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7 things that can stand in the way of weight loss

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Certain habits can hinder your attempts to lose weight - and keep it away.
If you've changed your eating habits to focus on healthier foods and taken your workout seriously, you can expect to lose weight. However, the reality is that despite what you may have believed, weight loss is more complicated than calorie consumption versus calorie consumption. If you are trying to lose weight, check these habits that may interfere with your efforts.
1. You save on protein.
If you normally eat a muffin or avocado toast for breakfast, you may need to increase your protein intake. Research has shown that a high-protein breakfast can help alleviate hunger, so you may be less tempted to have a morning snack.
Protein is also important at lunch and dinner. If you routinely eat salads or sip gazpacho without accompanying protein - such as boiled egg, yogurt, beans, meat, poultry, or fish - over time, this can lead to a decrease in muscle tissue, which means that your metabolism will slow down and mak…

Probiotics — even inactive ones — may relieve IBS symptoms

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gut-brain disorder that can cause a variety of uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms including abdominal pain and diarrhea, constipation, or a mix of the two. IBS can reduce quality of life, often results in missed school or work, and can have a substantial economic impact.Physicians diagnose IBS by identifying symptoms laid out in the Rome Criteria, a set of diagnostic measures developed by a group of more than 100 international experts. Limited diagnostic testing is also done, to help exclude other conditions that could present with similar symptoms.Although the precise cause of IBS remains unknown, recent research suggests that an imbalance in intestinal microbiota (the microorganisms living in your digestive tract) and a dysfunctional intestinal barrier (which, when working properly, helps keep potentially harmful contents in the intestine while allowing nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream) may be involved in the development …

Scrubbing your hands dry? Soaps, moisturizers, and tips to help keep skin healthy

If you’re like most people trying to do their part in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, you’re washing your hands diligently with soap and water many times a day. Excellent hand hygiene is one essential public health measure to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Unfortunately, additional handwashing can result in dry skin and hand dermatitis, a rash that can manifest as red, itchy, cracked, or sore skin. People who have a history of eczema or who are prone to dry skin may be even more likely to develop dry, chapped hands during this pandemic.What’s happening to your hands?Intact skin acts as a protective barrier. Frequent exposure to water and the use of oil-stripping soaps and drying alcohol found in hand sanitizers diminish the healthy fatty compounds in the top layer of the skin. The result is an impaired skin barrier. In addition to the irritation and discomfort of dry hands, cracks and breaks in skin could lead to an increased risk of superficial skin infections.How…

Lifestyle changes are important even if you take medications

A friend of mine takes a statin medication each day to lower his cholesterol. More than once I’ve heard him say “I ate too much! I’m going to have to take an extra pill.”Never mind that it doesn’t work that way — a single additional statin pill won’t make much difference to his cholesterol or his health. And never mind that you shouldn’t self-adjust the dose of your medications (talk to your doctor before making any changes in medication dosing).But my friend’s overindulging does bring up the question of whether starting medications for conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol might lead people to pay less attention to healthy lifestyle choices. Would my friend have been as likely to overeat before he was started on a statin?What actually happens to lifestyle changes after medications are prescribed?The thinking might go like this. If your cholesterol or blood pressure is not ideal, your doctor will likely recommend changes in your diet, regular exercise, and loss of ex…

EVALI: New information on vaping-induced lung injury

E-cigarettes (vapes) first made headlines due to skyrocketing sales and popularity. Then reports of serious illnesses and deaths related to vaping tobacco and other substances began mounting in summer 2019. By mid-February 2020, the CDC reported more than 2,800 cases of lung injuries requiring hospitalization across all 50 states, and 68 deaths. EVALI, as this illness is now called, continues to generate questions, although emergency department visits related to vaping have been declining.Why did vaping injuries, and even deaths, seem to occur so suddenly, even though e-cigarettes have been in use for years? Why is EVALI difficult to diagnose? What sort of lung injuries occur and what might be causing them? Why are only some people affected, while others continue to use vape products without apparent illness? And what do we know so far about possible long-term consequences of vaping?A jump in popularity for vapingEspecially among young adults, e-cigarette use rose quickly in recent ye…

Recognizing and treating depression may help improve heart health

Depression affects about 20% of Americans in their lifetime, and is one of the leading causes of disability. The rates of depression are even higher in those with cardiovascular disease (CVD). Depression affects 38% of patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery, and the risk of depression is three times as high in patients who have experienced a heart attack compared with the general population. Depression also makes it much more likely that CVD patients will be readmitted to the hospital and report heart-related symptoms.Yet much of the time, symptoms of depression in those with CVD go unrecognized. And as we all know, if we don’t identify a problem it’s very difficult to find a solution.Depression makes adherence to healthy behaviors less likelyDepression matters to cardiologists because patients with both depression and CVD have increased mortality rates, and significant reductions in their quality of life. Depression can often stem from feeling increased stress and l…

Ranitidine (Zantac) recall expanded, many questions remain

Update: On April 1, 2020, the FDA requested manufacturers to withdraw all prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) ranitidine drugs (Zantac, others) from the market immediately, due to the presence of a contaminant known as N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA). Although the FDA did not observe unacceptable levels of NDMA in many of the samples they tested, they have determined that the impurity in some ranitidine products increases over time and when stored at higher than room temperatures. As a result of this recall, ranitidine products will no longer be available for prescription or OTC use in the US.The FDA is also advising consumers taking OTC ranitidine to stop taking this medication, including any unused ranitidine medication they may still have at home. Other FDA-approved OTC medications are available to treat heartburn. Patients taking prescription ranitidine should speak with their doctor about other treatment options before stopping the medicine.As anticipated, recall of the popular…

Have a headache? The top 7 triggers

“Headaches aren’t welcome here” — that’s the sign you have hanging on your brain’s front door, but the pain is barging right in. You can chalk it up to stress from world events or something you ate or drank, and you might be right. But there are a number of common triggers for migraines, tension headaches, or cluster headaches. The faster you identify them, the quicker you can boot headache pain off the property.What are the triggers for your headaches?Take note of your circumstances when a headache starts. Keep a diary to track the day, time, symptoms, and circumstances surrounding the pain (what had you eaten? where did it happen?). Common causes of headaches include the following seven triggers.Stress. Stress can cause tight muscles in the shoulders and neck. This often leads to a tension headache, which starts in the neck and back and works its way up to feel like a tight band around your head. “It’s believed to start in the muscles,” says Dr. Sait Ashina, a neurologist who specia…

Thinning hair in women: Why it happens and what helps

Many people think of hair loss as a male problem, but it also affects at least a third of women. But unlike men, women typically experience thinning hair without going bald, and there can be a number of different underlying causes for the problem.“Some are associated with inflammation in the body. Some are female-pattern hair loss,” says Dr. Deborah Scott, assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the Hair Loss Clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. But the good news is that in many cases this hair loss can be stabilized with treatment, and it may be reversible. When it’s not, there are a number of new cosmetic approaches that can help.Understanding hair lossThe first step in dealing with thinning hair is determining what’s happening inside your body that is causing those extra strands to cling to your shoulders and your brush. Some hair loss is normal. Everyone loses hair as part of the hair’s natural growth cycle, which occurs in three stages:T…

Strategies to promote better sleep in these uncertain times   

These are unprecedented times. Given the real and tangible threat of the coronavirus pandemic on personal, community, and societal levels, it is normal to experience anxiety and sleep problems. Sleep is a reversible state marked by a loss of consciousness to our surroundings, and as members of the animal kingdom, our brains have evolved to respond to dangers by increasing vigilance and attention — in other words, our brains are protecting us, and by doing so it’s harder for us to ignore our surroundings.Despite the threat of the coronavirus and its rapid and pervasive disruption to our daily lives, many of us are an in a position to control our behaviors and dampen the impact of the emerging pandemic on our sleep. Cultivating healthy sleep is important; better sleep enables us to navigate stressful times better in the short term, lowers our chance of developing persistent sleep problems in the longer term, and gives our immune system a boost.Daytime tips to help with sleepKeep a consi…

Why follow a vaccine schedule?

Right now, many people are hoping for a vaccine to protect against the new coronavirus. While that’s still on the horizon, new research suggests that families who do vaccinate their children may not be following the recommended schedule.Vaccines are given on a schedule for a reason: to protect children from vaccine-preventable disease. Experts designed the schedule so that children get protection when they need it — and the doses are timed so the vaccine itself can have the best effect. When parents don’t follow the schedule, their children may not be protected.And yet, many parents do not follow the schedule.A third of families change vaccine scheduleIn a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers looked at data from the National Immunization Survey from 2014 and found that only 63% of families followed the recommended vaccination schedule for their children. The majority of those who didn’t followed an alternate schedule, spacing vaccines out, skipping some, or …

Harvard Health Ad Watch: What’s being cleansed in a detox cleanse?

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot from patients and friends who are enthusiastically pursuing a “whole body cleanse” or “colon cleanse,” or a “detoxification cleanse.” And I’ve seen ads about these cleanses promising a number of health benefits, based on the general principle that every so often it’s a good idea to rid yourself of toxins that are undoubtedly accumulating within you.Spring cleaning for your body? The idea goes back centuries. And sure, cleansing — or cleaning — is clear enough for bathing or mopping a floor. But how does a cleanse work in the human body? Do cleanses really deliver on their claims?Let’s start with the nameCleanses go by many names and descriptions, including:Colon cleansing, also called a “colonic” or “colonic irrigation.” Large amounts of water and other substances, such as coffee or herbs, are flushed through the colon via a tube placed into the rectum.Detoxification (or detox) diets with names like “Super Cleanse,” “Full Body Cleanse Express,” and “Ant…

Opportunities for growth: Transitions for youth with autism spectrum disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong condition that affects a person’s social and communication skills. People with ASD can have repetitive behaviors, a narrow range of interests, a strong preference for sameness, and sensory processing differences. The number of children diagnosed with ASD has increased dramatically over the past several decades. Because of this, growing numbers of youth with ASD are now making the developmental transition from adolescence to adulthood. This transition is marked by changes in many areas of life, including new healthcare providers, educational or occupational settings, and living arrangements.What makes the transition to adulthood particularly challenging for youth with ASD?There are several features of ASD that add challenges to the transitions of adulthood, including a strong preference for sameness and a difficulty tolerating change. Communication difficulties can also complicate expressing distress or asking for help. Young adults with ASD…

Skin tag removal: Optional but effective

Skin tags are common, benign skin growths that hang from the surface of the skin on a thin piece of tissue called a stalk. They are made up of many components, including fat, collagen fibers, and sometimes nerve cells and small blood vessels. It’s possible that these collagen fibers and blood vessels become wrapped up inside a layer of skin, leading to the formation of a skin tag. The medical term for a skin tag is acrochordon, and they can also be referred to as soft fibromas or fibroepithelial polyps.Skin tags are frequently found in areas of friction on the skin, such as the neck, underarms , under the breasts, eyelids, and other skin folds. They start as small, often flesh-colored bumps. They may stay that size and go largely unnoticed, enlarge and continue to be painless, or enlarge and become irritated due to friction or pressure.It’s not entirely clear what causes skin tags, and there are no proven ways to prevent them. Some studies have shown that skin tags are more common in …

Harvard Health Ad Watch: Are nutritional drinks actually good for you?

I first heard of nutritional drinks in the 1980s, early in my medical training. They were recommended for people struggling to maintain a healthy weight, often due to loss of appetite, cancer, or swallowing problems.Since then, nutritional supplement drinks like Boost and Ensure have gone mainstream. Their widespread, primetime advertising aimed at a much broader audience has proven highly effective. The market for nutritional drinks is now worth many billions of dollars. In 2019, Ensure sales alone totaled nearly $400 million.When you watch ads for nutritional drinks, do you wonder if you should start drinking them? Will it improve your health or fend off future health problems, as the ads suggest? Are there any downsides? Read on.What the ads sayRight now, two ads in heavy rotation are for Boost and Ensure.One 30-second ad for Boost shows a well-appearing older woman holding a camera (a real, two-handed, professional photographer’s camera, not a cell phone). As she takes photos of a…

Acoustic neuroma: A slow-growing tumor that requires specialized care

An acoustic neuroma, also known as a vestibular schwannoma, is a tumor of the hearing and balance nerve complex in the brain. They are rare, and account for less than 10% of all brain tumors. The tumor involves an area of the brain and ear called the lateral skull base; an acoustic neuroma can range in size, and it can cause a variety of troublesome symptoms related to hearing and balance.It is important to note that although the diagnosis of a brain tumor can cause significant anxiety, acoustic neuromas are noncancerous and grow very slowly. This means that immediate treatment is rarely necessary.What are the most common symptoms?Acoustic neuromas can cause you to experience a variety of symptoms. In general, the first thing you may notice is hearing loss in one ear greater than the other, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and/or dizziness or imbalance (acute or chronic). These symptoms can range from mild to very distressing and bothersome. It is important to note that these symptoms …

Why the human heart thrives with exercise

How did the human heart adapt during our evolution as a species? To explore that question, Harvard cardiologist Dr. Aaron Baggish led a unique study that compared the hearts of African great apes, Mexican farmers, and American athletes. But the findings also have a practical message.“They reinforce the importance of regular brisk walking or jogging throughout life to stay healthy as you age,” says Dr. Baggish, director of the cardiac performance lab at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. The study included great apes (gorillas and chimpanzees) and four different groups of men: inactive men, endurance runners, football linemen, and Tarahumara Indians. All underwent detailed heart function studies using ultrasounds done during different activities.Chimps vs. early humansChimpanzees, our closest evolutionary relatives, spend most of the day feeding and resting, interspersed with short bouts of climbing and fighting. This brief but intense exertion creates pressure in the h…

Go figure: A healthy eating approach helps people be healthy

I usually counsel my patients that the best diet for weight loss is not really a “diet,” but rather a healthy approach to eating that makes them feel good and that is good for their body.I love when the research supports my advice, as did results from the SWIFT (Support strategies for Whole-food diets, Intermittent Fasting and Training) study.Study looks at three popular dietsThe SWIFT study of 250 overweight adults was intended to compare different types of weight loss support (daily self-weighing, regular phone calls, hunger training, or dietary self-monitoring) using the Mediterranean diet, paleo diet, or intermittent fasting (IF). A side study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, specifically looked at adherence and outcomes (weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and inflammation level) of these diets after 12 months.Participants were allowed to choose their diet, and most (54.4%) chose IF; 27.2% chose the Mediterranean diet; a…