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75 or Older? Statins Can Still Benefit Your Heart  - web md

75 or Older? Statins Can Still Benefit Your Heart

People 75 and older who were free of heart disease and prescribed a statin wound up with a 25% lower risk of death from any cause and a 20% lower risk of heart-related death, researchers reported July 7 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
web md - 1 week ago
Court: Employers Can Refuse Birth Control Coverage  - web md

Court: Employers Can Refuse Birth Control Coverage

More than 70,000 U.S. women could be left without cost-free birth control after the Supreme Court upheld a Trump administration policy change that permits some employers to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage on religious or moral grounds.
web md - 1 week ago
As Cases Jump, Are We Better Prepared for COVID?  - web md

As Cases Jump, Are We Better Prepared for COVID?

There are record numbers of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with several states in the South and West driving the resurgence. Texas has closed its bars, California has closed its restaurants in some counties, and some beaches in Florida are closed.
web md - 1 week ago
MS Patients Turn to Marijuana, Other Alternative Treatments  - web md

MS Patients Turn to Marijuana, Other Alternative Treatments

A majority of just over 1,000 respondents said they used some type of alternative therapy, including marijuana, vitamins, herbs and minerals, plus mind-body therapies like exercise, mindfulness, massage and various diets.
web md - 1 week ago
Air Travel a Puzzle in Age of Coronavirus  - web md

Air Travel a Puzzle in Age of Coronavirus

United and American airlines, along with Southwest and Delta, require all passengers to wear cloth face masks or any high-tech masks while on the plane. American goes further by saying passengers must bring their own face masks and must comply with airport rules about wearing a mask.
web md - 2 weeks ago
An HIV Drug You Only Take Twice a Year?  - web md

An HIV Drug You Only Take Twice a Year?

A single injection of the experimental drug, called lenacapavir, was able to lower blood levels of HIV in a small group of patients. And it was capable of maintaining active levels in the blood for more than six months.
web md - 2 weeks ago
Trauma of Racism Fuels High Blood Pressure Among Black Americans: Study  - web md

Trauma of Racism Fuels High Blood Pressure Among Black Americans: Study

Black Americans who endure life-altering instances of discrimination are a third to a half more likely to develop high blood pressure than those who haven't been similarly traumatized, researchers report in the July 1 issue of the journal Hypertension.
web md - 2 weeks ago
Contact Tracer Teams Growing Amid New Challenges  - web md

Contact Tracer Teams Growing Amid New Challenges

Contact tracing, along with strategic testing, rapid isolation, and supportive quarantine, is an vital way of slowing the spread of the virus, which has been diagnosed in 2.6 million people nationwide and likely has infected millions more, say public health experts.
web md - 2 weeks ago
NBA to Use High-Tech Rings to Help Detect COVID-19  - web md

NBA to Use High-Tech Rings to Help Detect COVID-19

The NBA released its safety protocol this month with details for the upcoming return of the season, which gives a glimpse into what life will be like in the “bubble” -- an enclosed environment in Orlando, FL, where players will stay largely protected from potential infection.
web md - 2 weeks ago
Behind the Intermittent Fasting Fad  - web md

Behind the Intermittent Fasting Fad

In addition to promoting weight loss, so-called intermittent fasting may deliver a host of other surprising health benefits, from improved heart and brain health, to a lower risk of diabetes, and even a longer life, recent research shows.
web md - 3 weeks ago
COVID Surges Among Young Adults  - web md

COVID Surges Among Young Adults

The spike among those age 20-39 could be explained by a combination of increased testing, rejection of social distancing and the use of masks and continued misconception among young people that they’re not as likely to becoming infected or become seriously ill.
web md - 3 weeks ago
Autoimmune lung disease: Early recognition and treatment helps - harvard

Autoimmune lung disease: Early recognition and treatment helps

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body generates an immune response against itself. Some people with rheumatic or autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, develop an autoimmune lung disease. Marked by lung inflammation and possible scarring, it's easier to treat if detected early. The post Autoimmune lung disease: Early recognition and treatment helps appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.
harvard - 3 weeks ago
Video: How to keep your workplace happy despite COVID-19 - positive sharing

Video: How to keep your workplace happy despite COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken workplaces in so many ways. Remote work, social distancing, and staying home is the new normal. Companies are affected, and many of them switched to “survival mode”, trying to keep their business afloat. In the video above I talk to to visionary CEOs about how they handled the COVID-19 crisis … Continue reading Video: How to keep your workplace happy despite COVID-19 →
Despite Predictions, Loneliness Not Rising for Americans Under Lockdown  - web md

Despite Predictions, Loneliness Not Rising for Americans Under Lockdown

Since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, experts have worried that social distancing and stay-at-home orders would lead to a surge in loneliness. But a new U.S. study suggests it has not played out that way.
web md - 3 weeks ago
C. diff. Infections Double Death Risk  - web md

C. diff. Infections Double Death Risk

Hospitalized patients infected with the dangerous diarrhea bug Clostridium difficile (C. diff.) face more than twice the risk of dying than hospitalized patients without the infection, a Dutch study shows.
web md - 3 weeks ago
How COVID is Affecting U.S. Food Supply Chain  - web md

How COVID is Affecting U.S. Food Supply Chain

During the pandemic, meat processing businesses appeared to be the weakest link throughout the food supply chain. Meat processing plants have been virus hot spots as workers have fallen ill with COVID-19, some of them dying.
web md - 3 weeks ago
People With HIV Still Live Shorter, Sicker Lives  - web md

People With HIV Still Live Shorter, Sicker Lives

HIV may not be the death sentence it was 20 or 30 years ago, but people who are HIV-positive still face much shorter lives than other adults -- even if they're treated with medications that make the virus undetectable.
web md - 3 weeks ago
Olive oil or coconut oil: Which is worthy of kitchen-staple status? - harvard

Olive oil or coconut oil: Which is worthy of kitchen-staple status?

Coconut oil has been championed as having many benefits to health, but evidence to support these assertions remains sparse. However, there is far more evidence to support the benefits of olive oil, even in the context of typical American diets. The post Olive oil or coconut oil: Which is worthy of kitchen-staple status? appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.
harvard - 3 weeks ago
Summer’s here, teens and parents — now what? - harvard

Summer’s here, teens and parents — now what?

For many teens, summer activities like jobs, internships, and camps are probably on hold this year, and a sense of uncertainty hovers over nearly everything. How can parents guide teens and help them flourish while also keeping them safe? The post Summer’s here, teens and parents — now what? appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.
harvard - 4 weeks ago
4 parenting tips to break the negativity loop - harvard

4 parenting tips to break the negativity loop

“It’s a beautiful day outside,” you say, smiling. Your son replies, “It’s supposed to rain later.” You share, “That game was fun!” Your daughter adds, “I messed up one of my turns.” If you find that your child tends to channel Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh and has difficulty seeing some of the bright moments in a […] The post 4 parenting tips to break the negativity loop appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.
harvard - 4 weeks ago
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harvard
Why medical research keeps changing its mind

Why medical research keeps changing its mind

harvard - 6 months ago

Did you ever wonder why medical research seems to flip-flop so often? Eggs used to be terrible for your health; now theyre not so bad. Stomach ulcers were thought to be due to stress and a type A personality but thats been disproven. I was taught that every postmenopausal woman should take hormone replacement therapy to prevent heart disease and bone loss; now its considered way too risky. It can make you question every bit of medical news you hear.

But maybe thats not such a bad thing. Questioning what you read or hear is reasonable. And maybe medical reversals when new research leads to a complete turnaround regarding a widespread medical practice or treatment are not as common as they seem. Perhaps they get more attention than they deserve and drown out the consistent and non-reversed medical research thats out there. For example, it seems unlikely that the health benefits of regular exercise, smoking cessation, or maintaining a healthy weight will ever be reversed.

A new study examines medical reversals

A remarkable new study explored the phenomenon of medical reversals to determine how common they are, and to identify what types of conditions were most involved.

Researchers collected more than 3,000 randomized controlled trials; these are considered the most reliable types of research because they randomly assign otherwise similar study subjects to different treatment groups and try to account (control) for factors other than the treatments that might affect the results. For example, a trial comparing two treatments to prevent heart attacks would need to have a similar proportion of people with high cholesterol or high blood pressure, because these can affect the risk of heart attack.

In this new study, the analysis was limited to three of the top medical journals in the world: JAMA (formerly known as the Journal of the American Medical Association), The Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine. For each medical reversal identified, the authors searched for later studies refuting the findings and only counted those that had stood the test of time (so far!).

Heres what they found:

  • Of 3,017 studies analyzed from the last 15 years, 396 came to conclusions that reversed prior treatments or practice recommendations. This represented about 13% of randomized controlled trials appearing in these journals and about 6% of their original research papers.
  • The most common conditions were cardiovascular disease, preventive medicine, and critical care medicine (such as care received in an intensive care unit).
  • Medications, procedures, and vitamins accounted for about two-thirds of the reversals.

Examples of medical reversals

Among the nearly 400 medical treatments or practices that were reversed during the years of this new study, here are some notable examples.

  • Wearable technology for weight loss. When fitness trackers first became widely available, recommendations to use them to help with weight loss were common. But a study in 2016 found that they were no more effective (and perhaps less so) than a standard weight-loss program that did not use an activity tracker.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). For more than 50 years, HRT was thought to prevent chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, in menopausal women. A number of more recent (and more powerful) studies have demonstrated that HRT provides no such benefits, and that some combinations of hormonal therapy may increase the risk of certain cancers, stroke, and blood clots. HRT may still be recommended for women with significant menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, but it is no longer prescribed to prevent chronic disease.
  • Surgery for a meniscal (cartilage) tear with osteoarthritis of the knee for adults ages 45 and older. This combination of problems is common among middle-aged and older adults and is frequently detected when MRI scans are performed to evaluate knee pain. While surgery was often recommended and performed to remove or repair the torn meniscus, it was uncertain whether this was truly necessary. A study in 2013 found that initial treatment with physical therapy was just as effective as immediate surgery. Guidelines soon changed to advise nonsurgical treatment as the initial approach for most middle-aged or older patients with meniscal tears and osteoarthritis of the knee.

Medical myth or medical fact?

Myth and misconception are common in matters of health and medical practice. But its also true that medical fact is a moving target. Things we accepted as fact years ago sometimes turn out to be wrong, as these medical reversals demonstrate. Meanwhile, certain myths could turn out to have credence if well-designed research concludes as much.

The reason this study about medical reversals is so important is that it points out how vital rigorous research is, not only for new treatments or innovative procedures, but also to evaluate older, well-established ways of doing things.

Whats next?

Hearing medical experts flip-flop on their recommendations or conclusions about medical news seems common but is 6% of original research or 13% of all randomized controlled trials too high? Id argue that its not. In fact, rather than casting doubt on all research, this new study about medical reversals should serve as a measure of reassurance that skepticism is alive and well in the research community, and that low-value medical practices will be uncovered if the right research is designed, funded, and implemented.

You can bet that there will be more head-scratching, mind-bending medical reversals in the future. Just keep in mind that most of this is simply a reflection of how researchers are continuing to clarify what works in medicine and what doesnt. The best they can do is to keep at it. The best we can do is to consider medical news with a critical eye and to keep an open mind.

The post Why medical research keeps changing its mind appeared first on Harvard Health Blog.

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