongue-tie; many of them can breastfeed successfully. Tongue-ties are not to blame for gassiness or fussiness in a breastfed baby who is gaining weight well. Babies with tongue-ties do not have problems with bottle-feeding.
  • n

  • They can cause problems with speech. Some children with tongue-ties may have difficulty pronouncing certain sounds, such as t, d, z, s, th, n, and l. Tongue-ties do not cause speech delay.
  • n

n

What should you do if think your baby or child has a tongue-tie?

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If you think that your newborn is not latching well because of a tongue-tie, talk to your doctor. There are many, many reasons why a baby might not latch onto the breast well. Your doctor should take a careful history of what has been going on, and do a careful examination of your baby to better understand the situation.

n

You should also have a visit with a lactation specialist to get help with breastfeeding — both because there are lots of reasons why babies have trouble with latching on, and also because many babies with a tongue-tie can nurse successfully with the right techniques and support.

n

Talk to your doctor if you think that a tongue-tie could be causing problems with how your child pronounces words. Many children just take some time to learn to pronounce certain sounds. It is also a good idea to have an evaluation by a speech therapist before concluding that a tongue-tie is the problem.

n

What can be done about a tongue-tie?

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When necessary, a doctor can release a tongue-tie using a procedure called a frenotomy. A frenotomy can be done by simply snipping the frenulum, or it can be done with a laser.

n

However, nothing should be done about a tongue-tie that isn’t causing problems. While a frenotomy is a relatively minor procedure, complications such as bleeding, infection, or feeding difficulty sometimes occur. So it’s never a good idea to do it just to prevent problems in the future. The procedure should only be considered if the tongue-tie is clearly causing trouble.

n

It’s also important to know that clipping a tongue-tie doesn’t always solve the problem, especially with breastfeeding. Studies do not show a clear benefit for all babies or mothers. That’s why it’s important to work with a lactation expert before even considering a frenotomy.

n

If a newborn with a tongue-tie isn’t latching well despite strong support from a lactation expert, then a frenotomy should be considered, especially if the baby is not gaining weight. If it is done, it should be done early on and by someone with training and experience in the procedure.

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What else should parents know about tongue-tie procedures?

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Despite the fact that the evidence for the benefits of frenotomy is murky, many providers are quick to recommend them. If one is being recommended for your child, ask questions:

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    n

  • Make sure you know exactly why it is being recommended.
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  • Ask whether there are any other options, including waiting.
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  • Talk to other health care providers on your child’s care team, or get a second opinion.
  • n

“,”excerpt”:”n

A band of tissue helps secure the tongue to the front of the mouth. If it is short, it can restrict movement of the tongue. This is called a tongue-tie. Having a tongue-tie is not necessarily a problem — but there are exceptions that parents should be aware of.

n “,”short_excerpt”:”n

A band of tissue helps secure the tongue to the front of the mouth. If it is short, it can restrict movement of the tongue. This is called a tongue-tie. Having a tongue-tie is not necessarily a problem — but there are exceptions that parents should be aware of.

n “,”description”:null,”author”:null,”slug”:”what-is-a-tongue-tie-what-parents-need-to-know-202402073015″,”sort_date”:”2024-02-07T05:00:00.000000Z”,”contentable_type”:”AppModelsMarketingBlogPost”,”contentable_id”:3015,”replacement_content_id”:null,”landing_page_landing_page_group_id”:null,”ucr_content_id”:”BL020724″,”publication_date”:”2024-02-07T15:30:00.000000Z”,”last_review_date”:null,”imported_at”:”2024-02-06T10:00:03.000000Z”,”last_import_type”:”insert”,”last_modified_date”:”2024-02-05T05:00:00.000000Z”,”active”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-06T10:00:03.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-06T10:00:03.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”images_remapped”:0,”old_product_id”:null,”old_content_id”:null,”hide_ads”:0,”primary_content_topic_id”:24,”ecommerce_type”:”CATALOG”,”authors”:[{“id”:46,”cr_id”:4,”featured”:0,”hhp_staff”:1,”hidden”:0,”name”:”Claire McCarthy, MD”,”title”:null,”first_name”:”Claire”,”middle_name”:null,”last_name”:”McCarthy”,”suffix”:”MD”,”slug”:”claire-mccarthy-md”,”byline”:”Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing”,”description”:”Claire McCarthy, MD, is a primary care pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. In addition to being a senior faculty editor for Harvard Health Publishing, Dr. McCarthy writes about health and parenting for Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston.com, and the Huffington Post.”,”image_url”:”https://d2icykjy7h7x7e.cloudfront.net/authors/mvCBqecmOmDXOhy74hH3DviJmMAprZqhFgGbhTJL.jpg”,”twitter_username”:null,”sort_order”:5,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T10:23:17.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2023-09-05T22:36:44.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”pivot”:{“content_id”:18629,”author_id”:46,”sort_order”:1}}],”contentable”:{“id”:3015,”comments_open”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-06T10:00:03.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-06T10:00:03.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”media”:[]},”content_type”:{“id”:18,”name”:”blog”,”slug”:”blog”,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null},”media”:[{“id”:14828,”model_type”:”AppModelsMarketingContent”,”model_id”:18629,”uuid”:”f6257fb3-f46f-4a50-9fdf-d2830aafb893″,”collection_name”:”contents”,”name”:”da9a1391-819b-4d83-a877-d07a5d617d72″,”file_name”:”da9a1391-819b-4d83-a877-d07a5d617d72.jpg”,”mime_type”:”image/jpeg”,”disk”:”s3″,”conversions_disk”:”s3″,”size”:67472,”manipulations”:[],”custom_properties”:{“alt”:”Baby with thick, dark hair lying on tummy looking at camera with hands touching, head raised, and tongue out slightly”},”generated_conversions”:{“micro”:true,”thumb”:true},”responsive_images”:[],”order_column”:14764,”created_at”:”2024-02-06T10:00:03.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-06T10:00:04.000000Z”,”full_url”:”https://domf5oio6qrcr.cloudfront.net/medialibrary/14828/da9a1391-819b-4d83-a877-d07a5d617d72.jpg”}],”primary_content_topic”:{“id”:24,”name”:”Child & Teen Health”,”slug”:”child-and-teen-health”,”is_primary”:1,”canonical”:”https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/child-and-teen-health”}},{“id”:18627,”content_source_id”:2,”content_type_id”:18,”content_access_type_id”:1,”title”:”Which migraine medications are most helpful?”,”short_title”:””,”subheading”:”Drugs known as triptans came out on top, based on real-world data from some 278,000 migraine sufferers.”,”summary”:”n

Many medications claim to relieve migraine pain, but some are more helpful than others. In a large study looking at real-world data on 25 drugs, migraine sufferers rated the most and least helpful options.

n “,”content”:”

n n

n

If you suffer from the throbbing, intense pain set off by migraine headaches, you may well wonder which medicines are most likely to offer relief. A recent study suggests a class of drugs called triptans are the most helpful option, with one particular drug rising to the top.

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The study drew on real-world data gleaned from more than three million entries on My Migraine Buddy, a free smartphone app. The app lets users track their migraine attacks and rate the helpfulness of any medications they take.

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Dr. Elizabeth Loder, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Headache at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, helped break down what the researchers looked at and learned that could benefit anyone with migraines.

n

What did the migraine study look at?

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Published in the journal Neurology, the study included self-reported data from about 278,000 people (mostly women) over a six-year period that ended in July 2020. Using the app, participants rated migraine treatments they used as “helpful,” “somewhat helpful,” or “unhelpful.”

n

The researchers looked at 25 medications from seven drug classes to see which were most helpful for easing migraines. After triptans, the next most helpful drug classes were ergots such as dihydroergotamine (Migranal, Trudhesa) and anti-emetics such as promethazine (Phenergan). The latter help ease nausea, another common migraine symptom.

n

“I’m always happy to see studies conducted in a real-world setting, and this one is very clever,” says Dr. Loder. The results validate current guideline recommendations for treating migraines, which rank triptans as a first-line choice. “If you had asked me to sit down and make a list of the most helpful migraine medications, it would be very similar to what this study found,” she says.

n

What else did the study show about migraine pain relievers?

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Ibuprofen, an over-the-counter pain reliever sold as Advil and Motrin, was the most frequently used medication in the study. But participants rated it “helpful” only 42% of the time. Only acetaminophen (Tylenol) was less helpful, helping just 37% of the time. A common combination medication containing aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine (sold under the brand name Excedrin) worked only slightly better than ibuprofen, or about half the time.

n

When researchers compared helpfulness of other drugs to ibuprofen, they found:

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    n

  • Triptans scored five to six times more helpful than ibuprofen. The highest ranked drug, eletriptan, helped 78% of the time. Other triptans, including zolmitriptan (Zomig) and sumatriptan (Imitrex), were helpful 74% and 72% of the time, respectively. In practice, notes Dr. Loder, eletriptan seems to be just a tad better than the other triptans.
  • n

  • Ergots were rated as three times more helpful than ibuprofen.
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  • Anti-emetics were 2.5 times as helpful as ibuprofen.
  • n

n

Do people take more than one medicine to ease migraine symptoms?

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In this study, two-thirds of migraine attacks were treated with just one drug. About a quarter of the study participants used two drugs, and a smaller number used three or more drugs.

n

However, researchers weren’t able to tease out the sequence of when people took the drugs. And with anti-nausea drugs, it’s not clear if people were rating their helpfulness on nausea rather than headache, Dr. Loder points out. But it’s a good reminder that for many people who have migraines, nausea and vomiting are a big problem. When that’s the case, different drug formulations can help.

n

Are pills the only option for migraine relief?

n

No. For the headache, people can use a nasal spray or injectable version of a triptan rather than pills. Pre-filled syringes, which are injected into the thigh, stomach, or upper arm, are underused among people who have very rapid-onset migraines, says Dr. Loder. “For these people, injectable triptans are a game changer because pills don’t work as fast and might not stay down,” she says.

n

For nausea, the anti-emetic ondansetron (Zofran) is very effective, but one of the side effects is headache. You’re better off using promethazine or prochlorperazine (Compazine), both of which treat nausea but also help ease headache pain, says Dr. Loder.

n

Additionally, many anti-nausea drugs are available as rectal suppositories. This is especially helpful for people who have “crash” migraines, which often cause people to wake up vomiting with a migraine, she adds.

n

What are the limitations of this migraine study?

n

The data didn’t include information about the timing, sequence, formulation, or dosage of the medications. It also omitted two classes of newer migraine medications — known as gepants and ditans — because there was only limited data on them at the time of the study. These options include

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  • atogepant (Qulipta) and rimegepant (Nurtec)
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  • lasmiditan (Reyvow).
  • n

n

“But based on my clinical experience, I don’t think that any of these drugs would do a lot better than the triptans,” says Dr. Loder.

n

Another shortcoming is the study population: a selected group of people who are able and motivated to use a migraine smartphone app. That suggests their headaches are probably worse than the average person, but that’s exactly the population for whom this information is needed, says Dr. Loder.

n

“Migraines are most common in young, healthy people who are trying to work and raise children,” she says. It’s good to know that people using this app rate triptans highly, because from a medical point of view, these drugs are well tolerated and have few side effects, she adds.

n

Are there other helpful takeaways?

n

Yes. In the study, nearly half the participants said their pain wasn’t adequately treated. A third reported using more than one medicine to manage their migraines.

n

If you experience these problems, consult a health care provider who can help you find a more effective therapy. “If you’re using over-the-counter drugs, consider trying a prescription triptan,” Dr. Loder says. If nausea and vomiting are a problem for you, be sure to have an anti-nausea drug on hand.

n

She also recommends using the Migraine Buddy app or the Canadian Migraine Tracker app (both are free), which many of her patients find helpful for tracking their headaches and triggers.

“,”excerpt”:”n

Many medications claim to relieve migraine pain, but some are more helpful than others. In a large study looking at real-world data on 25 drugs, migraine sufferers rated the most and least helpful options.

n “,”short_excerpt”:”n

Many medications claim to relieve migraine pain, but some are more helpful than others. In a large study looking at real-world data on 25 drugs, migraine sufferers rated the most and least helpful options.

n “,”description”:null,”author”:null,”slug”:”which-migraine-medications-are-most-helpful-202402053014″,”sort_date”:”2024-02-05T05:00:00.000000Z”,”contentable_type”:”AppModelsMarketingBlogPost”,”contentable_id”:3014,”replacement_content_id”:null,”landing_page_landing_page_group_id”:null,”ucr_content_id”:”BL020524″,”publication_date”:”2024-02-05T15:30:00.000000Z”,”last_review_date”:null,”imported_at”:”2024-02-09T10:00:04.000000Z”,”last_import_type”:”update”,”last_modified_date”:”2024-02-05T05:00:00.000000Z”,”active”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-05T16:02:48.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-09T10:00:04.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”images_remapped”:0,”old_product_id”:null,”old_content_id”:null,”hide_ads”:0,”primary_content_topic_id”:39,”ecommerce_type”:”CATALOG”,”authors”:[{“id”:14,”cr_id”:157,”featured”:1,”hhp_staff”:0,”hidden”:0,”name”:”Julie Corliss”,”title”:null,”first_name”:”Julie”,”middle_name”:null,”last_name”:”Corliss”,”suffix”:null,”slug”:”julie-corliss”,”byline”:”Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter“,”description”:”

Julie Corliss is the executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter. Before working at Harvard, she was a medical writer and editor at HealthNews, a consumer newsletter affiliated with The New England Journal of Medicine. She is co-author of Break Through Your Set Point: How to Finally Lose the Weight You Want and Keep it Off. Julie earned a BA in biology from Oberlin College and a master’s certificate in science communication from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

“,”image_url”:”https://d2icykjy7h7x7e.cloudfront.net/authors/sA3ZdpCgTj4g3UoiGOBnYISWiUDAxrxi2l5SexJz.jpg”,”twitter_username”:null,”sort_order”:0,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T09:59:48.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2023-05-12T20:42:51.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”pivot”:{“content_id”:18627,”author_id”:14,”sort_order”:1}}],”contentable”:{“id”:3014,”comments_open”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-05T16:02:48.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-05T16:02:48.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”media”:[]},”content_type”:{“id”:18,”name”:”blog”,”slug”:”blog”,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null},”media”:[{“id”:14819,”model_type”:”AppModelsMarketingContent”,”model_id”:18627,”uuid”:”92a43219-7a59-4061-bcc2-50f48be5211c”,”collection_name”:”contents”,”name”:”86a58fef-cf16-4980-a584-708c1162bf0a”,”file_name”:”86a58fef-cf16-4980-a584-708c1162bf0a.jpg”,”mime_type”:”image/jpeg”,”disk”:”s3″,”conversions_disk”:”s3″,”size”:54680,”manipulations”:[],”custom_properties”:{“alt”:”A head and shoulders view of a woman with eyes closed and storm clouds with lightening suggesting pain circling her head; concept is migraine “},”generated_conversions”:{“micro”:true,”thumb”:true},”responsive_images”:[],”order_column”:14755,”created_at”:”2024-02-05T16:02:48.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-05T16:02:50.000000Z”,”full_url”:”https://domf5oio6qrcr.cloudfront.net/medialibrary/14819/86a58fef-cf16-4980-a584-708c1162bf0a.jpg”}],”primary_content_topic”:{“id”:39,”name”:”Pain”,”slug”:”pain”,”is_primary”:1,”canonical”:”https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/pain”}},{“id”:18624,”content_source_id”:2,”content_type_id”:18,”content_access_type_id”:1,”title”:”How well do you score on brain health?”,”short_title”:null,”subheading”:”A new scorecard developed by researchers could encourage you to pare down risks for dementia and stroke.”,”summary”:”

Many efforts to improve health are also good for the brain. A study of nearly 400,000 people led researchers to develop a scorecard assessing 12 factors that contribute to the risk of dementia or stroke, making it easy to see where you're doing well and where you might do better.

“,”content”:”

rnrn

Need another jolt of motivation to shore up a resolution to shed weight, sleep more soundly, boost nutrition or exercise levels, or cut back on alcohol? Then you'll be pleased to learn that any (and all) of these efforts can also add up to better brain health.

rnrn

An international study led by researchers at the McCance Center for Brain Health at Massachusetts General Hospital devised and validated a Brain Care Score (BCS) card that makes it easy to total up what you're doing well and where you might do better. The prize is a healthier brain — specifically a lower risk for dementia and strokes.

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Designed to predict how current habits might impact future brain health, the user-friendly scorecard is apparently the first of its kind, says Dr. Andrew Budson, a lecturer in neurology at Harvard Medical School.

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"It's a real service that the researchers have developed a scale like this and completed the first study to determine if scoring worse on this scale raises your risk for dementia and stroke," says Dr. Budson, who wasn't involved in the analysis. "On one hand, no one's done something quite like this before. On the other, however, it's really wrapping together health factors everyone has known for a number of years in new packaging."

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What's included on the scorecard?

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Called the McCance Brain Care Score, the card tallies points from 12 physical, lifestyle, and social-emotional domains.

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Physical components relate to

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  • blood pressure
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  • blood sugar
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  • cholesterol
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  • body mass index (BMI).
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Lifestyle components include

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  • nutrition
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  • alcohol intake
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  • smoking
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  • aerobic activities
  • rnt

  • sleep.
  • rn

rnrn

Social-emotional factors inquire about

rnrn

    rnt

  • stress management
  • rnt

  • social relationships
  • rnt

  • meaning in life.
  • rn

rnrn

Each response is given a score of 0, 1, or 2, with the highest possible score totaling 21. Higher scores suggest better brain care.

rnrn

"All these physical and lifestyle factors can contribute to the risk of dementia to some extent through strokes," Dr. Budson says. "Those that aren't a risk through strokes are usually related to the fact that a healthy brain is a brain that's using all of its parts. Engaging in healthy relationships and meaningful activities helps us maintain good brain structure and function."

rnrn

What did the analysis involve?

rnrn

The study was published online in Frontiers of Neurology in December 2023. It involved nearly 399,000 adults ages 40 through 69 (average age 57; 54% women) who contributed personal health information to the UK Biobank.

rnrn

During an average follow-up period of 12.5 years, participants recorded 5,354 new cases of dementia and 7,259 strokes. Researchers found that participants with higher Brain Care Scores at the study's start had lower risks of developing dementia or strokes over time.

rnrn

These threats to health and independence take a stunning — and growing — toll on people in the US. Dementia affects one in seven Americans, a rate expected to triple by 2050. Meanwhile, more than 795,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke each year, according to the CDC.

rnrn

What did the study find?

rnrn

Each five-point step higher in the BCS rating assigned when the study began was linked to significantly lower risks of dementia and stroke, with those odds varying by age group:

rnrn

    rnt

  • Participants younger than 50 at the study's start were 59% less likely to develop dementia and 48% less likely to have a stroke with each five-point higher score on BCS.
  • rnt

  • Participants 50 through 59 at the study's start were 32% less likely to develop dementia and 52% less likely to have a stroke with each five-point higher score on BCS.
  • rn

rnrn

But those brain disease benefits appeared to diminish for those older than 59 at the study's start. This group experienced only 8% lower odds of dementia and a 33% lower risk of stroke with each five-point higher score on BCS. Study authors theorized that some of these participants may have already been experiencing early dementia, which is difficult to detect until it progresses.

rnrn

"I feel very comfortable that the study's conclusions are entirely correct, because all the factors that go into its BCS are well-known things people can do to reduce their risk of stroke and dementia," Dr. Budson says.

rnrn

What are the study's limitations?

rnrn

However, Dr. Budson notes that the study did have a couple of limitations,. The UK Biobank fell just short of collecting all the components of the BCS in its dataset, lacking meaning-of-life questions. So its scores ranged from 0 to 19, not up to 21. "It's a practical limitation, but it should be acknowledged that so far, there have been no studies to validate the actual 21-point scale they're recommending we use," he says.

rnrn

The analysis also evaluated participants' scores at just one point in time instead of several, Dr. Budson says. Future research should determine whether people can lower their stroke and dementia risk by improving their BCS over time with behavior and lifestyle changes.

rnrn

How can you play this game at home?

rnrn

While better brain health may be the clear prize of a higher score, it's far from the only benefit. That's because improving any health component of the BCS also benefits our overall well-being.

rnrn

"By improving these factors, not only will people help their brain, but they'll also help their heart and reduce their risk of cancer," Dr. Budson adds. "These factors will absolutely also improve your psychological health, which is certainly an important part of brain health."

rnrn

The scale's simple breakdown of health factors also makes it easy to focus on tweaking one or two without getting overwhelmed.

rnrn

"Let's say someone's nutrition isn't perfect — and they know it — but they're not willing to change their diet. Fine. They can then decide to do more aerobic exercise, for example, or to stop drinking, or to get the sleep their body needs," he says.

rnrn

What one change could put you on a path to better brain health?

rnrn

If he had to choose just one factor to improve brain health, Dr. Budson would focus on meaning of life, "which means you generally feel your life has meaning or purpose," he says. To do that, he suggests giving deep, quiet thought to what you wish your life's purpose to be, whether you expect to live a long time or just a few years.

rnrn

"Once you have a purpose, then you have a reason to follow through with assessing all the other items on the BCS scale and seeing what you can do so you'll be around longer, and be competent and capable longer, to help fulfill the meaning and purpose of your life," he says.

“,”excerpt”:”

Many efforts to improve health are also good for the brain. A study of nearly 400,000 people led researchers to develop a scorecard assessing 12 factors that contribute to the risk of dementia or stroke, making it easy to see where you're doing well and where you might do better.

“,”short_excerpt”:”n

Many efforts to improve health are also good for the brain. A study of nearly 400,000 people led researchers to develop a scorecard assessing 12 factors that contribute to the risk of dementia or stroke, making it easy to see where you're doing well and where you might do better.

n “,”description”:null,”author”:null,”slug”:”how-well-do-you-score-on-brain-health-202402023012″,”sort_date”:”2024-02-02T05:00:00.000000Z”,”contentable_type”:”AppModelsMarketingBlogPost”,”contentable_id”:3012,”replacement_content_id”:null,”landing_page_landing_page_group_id”:null,”ucr_content_id”:”BL020224″,”publication_date”:”2024-02-02T05:00:00.000000Z”,”last_review_date”:null,”imported_at”:”2024-02-02T05:00:00.000000Z”,”last_import_type”:”update”,”last_modified_date”:”2024-02-01T05:00:00.000000Z”,”active”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-01T10:00:02.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-02T20:48:29.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”images_remapped”:0,”old_product_id”:null,”old_content_id”:null,”hide_ads”:0,”primary_content_topic_id”:37,”ecommerce_type”:”CATALOG”,”authors”:[{“id”:420,”cr_id”:779,”featured”:0,”hhp_staff”:0,”hidden”:0,”name”:”Maureen Salamon”,”title”:null,”first_name”:”Maureen”,”middle_name”:null,”last_name”:”Salamon”,”suffix”:null,”slug”:”maureen-salamon”,”byline”:”Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch“,”description”:”

Maureen Salamon is executive editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and later covered health and medicine for a wide variety of websites, magazines, and hospitals. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN.com, WebMD, Medscape and HealthDay, among other major outlets. Maureen earned a BA in print journalism from Penn State University.

“,”image_url”:”https://d2icykjy7h7x7e.cloudfront.net/authors/MWQyHwiFAPooqhDKsjTfFjCCCoIooqQNLj1M7LRO.jpg”,”twitter_username”:null,”sort_order”:0,”created_at”:”2022-02-24T21:39:38.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2022-07-17T15:04:53.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”pivot”:{“content_id”:18624,”author_id”:420,”sort_order”:1}}],”contentable”:{“id”:3012,”comments_open”:1,”created_at”:”2024-02-01T10:00:02.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-02T20:48:29.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”media”:[]},”content_type”:{“id”:18,”name”:”blog”,”slug”:”blog”,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null},”media”:[{“id”:14816,”model_type”:”AppModelsMarketingContent”,”model_id”:18624,”uuid”:”9db0d1a6-5b8e-4539-bd7f-407f4e501f68″,”collection_name”:”contents”,”name”:”283a23cd-5029-4943-9bea-3d0eab84713e”,”file_name”:”283a23cd-5029-4943-9bea-3d0eab84713e.jpg”,”mime_type”:”image/jpeg”,”disk”:”s3″,”conversions_disk”:”s3″,”size”:55198,”manipulations”:[],”custom_properties”:{“alt”:”A human brain shown in colorful triangular prisms against a gray background; concept is brain health”},”generated_conversions”:{“micro”:true,”thumb”:true},”responsive_images”:[],”order_column”:14752,”created_at”:”2024-02-01T10:00:02.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-01T10:00:05.000000Z”,”full_url”:”https://domf5oio6qrcr.cloudfront.net/medialibrary/14816/283a23cd-5029-4943-9bea-3d0eab84713e.jpg”}],”primary_content_topic”:{“id”:37,”name”:”Mind & Mood”,”slug”:”mind-and-mood”,”is_primary”:1,”canonical”:”https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/mind-and-mood”}},{“id”:18620,”content_source_id”:2,”content_type_id”:18,”content_access_type_id”:1,”title”:”Shining light on night blindness”,”short_title”:””,”subheading”:”Trouble seeing at night? Here’s what may help.”,”summary”:”n

Night blindness makes it hard to see in dim or dark settings, which can affect safety at home and make driving dangerous after dark. While the cause varies, there are steps people can take to address these problems.

n “,”content”:”

n n

n

Animals renowned for their outstanding night vision include owls, cats, tarsiers (a tiny primate in Southeast Asia) — and even the dung beetle.

n

But humans? Not so much.

n

Over time, many people suffer from night blindness, also known as nyctalopia. This condition makes seeing in dim or dark settings difficult because your eyes cannot adjust to changes in brightness or detect light.

n

What are the dangers for those experiencing night blindness?

n

Night blindness is especially problematic and dangerous when driving. Your eyes cannot adjust between darkness and the headlights of oncoming vehicles, other cars may appear out of focus, and your depth perception becomes impaired, which makes it difficult to judge distances.

n

Night blindness also may affect your sight at home by making it hard for your vision to quickly adjust to a dark room after turning off the lights. “This can cause people to bump into furniture or trip and suffer an injury,” says Dr. Isabel Deakins, an optometrist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear.

n

What happens in the eye to create night blindness?

n

The ability to see in low-light conditions involves two structures in the eye: the retina and the iris.

n

The retina, located in the back of the eye, contains two types of light-detecting cells called cones and rods. The cones handle color vision and fine details while the rods manage vision in dim light.

n

The iris is the colored part of your eye. It contains muscles that widen or narrow the opening of your pupil to adjust how much light can enter your eyes.

n

If your irises don’t properly react, the pupils can dilate and let in too much light, which causes light sensitivity and makes it hard to see in bright light. Or your pupils may remain too small and not allow in enough light, making it tough to see in low light.

n

What causes night blindness?

n

Night blindness is not a disease but a symptom of other conditions. “It’s like having a bruise on your body. Something else causes it,” says Dr. Deakins.

n

Several conditions can cause night blindness. For instance, medications, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and antipsychotics, can affect pupil size and how much light enters the eye.

n

Eye conditions that can cause night blindness include:

n

    n

  • glaucoma, a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerves and blood vessels
  • n

  • cataracts, cloudy areas in the lens that distort or block the passage of light through the lens
  • n

  • dry eye syndrome.
  • n

n

However, one issue that raises the risk of night blindness that you can’t control is age. “Our eyes react more slowly to light changes as we age, and vision naturally declines over time,” says Dr. Deakins.  “The number of rods in our eyes diminish, pupils get smaller, and the muscles of the irises weaken.”

n

What helps if you have night blindness?

n

If you notice any signs of night blindness, avoid driving and get checked by an eye care specialist like an optometrist or ophthalmologist. An eye exam can determine if your eyeglass prescription needs to be updated.

n

“Often, a prescription change is enough to reduce glare when driving at night," says Dr. Deakins. “You may even need separate glasses with a stronger eye prescription that you wear only when driving at night.”

n

Adding an anti-reflective coating to your lens may help to cut down on the glare of the headlights of an oncoming car. However, skip the over-the-counter polarized driving glasses sold at many drug stores. "These may help cut down on glare, but they don't address the causes of night blindness," says Dr. Deakins.

n

An eye exam also will identify glaucoma or cataracts, which can be treated. Glaucoma treatments include eyedrops, laser treatment, or surgery. Cataracts are corrected with surgery to replace the clouded lens with an artificial one. Your eye care specialist can also help identify dry eye and recommend treatment.

n

Ask your primary care clinician or a pharmacist if any medications that you take may cause night blindness. If so, it may be possible to adjust the dose or switch to another drug.

n

Three more ways to make night driving safer

n

You also can take steps to make night driving safer. For example:

n

    n

  • Wash the lenses of your glasses regularly. And take them to an optician to buff out minor scratches.
  • n

  • Keep both sides of your front and rear car windshields clean so that you can see as clearly as possible.
  • n

  • Dim your dashboard lights, which cause glare, and use the night setting on your rearview mirror.
  • n

“,”excerpt”:”n

Night blindness makes it hard to see in dim or dark settings, which can affect safety at home and make driving dangerous after dark. While the cause varies, there are steps people can take to address these problems.

n “,”short_excerpt”:”n

Night blindness makes it hard to see in dim or dark settings, which can affect safety at home and make driving dangerous after dark. While the cause varies, there are steps people can take to address these problems.

n “,”description”:null,”author”:null,”slug”:”shining-light-on-night-blindness-202401253011″,”sort_date”:”2024-01-31T05:00:00.000000Z”,”contentable_type”:”AppModelsMarketingBlogPost”,”contentable_id”:3011,”replacement_content_id”:null,”landing_page_landing_page_group_id”:null,”ucr_content_id”:”BL012924″,”publication_date”:”2024-01-31T15:30:00.000000Z”,”last_review_date”:null,”imported_at”:”2024-02-02T10:00:04.000000Z”,”last_import_type”:”update”,”last_modified_date”:”2024-02-01T05:00:00.000000Z”,”active”:1,”created_at”:”2024-01-27T10:00:03.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-02-02T10:00:04.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”images_remapped”:0,”old_product_id”:null,”old_content_id”:null,”hide_ads”:0,”primary_content_topic_id”:28,”ecommerce_type”:”CATALOG”,”authors”:[{“id”:66,”cr_id”:434,”featured”:1,”hhp_staff”:0,”hidden”:0,”name”:”Matthew Solan”,”title”:null,”first_name”:”Matthew”,”middle_name”:null,”last_name”:”Solan”,”suffix”:null,”slug”:”matthew-solan”,”byline”:”Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch“,”description”:”

Matthew Solan is the executive editor of Harvard Men’s Health Watch. He previously served as executive editor for UCLA Health’s Healthy Years and as a contributor to Duke Medicine’s Health News and Weill Cornell Medical College’s Women Nutrition Connection and Women’s Health Advisor. Matthew’s articles on medicine, exercise science, and nutrition have appeared in Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, Runner’s World, and Yoga Journal. He earned a master of fine arts in writing from the University of San Francisco and a bachelor of science in journalism from the University of Florida.

“,”image_url”:”https://d2icykjy7h7x7e.cloudfront.net/authors/meFkQGpweKNzK8THXHlIORQI3ZZ68ShyfSRQykZN.jpg”,”twitter_username”:null,”sort_order”:0,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T10:26:17.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2022-08-03T16:49:53.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”pivot”:{“content_id”:18620,”author_id”:66,”sort_order”:1}}],”contentable”:{“id”:3011,”comments_open”:1,”created_at”:”2024-01-27T10:00:03.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-01-27T10:00:03.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null,”media”:[]},”content_type”:{“id”:18,”name”:”blog”,”slug”:”blog”,”created_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2021-05-11T08:30:32.000000Z”,”deleted_at”:null},”media”:[{“id”:14810,”model_type”:”AppModelsMarketingContent”,”model_id”:18620,”uuid”:”993affb9-fda4-4b68-be5a-5449d5edf3e3″,”collection_name”:”contents”,”name”:”778f3d8c-0b73-420c-8d03-e8542d49660d”,”file_name”:”778f3d8c-0b73-420c-8d03-e8542d49660d.jpg”,”mime_type”:”image/jpeg”,”disk”:”s3″,”conversions_disk”:”s3″,”size”:81452,”manipulations”:[],”custom_properties”:{“alt”:”A dangerously blurry view of cars, streetlights, headlights through a car window at night; concept is night blindness”},”generated_conversions”:{“micro”:true,”thumb”:true},”responsive_images”:[],”order_column”:14746,”created_at”:”2024-01-27T10:00:03.000000Z”,”updated_at”:”2024-01-27T10:00:12.000000Z”,”full_url”:”https://domf5oio6qrcr.cloudfront.net/medialibrary/14810/778f3d8c-0b73-420c-8d03-e8542d49660d.jpg”}],”primary_content_topic”:{“id”:28,”name”:”Diseases & Conditions”,”slug”:”diseases-and-conditions”,”is_primary”:1,”canonical”:”https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/diseases-and-conditions”}}], currentIndex: 0 }” x-on:slide-change.window=”currentIndex = $event.detail.currentIndex”>

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