Topical pain relievers are creams, gels, and patches applied to the skin. These products work best for mild to moderate pain from muscles, joints, and other pain sources close to the skin surface.
Two pneumonia vaccinations are available. The newest one, Prevnar 13, stimulates higher antibody levels. Research is under way to find out if the new vaccine works better. Everyone over 65 or at risk of pneumonia complications should be vaccinated.
Some men who took finasteride for urinary problems (Proscar) or balding (Propecia) have reported permanent sexual side effects such as low sex drive or ejaculation problems. It is not established for certain that the side effects are caused by the drug.
Common anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen may raise the risk of a second heart attack. People with heart disease or at risk for it should avoid long-term use of these drugs.
Biopsy can confirm the presence of prostate cancer. Biopsy has risks as well as benefits. Risks of prostate biopsy include infection, rectal bleeding, blood in the semen, and urinary problems.
Eating without awareness leaves you fuller faster, and takes in more calories in a single sitting than you need. Taking a mindful approach to meals by slowing down and savoring the experience can enhance health and well being.
Studies of two new Alzheimer's drugs ended in disappointment. Intravenous versions of the drugs failed to help people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's. But the studies also found reason to hope for better results with similar drugs.
Getting a flu shot in January could still help defend you from flu. The peak spread of the flu virus occurs in January and February, and people can continue to get sick into mid-May
Physically active older adults at risk for mental decline or dementia who exercise for at least 30 minutes on three days per week (or more) are less likely to experience mental impairment of any kind.
People consuming two servings of fish per week had a lower risk of stroke compared to people who ate one serving or less. Omega-3 fatty acid intake, such as from dietary supplements, is not associated with lower risk for stroke.
Smokers who pick up the habit early in adulthood and do not quit risk losing a decade of life. But smokers who quit by age 35 can eliminate nearly all that risk.
Do multivitamins protect you from disease?
Many people take a daily vitamin and mineral supplement expecting to feel better and prevent disease. The evidence for doing this is weak. A new trial suggests that taking a multivitamin slightly reduces cancer risk but does nothing for heart disease.
On call: Why have an annual exam?
Annual check ups may not make you live longer, but they could help you enjoy better health throughout life and get better care if a health problem arises.
On call: Carotid ultrasound to prevent stroke
Unless you have symptoms such as mini-strokes, ultrasound screening for carotid artery blockage is very unlikely to help and may cause more harm than good.
The four horsemen of forgetfulness
Common causes of forgetfulness, especially in older adults, are stress, anxiety, depression, and not enough sleep. Drinking too much alcohol, medication side effects, and thyroid problems may also contribute, along with multitasking and fatigue.
Heartburn medication side effects: Should you worry?
Long-term use of a proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) drug for heartburn may increase the risk of infection or reduce absorption of some nutrients. Some people may be able to stop taking a PPI and switch to a different medication if there is a concern.
How to get ready for a new knee
Total knee replacement requires a prolonged recovery. For most people, rehab starts at home. Starting a good exercise regimen with a physical therapist or trainer before surgery can speed recovery.
When drugs for erectile dysfunction don't work: What's next?
If erectile dysfunction drugs in pill form don't work, there are four major alternatives: penile injection, urethral medication pellets, vacuum constriction method, and penile implant. Each option has pluses and minuses, and will work for different men.
In the journals: Exercise for cancer fatigue
Aerobic exercise reduces fatigue in people being treated for or recovering from treatment for cancer. Consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
In the journals: Steroid injections for sciatica: Mild, short-term relief
Injections of steroid medication offer minimal relief from the leg pain known as sciatica due to a bulging (herniated) spinal disk. Conservative remedies like the use of an anti-inflammatory drug and physical therapy are treatment options.
In the journals: Fish oil does not prevent irregular heart rhythms after surgery
Taking fish oil before and after cardiac surgery does not help prevent the appearance of irregular heart rhythms that often follow surgery.
In the journals: No added risk for vision loss after cataract removal
Cataract surgery did not increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in a large group of patients at one Australian hospital. AMD is a major cause of vision loss in older adults.
Blood pressure: What's food got to do with it?
Diet helps control healthy blood pressure. One option is the DASH diet. It has stringent requirements, including salt restriction to as low as 1500 milligrams per day. Mediterranean-style eating also lowers blood pressure and is heart healthy.
On call: Remedies for hand cramps
The typical causes of cramps in the hands include dehydration and straining the muscles with repeated motions like typing. Low calcium or magnesium or a compressed nerve in the wrist may also cause cramping. Stretching the fingers may help.
On call: Chelation for heart disease
Many people try chelation therapy for a variety of reasons, but it is unproven and potentially risky as a therapy for heart disease. Instead, use proven measures like daily aspirin, exercise, blood pressure control, and lowering "bad" cholesterol.
Do CT scans cause cancer?
CT scanning has many health benefits but also carries a small risk of causing cancer over a lifetime of exposure. The risks for older adults are very small. At any age, it is still wise to limit CT scans to what you need.
Active surveillance: An option for low-risk prostate cancer
After prostate cancer diagnosis, immediate treatment is not the only option. Some men with low-risk cancers can choose to monitor the cancer very closely and treat when the disease progresses. This allows a man to delay or avoid the risks of treatment.
Social engagement and healthy aging
Social engagement, or how connected you are to other people, can be as important to healthy aging as not smoking or maintaining a good weight. Social engagement may also help to preserve memory. Volunteering is a good way to foster social connection.
In the journals: Survey reveals state of heart health in America
A survey showed that heart health in American states ranks highest by seven basic measures in Washington, D.C., Vermont and Virginia, but lowest in Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Mississippi.
In the journals: Regular exercise extends life
Obtaining the generally recommended amount of daily physical activity-150 minutes a day-extends lifespan by up to five years. Men who were moderately active at age 20 could expect to gain 2.4 years over a lifetime.
In the journals: Statins linked to leg pain but not weakness
In a study of healthy people, taking high doses of a statin drug to lower "bad" cholesterol doesn't cause muscle weakness but does trigger minor muscle pain in a small number of cases.
In the journals: Exercising improves walking speed for people with Parkinson's
Several kinds of strength and endurance exercise help people with Parkinson's disease to function better, although the exercise does not slow down the disease itself.
Learn how to sleep again
With aging, many people wake during the night and have trouble falling asleep again. It's important to adopt good sleep habits before considering sleeping pills for persistent insomnia. Counseling called cognitive behavioral therapy can also help.
On call: CoQ10 for muscle aches
There is no solid evidence that taking coenzyme Q10 prevents muscle problems related to taking a cholesterol-lowering statin drug. The risk of side effects from the supplement is low, so it may be relatively safe to try it for a month or two.
On call: Shingles vaccination
The Zostavax vaccine is safe for use by healthy adults to prevent shingles, a painful condition caused by previous infection with the chicken pox virus. It also helps prevents persistent shingles pain, known as post-herpetic neuralgia.
Cardiac exercise stress testing: What it can and cannot tell you
Experts do not recommend routine cardiac stress testing in otherwise healthy people to check for hidden heart problems. But the procedure is useful for diagnosing chest pain, unexplained fatigue, and other possible signs of heart disease.
AMD: a preventable form of vision loss
Macular degeneration causes loss of central detailed vision. It is more common with aging. A healthy lifestyle may lower the risk. Early detection with regular dilated eye exams may be helpful in reducing vision loss.
Is acupuncture for you?
The latest research shows that acupuncture, a traditional Chinese healing practice, is worth a try for chronic pain. Acupuncture is safe and painless if performed by a trained practitioner, but insurance usually does not cover it.
Eat seafood the healthy way
It is healthy to eat fish regularly. Other kinds of seafood, such as lobster, shellfish and squid, may contain excessive amounts of sodium, cholesterol, and fat, depending on how they are prepared. Think of these as occasional luxury foods.
In the journals: Are your whole grains wholly healthy?
Some whole-grain food products are high in healthy fiber but may contain added sugars and salt, which lower the food's nutritional quality. Look for foods with a ratio of total to fiber carbohydrates of at least 10 to one.
In the journals: When a depression drug fails, add talk therapy
When a new depression medication medicine doesn't lessen symptoms early in treatment, adding a form of psychological counseling called cognitive behavioral therapy can help.
In the journals: Hepatitis C treatment extends life
The rate of death from any cause is lower in people who undergo standard treatment for infection with the hepatitis C virus that successfully suppresses activity of the virus to undetectable level.
In the journals: No generation gap found in diabetes education
Group and individual diabetes education is equally effective for both middle-aged and older people.
Reducing stress works better than supplements for heart disease
Complementary and alternative medicine is popular among people with heart disease, but not all of it works. Antioxidant vitamins and fish oil capsules have not proven helpful. Stress reduction also offers healing to men with heart problems.
On call: Generic Lipitor: Fight or switch?
Generic medications meet the same standards for safety and effectiveness as brand name drugs.
On call: Heart disease and high altitudes: Safe to travel?
Higher altitude does strain the cardiovascular system, but if you prepare and don't push yourself too hard, high-altitude travel can be safe for men with history of heart problems.
Get your heart pumping in the fight against forgetfulness
Regular moderate exercise up to 150 minutes per week releases brain chemicals that support better memory, concentration, and mental sharpness. To succeed at exercise, do it with a partner, outdoors, and in a way that is fun for you.
Weak kidneys? Pay attention but don't worry excessively
Kidney function declines with age in some people. A heart-healthy diet and lifestyle will protect your kidneys. Once kidney function reaches a certain low level, medication and other steps to protect the kidneys may be necessary.
Free preventive services for men
Men can now obtain preventive health services at lower cost under healthcare reform. Medicare and most private insurance plans must waive co-pays and deductibles for certain preventive screening tests.
Osteoporosis update for men
Loss of bone strength in men happens at an older age than in women. Men can take steps to prevent bone loss and harmful fractures, such as taking enough calcium and vitamin D. Some men may benefit from bone strength testing.
In the journals: Caffeine may worsen urinary leakage
Taking in the amount of caffeine in two 8-ounce cups of coffee may worsen involuntary bladder leakage (urinary incontinence).
In the journals: Irregular heart rhythm linked to mental decline
People with a common type of irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation (AF) are also more likely to decline mentally or or develop dementia
In the journals: Have osteoarthritis? Careful with narcotic painkillers
Prescriptions for narcotic (opioid) pain relievers for osteoarthritis in older adults are rising. It may be causing more harmful falls and fractures.
In the journals: Mediterranean diet reduces risk of heart attacks
A large and well-designed study compared the Mediterranean style diet to a low-fat diet. People on the Mediterranean diet had fewer heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.
Should you take an erectile dysfunction drug to also ease urinary woes?
Taking an erectile dysfunction drug daily to treat erectile problems as well as urinary symptoms of an enlarged prostate is not the best first choice for men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Use standard medications and take ED drugs as needed.
On call: Is mercury in fish dangerous?
To reduce concerns about mercury in fish, limit consumption of higher-mercury fish to two times a week, but eat lower-mercury species more freely.
On call: How did I get a urinary tract infection?
Incomplete bladder emptying may contribute to urinary tract infections in men, but the condition is less common in men than women. Improve bladder emptying with medication if needed.
Boost energy with these everyday steps
Simple steps can help you feel less fatigued, including pacing yourself, naps and walks, and eating meals that can be absorbed slowly. Dietary supplements and vitamins are not useful unless you are deficient in a key nutrient.
Screening savvy: You're likely at low risk for abdominal aortic aneurysm
A bulging abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) can be deadly, but only certain men should be checked for one with ultrasound. Men age 65 to 75 who have ever smoked are at high enough risk to make the test worth having.
Better balance: Mental and physical fitness are both essential
Fear of falling can be positive if it leads to taking steps to improve balance and bone strength. Stronger legs, in particular, have a steadying effect. Changes in the home environment can reduce fall risk too.
7 Ways to make a visit to the doctor more successful
Doctor-patient relations are not always ideal. Sometimes the reason is that people do not adequately express their preferences and priorities to the doctor. It helps to ask specific questions about risks and benefits.
In the journals: How sweet it's not: Sugary drinks take a toll on health
Sweetened sodas, sports drinks, and fruit drinks may be the cause of 25,000 deaths per year in the United States.
In the journals: Generic cholesterol drug works as well as the brand-name version
Generic cholesterol drug works as well as the brand-n The generic version of atorvastatin, a leading cholesterol-lowering drug, works as well as the brand-name version.
In the journals: Testing for the 'ulcer bug' makes daily aspirin safer
Being tested for the bacteria that cause many ulcers and having the infection quashed with antibiotics can prevent ulcers in many people who take daily aspirin for heart protection.
In the journals: Many scans for back pain may be unnecessary
Many MRI scans ordered for people with lower back pain are not medically necessary.
Kidney stones, which are about twice as common in men as they are in women, can likely be prevented through attention to diet.
Surprisingly, having lower body fat may offer some health benefits, though diet and fitness are still vital to good health.
Warts are unsightly but generally harmless, and a wart will often go away on its own after a period of time.
I'm 72 and in good health. I've had left knee pain for almost six months. My doctor sent me for an MRI of both knees; it showed "mild to moderate osteoarthritis" in both knees and a torn meniscus in my right knee. What should I do for my "good" knee?
The new PSA report: Understand the controversy
Any man who is considering getting a PSA test to screen for prostate cancer needs to understand both the positive and negative implications of the test.
Learning while you sleep: Dream or reality?
Research suggests that sleep is an importrant contributor to learning, memory, creativity, and problem solving ability.
Obesity in America: What's driving the epidemic?
Changes in the nature of work, leisure time activity, and changes in what and how much we eat are the most significant contributing factors to the explosion of obesity in America.
On call: Exercising with respiratory infections
I do my best to exercise every day, either walking two miles in good weather or riding my exercise bike for 30 minutes on wet or cold days. Should I keep going when I catch a cold, or would I be better off resting?
On call: Halitosis
When I awaken in the morning, I have terrible bad breath. My breath seems okay during the rest of the day, but I worry about developing halitosis. What causes bad breath?
The PSA test: What's right for you?
The biggest criticism of the PSA test for prostate cancer is that it is not accurate enough. The decision whether or not to have the test depends on an individual's risk factors and overall health.
Coffee and your arteries
Research on caffeine found that it may improve the function of arteries.
On call: The buzz about blueberries
My family seems to have shifted from bananas and strawberries to a steady diet of blueberries with breakfast "because they'll keep you healthy." I love blueberries, but I do miss variety. So I want to know if blueberries really are good for our health.
On call: Flowers for patients
I recently brought a nice bouquet of flowers for my elderly aunt, who was hospitalized for a broken hip. To my surprise, the hospital had a policy against bedside flowers, and I could not deliver my gift. What's behind this policy, and is it reasonable?
On call: An obesity virus?
I was very interested in your article on how obesity seems to spread through social networks. I understand that it's a new type of research, but I wonder if it might have overlooked the possibility that obesity might also be spread by an actual virus.
Supplements: A scorecard
A detailed look at supplements and their medical use.
Palliative care: Surprising benefits from an underused therapy
An important study shows that palliative care can be beneficial, especially when it's started early.
On call: Returning to work after a heart attack
My 59-year-old husband just came home after being hospitalized for a mild heart attack. He was only in the hospital for five days and he feels great, though he does have to take three prescription medicines plus aspirin. I?m writing because my husband?s doctor doesn?t want him to go back to work for another six weeks even though his job doesn?t involve any lifting. I think the stress of staying home would be worse than going to work. Please advise.
On call: Epididymitis
I am a 73-year-old man and I've been diagnosed with epididymitis, which has been quite painful - to say the least. I would appreciate your comments about the cause, cure, and any other implications of having this problem.
On call: Protein in the urine
In the past you have discussed blood in the urine. I don't have that problem, but during my annual checkup last week, my doctor found protein in my urine. Is it a serious problem? And what should I do about it?
Sugar and your heart: Sour news about sweets
Sugar and the effects it has on your heart.
Light smoking: Dangerous in any dose
Light smoking - unsafe in any dose.
Distracted driving: Fast lane to disaster
Distracting driving unsafe in any hands.
On call: BPH (hypertrophy vs. hyperplasia)
As a retired physician, I particularly appreciate Harvard Men's Health Watch since it's an easy way for me to learn about new developments in medicine. As a 78-year-old man with an enlarged prostate, I'm particularly interested in your fine articles about
A lifetime in the sun? You can still cut your risk
Minimize the chance of melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer, with smart sun protection habits and regular checks for worrisome moles.
On call: Do people really get nightmares from eating late?
Dr. Kormos answers question on whether or not people really get nightmares from eating late.
On call: My blood pressure was once very high but is now under control. Is it safe for me to take up weight training?
Is weight training safe with high blood pressure?
How to beat the post-saw palmetto blues
Ease bothersome urinary signs without an herbal remedy.
Stop elbow pain and stay in the game
Physical conditioning and good playing technique prevent injuries.
Cutting red meat-for a longer life
A Harvard study points to a longer life if you substitute healthier proteins for red meat.
In the journal: European PSA testing trial update offers little guidance to American men
European PSA testing trial update offers little guidance to American men.
In the journal: Moderate alcohol after a heart attack does no harm and may help
Moderate alcohol after a heart attack causes no harm and may help.
In the journal: Daily "dose" of white rice linked to diabetes
Daily "dose" of white rice linked to higher diabetes risk.
Step up to better blood pressure
To stay in the healthy zone, lock in the basics and talk to your doctor about escalating your medications.
On call: Fish oil for the heart
Fish oil for the heart?
On call: Low libido woes
Low libido woes
Head and neck cancer alert
Doctors are seeing a wave of cancer caused by the HPV virus. Here is what you need to watch for.
Colonoscopy now easier to tolerate
Doctors are seeing a wave of cancer caused by the HPV virus. Here is what you need to watch for.
Is prep-free colon screening on the horizon?
Harvard researchers develop laxative-free "virtual" colonoscopy using CT.
Seven ways to get calories under control
How to boost calorie awareness and jumpstart weight loss.
In the journals: Tell your doctor if heart disease runs in the family
Tell your doctor if heart disease runs in the family.
In the journals: Study shows female 'advantage' in melanoma survival
Study shows female 'advantage' in melanoma survival.
In the journals: High-fiber for preventing diverticulosis challenged
High-fiber for preventing diverticulosis challenged.
In the journals: PSA testing continues in older men despite advice to stop
PSA testing continues in older men despite advice to stop.
High-tech heart tests and procedures you may not need-and why
Many people who feel fine often ask their doctors for tests to check for hidden heart disease. Such "checking under the hood" usually doesn't offer any benefit and often comes with costs and potential risks.
On call: Lowering cholesterol with food
How does food lower cholesterol, and how much do I need to eat to make a difference?
On call: When to repair a hemorrhoid
When does it make sense to have surgery for bleeding hemorrhoids?
New options for treating sleep apnea
New options for people with obstructive sleep apnea include sleep testing at home and new options for continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. For people who are overweight, losing weight can also improve breathing during sleep.
Self help for sore muscles
Regular exercise is vital for health and longevity, but it often comes with muscle strains and sprains. For simple soreness, try some RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Troubles with sexual release?
Some men have trouble reaching a satisfying orgasm. It can stem from a side effect of medication or spring from psychological or relationship issues. Discussing it with your doctor is the key first step to a solution.
In the journals: Heavy coffee drinkers live longer
In a study of more than 400,000 men and women, those who drank six or more cups of coffee a day were 10% less likely to have died during the course of the study.
In the journals: Tele-counseling aids depression treatment
For people who are battling depression, cognitive behavioral therapy (a kind of "talk therapy") can be very helpful-even when it is done by telephone.
In the journals: Flexible sigmoidoscopy: it works
Flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is less invasive than full colonoscopy and easier to prep for, every three to five years reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer later in life.
How to get more from your memory
Memory lapses like forgetting someone's name may spark anxiety but don't necessarily mean something is wrong. Taking time, avoiding multitasking, rehearsing names, learn memorization tricks and other strategies can help improve memory.
On call: When to stop colorectal screening
The United States Preventive Services Task Force advises that everyone be checked for colon cancer from age 50 to age 75, and that testing should stop after age 85. It's a more individual decision for those ages 76 to 85.
On call: When to get your hearing checked
Is "good" cholesterol still good for you?
People with high levels of HDL (good) cholesterol are less likely to develop heart disease than those with low HDL. Taking drugs to boost HDL, though, may not provide the most heart-healthy bang for the buck.
How and why to add strength training to your exercise plan
Many people who exercise focus on aerobic activities that get the heart pumping and overlook strength-building exercise. They preserve the ability to perform most ordinary activities and therefore maintain an active and independent lifestyle.
Should you be tested for hepatitis C?
The CDC is urging all baby boomers (folks born between 1945 and 1965) to be tested for the hepatitis C virus. It can reside silently in the liver for decades, causing slow damage that may lead to liver failure or cancer.
In the journals: FDA approves new PSA test
In the journals: Sharp rise seen in use of diagnostic scans
Use of diagnostic imaging has risen sharply since the 1990s, exposing some people to high or very high doses of radiation. Imaging procedures are often essential for making a diagnosis, but it's still wise to consider the need for each scan.
In the journals: Knee injections offer minimal relief from arthritis pain
Injections of hyaluronic acid into the knee, a treatment known as viscosupplementation, offers little relief from painful knee osteoarthritis.
In the journals: It's never too late to quit smoking
Should you skip your PSA test?
An expert panel has recommended that men not routinely undergo PSA testing for prostate cancer risk. Men should learn as much as they can about the risks and benefits of PSA testing and make a deeply informed decision.
On call: Calcium supplement basics
Taking calcium in the form of dietary supplements can increase bone strength, but it's not clear if this helps to prevent fractures in men, and calcium supplements carry potential risks. Calcium from food does have important health benefits.
On call: Remedies for dry skin
Dry skin can be caused by dry indoor heating and overwashing. To relieve, use non-water based moisturizing creams and moisturizing soaps. If home remedies fail, see your doctor to rule out an underlying skin condition.
Is low-dose aspirin safe for you?
Taking a low-dose "baby" aspirin every day can prevent cardiovascular disease but carries a small but potentially dangerous bleeding risk. If you take low-dose aspirin, understand the nature and size of the bleeding risk and discuss it with your doctor.
Testing your testosterone: It's tricky
More and more men are trying testosterone supplementation, but the tests used to diagnose "low T" are notoriously unreliable. By combining more than one kind of blood test, and by making sure to retest, your doctor can offer you a trustworthy diagnosis.
Stomach-soothing steps for heartburn
Chronic heartburn is usually caused by a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Simple self-help steps can keep GERD in check. When they don't, a proton pump inhibitor medications offers the most effective relief.
In the journals: Large waistline linked to urinary and erectile difficulties
A study observed that men with the largest waistlines suffer more frequent lower urinary tract symptoms and sexual dysfunction than men with smaller waists.
In the journals: "Keyhole" vein removal for bypass is safe
The most widely used "keyhole" method for obtaining veins to perform coronary bypass is safe and is associated with fewer infections and other post-surgery complications.
In the journals: Popular cardiac drug may prevent pneumonia
The widely prescribed ACE inhibitor drugs cause coughs in some people, but the cough may also help to prevent pneumonia.
In the journals: Not requiring a co-pay boosts colorectal screening
Dropping co-pays may increase the number of people who have a colonoscopy. The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) forbids insurers from charging co-pays for certain preventive services.
Should you take a statin even if your cholesterol is normal?
Many people take a statin medication to lower their "bad" cholesterol. Some people can lower their risk for cardiovascular disease by taking a preventive statin, even if they have normal cholesterol. Discuss the pros and cons with your doctor.
On call: Special Report: 'Natural' cold relief
Some studies show Echinacea helps shorten colds, some do not. Zinc lozenges may shorten symptoms by a few days. Taking steps to avoid catching a cold may be more effective than Echinacea or zinc supplements.
Healthy brain aging: No strain, no gain
As we age, mental exercise can keep mental skills and memory sharp. Relatively difficult mental activities can help the most. Physical exercise also helps to preserve mental skills with aging.
20-second CT scan cuts lung cancer deaths, but is it right for you?
Having a CT scan to detect early stage lung cancer prevents death in current or former smokers at high risk of developing lung cancer. Early testing and treatment includes potential harms as well as benefits. Talk to your doctor before seeking the test.
Breathe away stress in 8 steps
Combining rhythmic breathing and focused mental attention can elicit a healthful physiological state called the relaxation response. Being in the relaxation response for 10 to 20 minutes daily counteracts stress and its unhealthy effects.
How to eat nuts the healthy way
Dieters may avoid nuts because they contain so many calories. But nuts are a good source of healthy fats, protein, and nutrients. Limit portions and eat nuts instead of, not in addition to, foods such as red meat.
In the journals: Most people don't take heart drugs as directed
Most people do not fill their prescriptions for heart medications as directed. Unfilled prescriptions include those fop aspirin, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers, beta blockers, calcium-channel blockers, thiazide diuretics, and statins.
In the journals: If depression meds don't work, switching sooner may be best
If a new antidepressant does not work, switching to a new one immediately does not work does not worsen symptoms and may produce slightly better results over the long run.
In the journals: Sinus-flushing product linked to a dangerous infection
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns cold and allergy sufferers that the improper use of neti pots, a device for rinsing the nasal passages, can cause dangerous infections.
In the journals: Acupuncture relieves common types of chronic pain
Acupuncture relieves chronic pain in the back, neck, and shoulders, and from osteoarthritis and headaches. Acupuncture is often used in addition to standard treatments, such as pain medications, when they do not relieve pain well enough.
How to prevent clots in the legs and lungs
In deep vein thrombosis, clots form in the arms, legs, or pelvis. A clot that breaks off and blocks blood flow in the lungs is called a pulmonary embolism. Heart healthy lifestyle prevents these conditions. Medication prevents repeat blood clots.
On call: What causes dry eyes?
Symptoms of dry eye include burning, redness, excessive tearing, and the sensation that you have something stuck in your eye. First try treating it with over-the-counter artificial tears. If that fails, prescription medications may be necessary.
On call: Headaches from headache medication?
If you have a new or worsening headache, see a doctor. Chronic headache can be made worse by overuse of pain medications. The cure is to stop taking the medications entirely, with use of other drugs to help ease you through medication withdrawal.
Mind and memory supplement scorecard
People take a variety of dietary supplements to improve mental functioning and memory, but trustworthy scientific evidence is lacking. Exercise and a heart healthy diet can help maintain your mind and memory.
Your PSA test result: What's next?
Despite questions about the overall benefit of the PSA test for prostate cancer, many men still choose to have it. To interpret a worrying result, your doctor may suggest additional testing before suggesting a biopsy.
When it's okay to delay hernia surgery
Up to 40% of men develop a groin hernia in their lifetimes. The risk of dangerous complications from hernia is low. Unless a hernia is causing you distress or limiting your activities, you can safely delay repair indefinitely.
Backed-up bowels? Don't get stuck on daily "regularity"
Not having a bowel movement every day doesn't always indicate a problem. It is more important that bowel movements be free of pain or strain. To reverse constipation, get adequate dietary fiber, drink enough water, and check for constipating medications.
In the journals: Healthy living after 75
The keys to longevity after 75 are to maintain a healthy weight, don't smoke or drink, maintain a web of social connections, and enjoy regular leisure-time physical activities.
In the journals: No need for ulcer drugs after eradicating H. pylori bacteria?
After the bacteria that causes ulcers are eradicated from the body, a person does not have to take acid-reducing drugs to prevent symptoms and help healing, a study suggests.
In the journals: Got yogurt? Then you might not get high blood pressure
People who take in at least 2% of their calories from yogurt have lower blood pressure and are about 30% less likely to develop hypertension than people who do not eat yogurt.
In the journals: Knee replacements rise sharply in people on Medicare
Surgery to install or replace knee implants has grown sharply among people on Medicare. Knee implants are widely available and can allow you to live the life you want to, but not everyone is guaranteed a perfect outcome.
Controlling blood sugar in diabetes: How low should you go?
Rigorous blood sugar control has been shown to benefit those with type 1 diabetes, and may do so for people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes, whose blood vessels are still relatively healthy.
Penile rehabilitation after prostate cancer surgery
Men who experience erectile dysfunction as after a prostatectomy may benefit from penile rehabilitation in the form of now-common ED medications.
Unfolding bent fingers: New handiwork for bacteria
A new medication derived from bacteria offers an alternative treatment for the inward bending of the fingers known as Dupuytren's contracture.
On call: Pancreatic cancer prevention
Every time I open a newspaper, I seem to read about another VIP with cancer of the pancreas. It sounds like a dreadful disease. Is there some way I can be tested to see if I'm at risk?
Meat or beans: What will you have? Part I: Meat
Red meat is a justifiable source of protein and iron, but research has established a connection between higher meat consumption and higher rates of several cancers, and a higher mortality rate in general.
Testosterone replacement: A cautionary tale
Testosterone therapy has been viewed as a way to counter the effects of aging, but a study found that men who took daily testosterone had a higher incidence of cardiovascular events.
Exercising to relax
Exercise reduces stress hormones and stimulates production of endorphins, which together help foster relaxation. Other techniques, such as breathing exercises and muscle relaxation, can enhance the stress-beating effects of exercise.
On call: AAA screening
I am a 72-year-old male in excellent health. I have been diagnosed with a 3.7-centimeter aortic aneurysm. My doctor recommends an ultrasound every six months. Are six-month checks adequate? And when should surgery be considered?
Never too late: Exercise helps late starters
Results of studies from several countries, including the United States, confirm that men who do not start exercising until middle age still gain many health benefits from it, most importantly added longevity.
Meat or beans: What will you have? Part ll: Beans
For those looking to cut back on the amount of meat they eat for health reasons, legumes such as black beans, chickpeas, and lentils are an excellent source of protein and fiber.
Obesity: Unhealthy and unmanly
Roughly two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese. For men, the extra pounds lead to health problems ranging from diabetes and high blood pressure to lower testosterone levels and erectile dysfunction.
On call: Peripheral artery disease screening
My senior center is sponsoring a test to check for "peripheral artery disease." The test is free, and they say it's safe and painless. Do you think it's a good idea?
Bladder cancer: Men at risk
Bladder cancer is much more common in men than in women. The most common causes are smoking and exposure to environmental toxins.
Beyond the coronary arteries: Possible benefits of statin drugs Part I: Meet the statins
Statin drugs have helped millions of people reduce their risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol, and they may also have beneficial effects on cells all over the body.
Medical memo: Take your pills
A study of men with newly diagnosed hypertension underlines the importance of regularly taking the medication prescribed by your doctor.
On call: Beer belly
I am a healthy, active 39-year-old. I enjoy a beer with dinner, and a six-pack most weekends. Over the past year or two, I've had to let my belt out, and now I'm letting out my pants. So here's my question: is beer really responsible for my "beer belly"?
Beyond the coronary arteries: Possible benefits of statin drugs Part II: Specific syndromes
While taking a statin may have side benefits on other organs and areas of the body, this information comes largely from observational studies, which do not constitute proof of beneficial effect.
Acupuncture for ED?
Research is beginning to consider the possibility that acupuncture may help some men with erectile dysfunction, but the studies conducted so far have found little evidence to support the theory.
Money talks: Financial incentives for health
Studies on smoking and obesity found that monetary incentives increased the likelihood that people will make healthier lifestyle choices, but the progress did not always continue after the studies ended.
On call: Alcohol after a heart attack
My husband just had a mild heart attack, and now he wants to have wine with dinner every night. We've both heard that wine is good for the heart, but I'm worried that it may not be safe so soon after. I hope you can reassure me or restrain my husband.
Abdominal aortic aneurysms: Triple A, double trouble
An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a widening of the artery where it passes through the stomach. The size of the aneurysm helps determine the risk of rupture, and whether it should be repaired surgically.
Is sex exercise? And is it hard on the heart?
Sexual activity does not provide much in the way of exertion or calorie burning, and while it could trigger a heart attack or arrhythmia, the risk of such an occurrence is very small.
Medical memo: Cholesterol and prostate cancer
Research suggests that lowering cholesterol may help protect men against the most aggressive prostate cancer tumors.
On call: Excessive perspiration
Compared to the problems your readers ask about, my issue may seem silly. But I hope you'll give me some advice, since it really is very annoying. I'm troubled by excessive sweating.
Music and health
Researchers are exploring the many ways in which music may influence health, from stress relief to athletic performance.
Improving surgical results: Three low-tech approaches
Simple, low-tech ideas are helping make surgery safer and more effective.
Medical memo: Pot for the prostate?
A study in Spain found that chemical compounds derived from marijuana plants slowed the growth of prostate cancer cells in mice.
On call: Honey for health?
My teenage daughter wants us to switch from sugar to honey for health reasons. Is honey really any healthier than sugar?
The crucial, controversial carotid artery Part I: The artery in health and disease
The carotid arteries supply the brain with blood. If narrowed they are more likely to be blocked by a blood clot, which can cause a stroke.
Health tips for the dog days of summer
Summer activities require precautions to protect against sun exposure, heat, insects, and other outdoor hazards.
Medical memo: Semen quality and survival
A long-term Danish study correlates a higher sperm count with a lower mortality rate.
Our April 2011 article "Meet the statins" contained an error.
On call: Dietary guidelines and caloric percentages
I really appreciate the dietary guidelines that you publish from time to time, but my wife and I find it hard to do the math in a busy supermarket. Can you give us targets that are easier to use than "percentages of daily calories"
The crucial, controversial carotid artery Part II: Treatment
Carotid arteries that become narrowed by atherosclerosis can lead to a transient ischemic attack or a stroke. This situation can be treated by either an artery-opening procedure, or by medical therapy.
ED pills and benign prostatic hyperplasia
Medications for erectile dysfunction may useful in treating the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
On call: Electronic cigarettes
After smoking for over 15 years, I finally quit eight months ago, but I still miss my cigarettes. I recently heard about electronic cigarettes. Are they safe?
On call: More dietary advice
I read the column about dietary guidelines and caloric percentages, but I'm not a math guy. Any chance you could put it in English for me?
Aspirin and cancer: Will a tablet a day keep tumors at bay?
Research findings that the same enzymes responsible for inflammation, fever, and pain are active in some cancer cells suggests that aspiring may be of use in treating certain types of cancer.
Reducing prostate cancer risk: Good news, bad news, or no new news?
Results of two studies on possible dietary influences on prostate cancer raise questions, but they must be placed in the larger context of how a man's diet affects his overall health.
On call: Simvastatin in the morning?
My doctor started me on Zocor. I have had just one side effect, forgetfulness. I often forget to take my pill in the evening. So I'd like to know if it would be okay to take Zocor in the morning with my other pills, which I never forget.
On call: Viagra precautions
I am a 64-year-old man with diabetes. I've been having trouble with erections, and my doctor just gave me a prescription for Viagra. He also told me to be careful about using other drugs with Viagra but didn't give me a list. Can you please fill me in?
Polymyalgia rheumatica is a painful condition characterized by muscle pain, and inflammation of the membranes surrounding nearby joints and the sacs that cushion them.
Atrial fibrillation: Common, serious, treatable
Atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart's upper chambers flutter rapidly and weakly, instead of contracting regularly and steadily. Age, high blood pressure, lung disease, thyroid problems, and smoking are among the likely contributors.
On call: Penile shortening post-prostatectomy
I am trying to decide between radical prostatectomy and radioactive seed therapy for my prostate cancer. The doctors say that I should be cured either way. I'm basing my decision on side effects, but I need more information about penile shortening.
Medical radiation: Too much of a good thing?
Exposure to ionizing radiation through medical testing is generally safe, but there are risks that patients and caregivers need to be aware of. Cumulative exposure should be tracked if possible, and unnecessary tests should be avoided.
Social networks and health: Communicable but not infectious
Old-fashioned social networking - the face-to-face kind - can affect our health, both positively and negatively.
On call: Acetaminophen and prostate cancer
I was very interested in your article on aspirin and cancer. You commented that aspirin may help prevent cancer, but I can't take aspirin, even in low doses. I use Tylenol for pain and fever - can it also help against cancer?
Mars vs. Venus: The gender gap in health
Americans are living longer than their ancestors, but women still outlive men by an average of five years, due to many biological, behavioral, and social factors. Making healthier lifestyle choices can help men live longer.
Stem cells and the prostate
Researchers are just beginning to investigate what role, if any, stem cells may play in the development of prostate cancer or benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Medical memo: Hot seats, laptops, and sperm
Using a laptop, turning on a car seat heater, or just sitting for an hour or two can boost scrotal temperature, which may affect fertility.
On call: New medication for gout
I've had gout for many years. I used to take Zyloprim without any problems, but I just had a severe allergic reaction, so my doctor switched me to Benemid. I'm doing okay, but the drug sometimes upsets my stomach. Do you have any suggestions?
On call: Inhibited ejaculation
At age 74, I can have erections, both with and without Levitra, but I have increasing difficulty achieving ejaculation. I assume this is related to ED and age, but wonder whether there is a solution. I don't drink or have diabetes.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: It takes your breath away
People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have difficulty breathing in the form of either bronchitis, emphysema, or a combination of the two. The majority of cases are caused by smoking, and incidence of COPD is rising among Americans.
Treating sports injuries
It's not uncommon for exercise enthusiasts to experience a fitness-related injury. Many of these injuries can be avoided with preventive efforts such as proper warm-up and attention to technique.
Medical memo: Medical teamwork - it works
Many people who visit their doctor's office now see a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner. Two studies show that patients in such a setting are receiving high-quality, professional care.
On call: Vitamin D2 or D3?
After reading your article on multivitamins, I've decided to switch from my old multivitamin to plain vitamin D. But I'm confused by the various types of vitamin D. Which kind should I take?
Testosterone and the heart
Testosterone has been linked to cardiac risk factors like peripheral artery disease, but researchers are beginning to examine the possibility that testosterone therapy might be beneficial for men with heart disease.
Food-borne illnesses, Part I: The big picture
With worldwide growth in agribusiness and a growing portion of our food supply coming from other nations, food-borne illnesses and food safety are of great importance.
On call: Do alcohol and statins mix?
I'm 72 years old, with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I take HydroDiuril, Lipitor, and aspirin. I feel fine, but I want to know if I can drink red wine while I'm taking these medications.
On call: HPV vaccine for boys?
My 14-year-old granddaughter has just completed her third injection of the Gardasil vaccine. I know it is designed to protect her from cervical cancer caused by a virus. But men can get the virus, too. Should my grandson also get the vaccine?
Protect your kidneys
Beyond the elimination of waste, the kidneys play an important role in regulating the body's blood pressure and are also involved in the production of red blood cells and the conversion of vitamin D, so keeping the kidneys healthy is crucial.
Food-borne illnesses, Part II: Personal protection
The risk of food-borne illness can be minimized by using common sense and by taking precautions when handling and preparing food.
On call: Olive oil and health
I've read that olive oil is good for health, but is extra virgin olive oil worth the extra cost, or is it just another trendy gimmick?
On call: Dry mouth
My mouth and throat are constantly parched, even though I carry a water bottle and sip from it constantly. I know it's a small problem compared to all the things you write about, but it's very uncomfortable, and I'd appreciate any advice you can offer.
Growth hormone, athletic performance, and aging
Some men use growth hormone as an anti-aging treatment, even though it is illegal to market it for this purpose. Studies of test subjects who took growth hormone found a high incidence of side effects such as joint pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Depression: Often overlooked but important for men
Depression is more common in women than in men, but it can affect anyone. Sometimes it is caused by a medical condition such as a metabolic disorder or a medication, or it may be triggered by a stressful life event.
Medical memo: Fighting heart disease: Are we still winning?
After decades of steady progress, the decline in the rate of death from coronary artery disease and stroke has slowed.
On call: Red yeast rice
My cholesterol is too high. My doctor wants me to take a statin, but I'd rather use a natural remedy. I saw an ad for red yeast rice that says that it's as effective as the statins, and I can get it without a prescription- -but should I?
Hernias: New options for management
Men with hernias have several choices to make: whether or not to have surgery to repair the condition, which type of surgery to have, and which type of anesthesia to undergo.
Clostridium difficile: An intestinal infection on the rise
Incidence of infection caused by the bacterium Clostridium difficile is rising, mainly in patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities who have received antibiotics.
On call: Coenzyme Q10 and statins
I'm a 61-year-old man with high blood pressure. My doctor wants me to take Zocor to lower my cholesterol, but I'm worried about muscle damage. I found a Web site that claimed coenzyme Q10 would help. Is that right?
Marriage and men's health
Statistics on marriage and health show that married men are healthier than unmarried or divorced men, and are also more likely to live longer. However, marital stress has a negative effect on physical and mental health.
Psoriasis: More than skin deep
Psoriasis is a condition that manifests on the skin but is rooted in the immune system, and can lead to arthritis, heart disease, and other health problems.
Health clubs: Are they right for you?
Before making the commitment to join a health club, take time to consider your goals and needs to make sure you find the facility that's right for you.
On call: Osteoporosis and prostate cancer
My 64-year-old wife was diagnosed with osteoporosis. Her doctor said medication would help, and he reassured her that having osteoporosis indicates reduced risk for breast cancer. I want to know if osteoporosis in men affects the risk of prostate cancer.
On call: Flomax and cataract surgery
I am 78, with an enlarged prostate and cataracts. I take Flomax for my prostate, but I've been told that it can cause complications during cataract surgery. Should I stop taking Flomax before I have surgery- -and if so, what should I do about my prostate?
Diverticular disease of the colon
Diverticular disease develops due to a lack of dietary fiber, and is most common in the elderly, but many people never realize they have it because there are few symptoms.
ED pills and eyes
Some men who take erectile dysfunction medications experience visual disturbances. These tend to be mild and go away quickly, but there is concern about a very rare eye disorder that may be linked to use of an ED drug.
Medical memo: Sleep, heart disease, and prostate cancer
Research suggests that getting too little sleep could lead to increased risk of both cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer.
On call: Baker's cyst
I'm 67. Recently, I noticed a soft swelling behind my left knee. I saw an orthopedist who told me I have a Baker's cyst. He said I don't need any tests or treatments, but I worry that it may interfere with my tennis. Should I ignore it or get treatment?
Immunotherapy: A new option for advanced prostate cancer
Men with advanced prostate cancer that has started growing again after androgen-deprivation therapy may benefit from a new immunotherapy treatment.
That nagging cough
A persistent cough that lasts longer than a few weeks can be worrisome, but for nonsmokers, the most common causes include asthma, bronchitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and medication for high blood pressure.
Medical memo: Nutrition and fertility
Researchers in Spain found that a man's diet can affect his fertility.
On call: Floaters
I'm 55 years old, and I only need glasses for reading. Recently though, I've seen tiny black specs that move around in random directions. My eyes are not red, watery, or painful, but I'm worried that I may have the start of an eye disease.
Salt and your health, Part I: The sodium connection
Data from studies shows that cutting sodium intake will lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Blood in the urine: What does it mean for your health?
There are numerous possible causes of blood in the urine, including kidney disease, injury, or certain cancers, but regardless of the cause, prompt testing is required.
On call: Stopping statins
I've been taking Zocor since my heart attack in 2006. In the past few months, I've had some muscle aches. My doctor says Zocor may be causing the problem. He wants me to stop Zocor for a while, but I'm worried about my heart. Is it safe for me to stop?
Salt and your health, Part II: Shaking the habit
With growing evidence that restricting sodium leads to lower blood pressure and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, it makes sense to make the effort to work on cutting salt from our eating habits.
Prostate-specific antigen: A new(ish) study
The controversy over PSA testing continues, with a study from Sweden suggesting that testing does reduce the risk of death from prostate cancer, but the issue is by no means resolved.
On call: Alcohol, hypertension, and heart attacks
I am a 57-year-old man. I understand that moderate drinking may help me avoid a heart attack. But I've been diagnosed with hypertension, and I was told that alcohol can raise my blood pressure and stress my heart. So is drinking likely to help or harm me?
Aspirin and your heart: Many questions, some answers
The benefit of taking a daily aspirin to protect against a heart attack is well established, but this protection comes with some increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.
Treating hypertension: Are two meds better than one?
Research supports the theory that a combination of two drugs for hypertension, given at lower doses, is more effective than giving just one drug at double the dose.
Medical memo: Length of survival and causes of death in men with prostate cancer
The life expectancy for men over 65 who have been diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer is not significantly different from men in the same age group without prostate cancer.
On call: Prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia
I've had three prostate biopsies over the past four years because my PSA has gone from 3.2 to 4.8. The first two biopsies were normal, but the new one found "PIN" but no cancer. Please explain "PIN" and tell me what it means for me.
Waisted: Abdominal obesity and your health
Fat that accumulates inside the abdomen has come to be viewed by doctors as a key cause of cardiovascular disease. Diet and exercise are the fundamental principles that can reduce this fat and improve overall health.
New Year's resolutions for health
Suggestions for healthier living include reducing stress, eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise, protecting against infectious diseases, maintaining a safe living environment, and getting regular medical care.
Medical memo: Paternity and prostate cancer: Can a look down the family tree provide clues?
A study of possible genetic links to prostate cancer questioned whether the number of children a man fathered might affect his risk of prostate cancer, while another looked at whether the sex of a man's offspring was significant.
On call: Pharyngitis
I seem to get three or four sore throats a year. I don't want to run to my doctor for antibiotics every time. How can I tell when I need treatment and when I don't?
On call: Winter depression
My wife gets down in the dumps each January. She thinks it's just because the holidays have come and gone, but I think it's more than that. Is it depression?
Chocolate and your health: Guilty pleasure or terrific treat?
Dark chocolate may promote beneficial activity in the body such as lower LDL cholesterol and a slight decrease in blood pressure, but because it is high in calories and fat, it should be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Insomnia: Restoring restful sleep
Insomnia is a troubling condition, but it can be addressed through behavioral changes and by practicing better sleep habits. Medication may be helpful in the short term, but proper nutrition, regular exercise, and minimizing stress are preferable.
On call: Selenium and vitamin E for prostate cancer
I have been taking selenium in the hope that it would prevent me from getting prostate cancer. But I heard on the radio that the National Cancer Institute is advising men to stop taking selenium. Should I stop it?
Lifestyle prevention: Does it work? And why?
Living a healthy lifestyle is the surest way to delay or prevent illness. Research is confirming that following simple, prudent health habits increases longevity and quality of life, and even making one or two changes is better than doing nothing.
Climate change and your health
Increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are changing the earth's climate, which affects everyone's health in the form of more instances of extreme weather, poorer air quality, an increase in insect-borne illnesses, and more.
Genetic screening for prostate cancer
Genetic testing may soon be able to predict a man's risk of getting prostate cancer, but the tests can give false or misleading results. Men with a family history of the disease will probably benefit more from such testing when it is available.
On call: Statin therapy
I am 55. My cholesterol counts are normal, but my wife clipped an article about a study that found statin drugs prevent heart attacks even in people with normal cholesterol. My golfing partners all take cholesterol medication - should I join them?
Deep-vein thrombosis: Blood clots in your veins
Deep-vein thrombosis typically occurs in the veins of the legs, and is more common in men than in women. It is often caused by long periods of immobility, such as during a hospital stay or lengthy airplane flight.
The 10 commandments of cancer prevention
Many factors influence whether a person gets cancer, and many cancers are preventable. There is much you can do to reduce your cancer risk, including the obvious avoidance of tobacco, eating a healthy diet, exercising, and consuming alcohol in moderation.
Medical memo: Hearty humor
Researchers found a connection between humor and endothelial function, which helps keep arteries healthy. Laughter appeared to boost endothelial function, while stress appeared to lower it.
On call: Proscar and osteoporosis
I am 76 years old, and I?ve had an enlarged prostate for at least 10 years. I?ve been taking Proscar for about a year, and it seems to be helping quite a bit. I have not noticed any side effects, but I?m worried that if the medicine reduces testosterone levels enough to shrink my prostate, it will also give me osteoporosis. Should I change medications, or take Fosamax like my wife?
Sexuality and seniority
Men who remain healthy as they get older have a better chance of maintaining sexual function, and research suggests that regular sexual activity may help prevent erectile dysfunction.
Allergic rhinitis: Your nose knows
Allergic rhinitis, commonly called hay fever, can be a minor seasonal nuisance or a troubling year-round problem. Most people can find relief by taking an antihistamine and by avoiding the allergens that trigger the irritation.
Statins and prostate cancer
Scientists are studying the possibility of a connection between statin use and reduced risk of prostate cancer, though the research is preliminary and far from conclusive.
On call: Vegetarian diets
Following the lead of our 12-year-old daughter, my wife has become a vegetarian. She says she's willing to continue serving meat and chicken, but I sense that she'd rather not. What can you tell me about the safety of a vegetarian diet?
Finasteride to prevent prostate cancer: A new chapter
A drug trial concluded that finasteride may decrease the risk of prostate cancer in some men, but the question of whether or not this medication, or any other, can prevent prostate cancer is still very much unanswered.
Headache: When to worry, what to do
Most headaches can be treated effectively with medication, but certain instances or patterns of headache may be indicators or symptoms of a more serious condition.
Medical memo: Soy and sperm
A study suggests that high soy consumption may lower sperm count, though the test subjects who ate the most soy were still considered fertile, and eating soy products has other health benefits.
On call: Calcium deposits in the prostate
My father has had two surgeries in the past year to remove calcium deposits in his prostate. Is there any way to avoid this buildup, or will it continue?
PSA: Prostate-Specific Antigen, Persisting Scientific Ambiguities
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test can detect prostate cancer early enough for treatment, but it cannot determine whether the cancer is aggressive or indolent, and overdiagnosis is its biggest drawback.
Nutrition 101: Good eating for good health
Guidelines for a nutrition-focused diet include eating more vegetables and fruits and less animal products, eating more fiber and whole grains, choosing carbs and fats wisely, and making food choices that provide for long-term health.
On call: Cell phones and hospitals
When I visited a friend in the hospital recently, I was annoyed that I was not allowed to use my cell phone. Are cell phones really dangerous?
Walking: Your steps to health
The benefits of walking extend to many aspects of health and fitness. Incorporating walking into one's daily routine is an excellent starting point.
Arsenic and prostate cancer
Exposure to arsenic in drinking water has been linked to increased risk of prostate cancer, and may also be a risk factor in erectile dysfunction.
Medical memo: Age and performance
While some aspects of physical and mental performance inevitably diminish with age, experience can make up for these changes, and older men can retain much of their abilities and skills.
On call: Drug expiration dates
My husband refuses to throw out pills that are past their expiration dates. I never keep foods longer than I should, so I hope you'll convince him to clean out the medicine closet the way I take care of the fridge and pantry.
On call: Eyelid inflammation
I don't have allergies, but my eyes often burn and itch. My vision is fine, but my eyes are sometimes bloodshot, and I come down with two or three sties a year. I don't want to bother my doctor with such a minor problem, but I wonder if you can help.
Peripheral artery disease: Leg pain and much more
Peripheral artery disease gets less attention than strokes or heart attacks, but like those conditions it is a cardiovascular condition caused by blockages in the arteries, in this case the ones that supply blood to the legs and other parts of the body.
Exercise and your joints
Some people believe that exercise is harmful to their joints or even causes arthritis, but research shows that this is not true, and in fact exercise can strengthen and protect joints.
The numbers game: Risk factors, lifestyle, and longevity
Understanding how your test results correlate to risk factors can help you make positive changes in your health habits for a longer and healthier life.
On call: Periodontitis and your heart
I am a 56-year-old man with high blood pressure. My dentist found gum disease and referred me to a periodontist for treatment. I know that high blood pressure increases my risk of heart disease, and I've been told that gum disease does too. Is it true?
Strength training, Part I: Building muscles to improve health
Losing muscle mass and strength is part of the aging process, but people who follow a program of low-resistance strength training combined with aerobic exercise are more likely to stay fit and healthy as they age.
Blood pressure and your brain
High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke and plays a role in cognitive decline. Simple lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, and losing weight can lower blood pressure.
On call: Performance anxiety
I'm a 38-year-old junior executive. Every time I have to make a presentation, I get terribly nervous, making it very hard for me to get through my talk. I've heard there is a pill that can help, but I don't want to take tranquilizers. What do you suggest?
On call: Prevention for BPH
My brother needed surgery for an enlarged prostate at age 60. I am just a few months shy of my 50th birthday, and my urine stream is starting to slow down a bit. Is there anything I can do to avoid following in my brother's footsteps?
Strength training, Part II: From theory to practice
The benefits of strength training include faster metabolism due to increased muscle mass, lower blood sugar, improved heart function, and relief from joint pain.
Premature heart disease
Coronary artery disease is the biggest cause of heart attacks in younger men, but other causes include defective arteries, clot disorders, and drug abuse.
Medical memo: Calling all men: Cell phones and sperm
Researchers are examining the possibility that heavy cell phone use may negatively affect a man's sperm count.
On call: PSA variability
I've been tracking my PSA ever since I turned 50, 11 years ago. Since I just moved from St. Louis to Denver, my next test will be done in a new lab. Will the change in labs affect my levels?
On call: Sexual dysfunction and heart disease in women
My wife and I have read that erectile dysfunction can be a warning for future heart disease in men. My wife is experiencing a drop in her sex drive. She'll be seeing her gynecologist for help, but we wonder if she should see a cardiologist, too.
Hearing loss: A silent epidemic
Almost everyone is affected by hearing loss at some point, most commonly in older age. It can be as simple as a blockage from ear wax, or more serious sensorineural hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise, certain medications, or head trauma.
How much exercise do you need?
The amount of exercise a person needs varies, and depends on goals and preferences, ability and time. By mixing regular daily activities and workouts, strength training and balance exercises, the right amount will become evident.
Medical memo: Do it yourself?
A study that tracked healthy older men for several years found that overzealous pursuit of household chores and activities was responsible for an increased risk of falling.
On call: The digital rectal exam
I just reviewed your article on PSA testing. After talking with my wife, I've decided to skip the PSA test when I go for my annual physical next month. But your article doesn't say much about rectal exams. Should I skip that also?
Testosterone, aging, and the mind
Testosterone affects many of the body's functions throughout a man's life. Some studies have attempted to link declining testosterone production in later life to decreased cognitive function, but no firm connection has yet been found.
Red meat and colon cancer
A number of studies have shown a link between increased consumption of red meat and an increased risk of colon cancer. Dietary changes and regular exercise are the best options for reducing one's risk.
Siestas and your heart: Can you nap your way to health?
A study in Greece found that men who napped regularly were significantly less likely to die of heart disease. Naps also tend to reduce fatigue and stress and improve alertness and mood.
On call: "Low-dose" smoking
I know that smoking is very bad for me. I've cut down to one cigarette after lunch and another after dinner each day, with two or three more on most weekend nights when I socialize. I really enjoy smoking, but I want to know if I'm harming myself.
ED and coronary artery disease: Surprising bedfellows
A number of studies show a definite correlation between erectile dysfunction and risk of heart disease. In many cases, the symptoms have not been diagnosed. Men with ED should have their cardiac health evaluated.
Treating prostate cancer: No rush to judgment
Research affirms that allowing time to pass between prostate cancer diagnosis and surgery does not adversely affect the likelihood of a recurrence of the cancer.
The Mediterranean diet: A model for Americans
Studies from Europe and America confirm that following the Mediterranean diet, by eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy, and moderate amounts of alcohol, lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
On call: Leg cramps and quinine
I have a problem with leg cramps. I asked my doctor about quinine, and she gave me a prescription. But my pharmacist said it's not available anymore, even by prescription. What happened?
Multivitamins and your health: A reappraisal
Support for taking a daily multivitamin has declined somewhat as studies have shown that too much of certain vitamins can cause health problems.
GERD: Heartburn and more
Millions of people suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Lifestyle changes such as avoiding certain foods can help control symptoms, and there are also several effective medications available.
PSA variability: A new factor
Decisions about prostate cancer treatment are often made based on the results of PSA testing, but the PSA reading can fluctuate due to exercise or even climate, so a high test reading may not necessarily mean a prostate cancer diagnosis.
On call: Toenail fungal infections
I have two really ugly toenails. I assume I have a fungus. What can I do about it?
Stress and the prostate
Prostate conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia can cause stress, but the question of whether stress can affect the prostate is not as clear. However, any man can benefit from reducing stress in his life.
When doctors disagree: How to cope with conflicting results
Medical research frequently contradicts or refutes the results of a previous study. Individuals should interpret health information with regard to its significance, compare the risks to the benefits, and consider personal preferences and priorities.
Medical memo: Attracted to magnets?
Two reviews of studies that assert that products containing magnets can ease pain or cure other conditions found no evidence to support any such claims.
On call: Selenium and diabetes
I've been taking a selenium pill every day to try to reduce my risk of prostate cancer. But now I've read that selenium can cause diabetes. My blood sugar has always been normal, but I'm concerned. Should I continue taking selenium?
Treating prostate cancer, Part I: The big picture
A man who is diagnosed with prostate cancer has many treatment options, including doing nothing. The disease's typically slow progresssion makes comparing treatments difficult, but it also gives men time to consider all options and seek additional advice.
Optimism and your health
Numerous studies have shown an association between a positive, optimistic life outlook and lower risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease, as well as better overall health and improved longevity.
Medical memo: Insecticides, testosterone, and fertility
Researchers found that men who had been exposed to chlorpyrifos, an insecticide, had lower testosterone levels and lower sperm counts.
On call: Pseudoephedrine and blood pressure
I am a 64-year-old man, and I've just been diagnosed with high blood pressure. For many years, I've used Sudafed to clear my nose when I have a cold or allergy attack. It has always worked well, but is it safe for my blood pressure?
On call: Discolored respiratory mucus
When I get a flow of green mucus from my nose after a cold, I get a prescription for antibiotics. But last week my doctor was on vacation, and the young covering M.D. would not call in an antibiotic. I was very upset. What can I do if this happens again?
Treating prostate cancer, Part II: Determining its severity
When a diagnosis of prostate cancer is made, tests such as PSA level and Gleason score provide valuable information about the stage of the disease and its probable progression, so doctors can determine the best course of treatment for each patient.
The powerful placebo
In a randomized clinical trial, volunteers are given either a medication or a placebo without knowing which one they are receiving. Sometimes, those who receive the placebo report that it makes them feel better, which is called the placebo effect.
Pets and your health
There are many benefits to pet ownership, such as physical activity, social interaction, and companionship. Domestic animals can carry infections, but keeping pets healthy and following sensible precautions will minimize the risk.
On call: Home defibrillators
When I walk through a mall or airport, I see machines for reviving heart attack victims. My husband has had two heart attacks. He's doing very well now, but I wonder if I can get a device like this for our home. And would I be able to learn how to use it?
Treating prostate cancer, Part III: Active surveillance
For some men, a prostate cancer diagnosis means immediate surgery. But depending on age, test results (PSA and Gleason score), and the stage of the disease, active surveillance may be a better option.
Most people with asthma can manage the condition with medication. Attacks can be minimized by avoiding triggers such as smoke, allergens, dust, mold, certain medications, and pet dander.
Medical memo: Grape juice for health?
Early studies have suggested that grape juice may provide some of the same heart-protective benefits as red wine, but much more research is needed.
On call: Hydration for summer exercise
I've always been told that it's important to drink plenty of fluids during exercise, and it seems to work for me. But now I've read that too much water can be very dangerous. Which is right?
Treating prostate cancer, Part IV: Surgery
The best candidates for prostate cancer surgery are younger men who are otherwise healthy and do not have other conditions or diseases that might shorten their life span.
Summer's heat and humidity can be dangerous. It's important to stay hydrated, avoid excessive physical exertion and undue sun exposure on hot, humid days, and be alert for warning signs pf heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Medical memo: Rating America's hospitals
A monitoring and rating program for US hospitals has resulted in a significant improvement in specific areas of treatment.
On call: Herpes gladiatorum
My wife doesn't want our son to go out for the wrestling team because she's worried he might catch herpes. I thought herpes was contracted from a very different contact sport. Please enlighten us.
Treating prostate cancer, Part V: Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy is a good choice for men with early prostate cancer if they are older or if surgery would be risky. The radiation can be applied externally or internally, though both options have advantages and disadvantages.
Chronic constipation: A strain for men
Although constipation can be caused by a number of illnesses or conditions, lack of fiber and lack of exercise are more likely causes. Constipation can often be relieved by getting enough fiber, exercising, and drinking adequate fluids.
On call: Caught napping
Ever since I retired last year, I've enjoyed taking an afternoon nap whenever it's convenient. My wife says napping will turn me into an old man. I can easily give up my naps if she's right - but is she?
Treating prostate cancer, Part VI: Androgen deprivation and beyond
Androgen-deprivation therapy is commonly used to treat advanced prostate cancer. Several different types of hormone treatments are available, all with significant side effects.
Influenza: How to prevent and treat a serious infection
Approximately 10% of Americans get influenza each winter. Good hygiene habits can help you avoid catching the virus, and a flu shot can substantially reduce your risk as well.
On call: Vytorin for cholesterol
I don't understand the problem with Vytorin. The two components when used separately work fine, but when mixed together things change. Why?
Osteoporosis caution: Men at risk
Although osteoporosis is thought of as a woman's disease, millions of men are at risk as well. While genetic factors and aging are beyond control, other risk factors, such as lifestyle, diet, hormones, and medications, can be controlled or changed.
Smoking cessation: New ways to quit
Some people are able to quit smoking without any assistance, but for those who need extra help there are many options: support groups and counseling, nicotine replacement (gums, patches, etc.), and medications.
Medical memo: Pill splitting
Splitting pills is a sensible way to save money on medications, though certain pills are easier to split than others, and not all pills should be split.
On call: What to do about a "superbug"
Every time I pick up my newspaper, I seem to read about a "superbug" called MRSA. I don't want to be an alarmist, but I want to know how to protect my family.
Osteoporosis Part II: Prevention and treatment
Resistance exercise, such as walking or weight training, is the best way to protect the body against osteoporosis. Calcium is crucial for bone strength, but high calcium intake may put a man at higher risk for prostate cancer.
Millions of Americans get sinusitis each year. The key to a quick recovery is proper drainage, which is best achieved by staying hydrated, inhaling steam several times daily, taking decongestants, and sleeping with the head elevated.
Medical memo: Food for thought: Tomatoes, broccoli, and prostate cancer
Research on rats found that a diet containing high levels of tomatoes and broccoli offered some protection from prostate cancer, but researchers have not been able to achieve comparable results in humans.
On call: Tests for statin users
I am pretty healthy for a 73-year-old, but my cholesterol is 280, and my doctor wants me to take Lipitor. I'm willing to do so, but I need to know what tests I should have to be sure I'm not getting side effects. What do you suggest?
Vitamin D and your health: Breaking old rules, raising new hopes
Vitamin D's primary function is to help the body absorb calcium, though it may also protect against prostate cancer and other diseases. Many people do not get enough from sunlight, its natural source, and should get the needed amount via a supplement.
BNP: An important new cardiac test
BNP is a hormone produced by the body when the heart is enlarged. Testing a person's BNP level is an easy and accurate way to help doctors diagnose congestive heart failure.
Medical memo: Stress and cholesterol
A British study suggests a link between increased stress and a rise in cholesterol level, and a follow-up several years later showed the trend continued over time.
On call: Prostate surgery and nighttime urination
A urologist diagnosed prostate cancer, and I decided to have my prostate removed. I've done fine, except that I have to urinate two or three times every night, just as before. I thought prostate operations were supposed to help this. What went wrong?
Cholesterol, the mind, and the brain
The complex relationship between cholesterol and the brain affects many areas, including possible connections to depression, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease.
Selenium and prostate cancer
Some studies have linked higher levels of the mineral selenium with a lower risk of prostate cancer, but no definite conclusions can be made until further research is complete.
Prehypertension: Does it really matter?
The category of prehypertension was established to serve as a warning. Those whose blood pressure reading falls in it should work to lower their pressure through diet, exercise, and weight control, though in some cases medication may be prescribed.
On call: Exercise and free radicals
I love to work out, but I just read that exercise would produce free radicals in my body. Am I doing more harm than good by going to the gym?
DHEA and health: More questions than answers
DHEA, a steroid hormone, has been promoted as a supplement that can help men lose weight, protect against heart disease, and improve memory. But none of these assertions has been proven.
Pomegranates for the prostate and the heart: Seeds of hope
Pomegranates contain chemicals, such as antioxidants, that may offer protection from prostate cancer and heart disease, but further research is needed before any conclusions can be made.
Medical memo: High-dose radiotherapy for prostate cancer
High-dose radiation treatments for prostate cancer may be more effective than other methods at treating the disease without damaging neighboring tissues, but follow-up studies will be needed to determine if survival rates improve.
On call: Second testicular cancers
My 27-year-old son had his left testicle removed to treat testicular cancer. His doctors are confident that he is cured, but we worry that he may develop cancer in his right testicle. What are the chances of a second cancer and what should he do about it?
On call: Goals for cholesterol
I am 57 years old, and my health is excellent. At my last check-up, my doctor said that my cholesterol was too high. Please tell me what you think of these results: cholesterol 243, LDL cholesterol 162, HDL cholesterol 68, and triglycerides 86.
Moderate exercise: No pain, big gains
Moderate exercise, once thought to be inferior to more strenuous aerobic exercise, is now understood to confer similar health benefits, primarily reduced risk of heart disease and other illnesses, along with added life expectancy.
Lowering cholesterol: Is there a limit?
Cholesterol guidelines have been moving lower for some time, but for people with acute coronary artery disease, very aggressive lowering of LDL cholesterol may afford greater protection from heart attack or stroke.
Medical memo: Autoantibody signatures: A promising new test for prostate cancer
A new test may be able to detect the proteins produced by cancerous prostate cells by searching for the presence of the antibodies caused by the cancer cells' growth.
On call: Obesity and prostate cancer
Your newsletter convinced me that obesity increases the risk of prostate cancer. It depresses me a bit, since I'm overweight, so my question is both personal and practical: If I lose weight, will I undo the harm?
Peptic ulcers and bacterial infections
The bacterium Heliobacter pylori is the only one that can survive inside the human stomach. It causes gastritis and ulcers, but is generally treatable with a combination of antibiotics.
Preventing diabetes: Understanding and diagnosing the disease
The incidence of diabetes has increased dramatically in recent years. Men should be tested for diabetes starting at age 45, because early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent further complications.
Red wine and prostate cancer
Cancer researchers found that men who drink moderate amounts of red wine regularly are less likely to develop prostate cancer. The reasons are not known, but may be related to antioxidant substances found in red wine.
On call: No-flush niacin
In your January 2007 article on cholesterol, you said that no-flush niacin does not lower cholesterol levels. But my problem is low HDL cholesterol. Will no-flush niacin help my HDL even if it won't lower my LDL cholesterol?
On call: Blood pressure in both arms
My doctor usually checks my blood pressure in my left arm. At my checkup he used my right arm, and the reading was 10 points higher than usual. I asked him to check my left, and it was 8 points lower. Does the difference matter? Which is my real pressure?
Lifestyle therapy for prostate cancer: Does it work?
There is a small but growing body of evidence that lifestyle therapy (low-fat diet, exercise, certain supplements, stress reduction), in conjunction with traditional therapy, can improve a man's chances of surviving prostate cancer.
Preventing diabetes: An action plan
The most important factors in the prevention of diabetes are weight control, regular exercise, a healthy low-fat diet (fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and poultry), and not smoking.
Aspirin for hypertension?
A study from Spain found that a low dose of aspirin at bedtime caused a decrease in blood pressure. The researchers are not certain how this occurred, so more study is needed.
On call: More on the shingles vaccine
Your article on new immunizations for adults was helpful. I got my booster for tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough, but even though I'm 61, my doctor didn't want to give me the shingles vaccine because I've already had it. Should I get the vaccine?
Viagra and health: Beyond ED
After several years on the market, erectile dysfunction drugs are being considered for treatment of other conditions, and the FDA has approved sildenafil for treatment of pulmonary hpyertension.
HDL cholesterol: Protecting your heart and arteries
The benefits of elevating HDL cholesterol are numerous: it clears cholesterol from the arteries, acts as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory. High HDL levels are associated with protection from heart disease and stroke and increased longevity.
Doctor-patient communication: A shared responsibility
In order to forge and sustain a successful treatment relationship, both doctor and patient must be willing to communicate openly and honestly.
On call: Statins and muscle damage
I'm a 57-year-old man with high blood pressure and diabetes. My doctor wants me to take Zocor. I'm willing to take the medicine if I really need it, but I've been warned about a side effect called rhabdomyolysis. What is that? Should I take Zocor?
HDL cholesterol, Part II
Boosting HDL cholesterol is more beneficial to the body than lowering LDL. Lifestyle changes such as exercising and eating more carefully are harder to accomplish than taking a statin, but produce better results with regard to raising HDL.
Restless legs syndrome
Restless legs syndrome prevents people from getting the sleep they need. The cause is unknown but may be linked to low levels of dopamine. Certain medications may ease the symptoms, allowing for improved sleep.
Anti-inflammatory drugs, the prostate, and the bladder
Two studies of men with benign prostatic hyperplasia who took NSAIDs found conflicting results: one group were more likely to suffer from acute urinary retention, while another showed a reduced risk of BPH symptoms.
On call: MRIs and coronary stents
When I had an MRI of my knee, I was told the test was dangerous for people who have metal devices in their bodies. Since then, I developed angina and my cardiologist put in a metal stent. If I need an MRI in the future, will I be able to get one?
Opening blocked coronary arteries: New questions about the old answer
Angioplasty has become common for treating blocked arteries, but not all patients need the procedure. Many people with artery disease can be treated by taking medications and adopting healthier habits.
Multivitamins and prostate cancer: A new worry?
A study sparked concern about a possible link between multivitamins and an increased risk of prostate cancer, but the evidence is unclear and further study is needed.
Medical memo: Golden years that glitter
Illness does not necessarily have to affect the senior years. Older people who are physically active, eat healthily, and have a network of social and spiritual support are more likely to thrive.
On call: Cholesterol rings in the eyes
At my last visit to my eye doctor, he told me that I had a cholesterol ring. What can you tell me about this condition?
Supplements vs. exercise for heart disease and cancer: The ‘‘vitamins'' in your legs
Exercise is much more effective than vitamins or supplements at reducing the risk of heart disease. The benefits of exercise against cancer are not conclusive, but it is likely to have other positive effects on overall health.
Breast disorders in men
While somewhat common in adolescence, gynecomastia in adult men is rare. It may be caused by liver disease, medications, or treatment for prostate cancer.
Statins and cancer
Research has found that statin drugs may inhibit the growth of cancer cells in laborotory experiments, but much more research is necessary before any definite benefits can be determined.
On call: CRP in older men
I've been hearing a lot about C-reactive protein and heart attacks. I want to stay healthy, but I'm 73 years old, and there seems to be a new worry in every newspaper I read. At my age, does this protein make any difference?
Gout: Joint pain and more
Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs primarily in older men, and is caused by a buildup of excess uric acid in the body that crystallizes in a joint, causing inflammation, swelling, and pain.
Noise-induced hearing loss
Prolonged exposure to excessive noise can result in permanent hearing loss. Many occupations have increased risk of hearing damage, and in such cases ear protection should be worn.
Supplements vs. exercise for nine health issues: The ''vitamins'' in your legs
Vitamins and supplements cannot take the place of a balanced diet and regular exercise. In certain instances a supplement may be slightly more beneficial, but nutrition and physical activity provide a better foundation for health.
On call: Chocolate and health
I've been called a "chocoholic" because I love chocolate and eat a piece after dinner every night. My weight is fine and my cholesterol is, too. Is there any reason to change my ways?
On call: Shy bladder syndrome
I often find it difficult or impossible to pass urine in a public men's room. I'm 41 and healthy. I have no problem urinating at home. Last week I couldn't urinate at a friend's house, and I had to go home early to use the bathroom. What can you suggest?