Alcohol harms the brain in teen years –– before and after that, too – Harvard Health Blog

If we only paid attention to ads, it might seem as though alcohol — a beer or glass of wine, a shot of fiery liquor or sophisticated cocktail — merely served as a way to bring people together and make them happy. Drink responsibly, the ads wink, without ever explaining the toll that frequent or excessive alcohol use exacts, particularly at certain stages in life. Because alcohol doesn’t just get us drunk, impair our judgment, and hurt our liver: it can have many other bad effects on our bodies — including effects on the brain.

In a recent editorial in The BMJ, a trio of scientists pointed out that there are three periods in life when the brain goes through major changes and is particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Two of those periods are at the beginning and end of life. When pregnant women drink alcohol, it can damage the developing brain of the fetus, leading to physical problems, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems. When people over the age of 65 drink alcohol, it can worsen declines in brain function that happen during aging.

The third period is adolescence. During those years of transition between childhood and adulthood, the brain grows and changes in many important ways that are crucial for that transition to be successful. When teens and young adults drink alcohol, it can interfere with that process of brain development in ways that affect the rest of their lives.

Alcohol use in teens and young adults

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol is the most commonly used substance among young people in the US. Although rates of drinking and binge drinking have been going down over recent decades, national surveys show that among youth and young adults, one in five

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Exercise matters to health and well-being, regardless of your size – Harvard Health Blog

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc in our daily lives. Regardless of who you are, your life has been impacted in some way. Stress is mounting, and you may need to find a way to decompress while social distancing. Enter stage left my favorite pastime: exercise!

All right, I know what you are thinking: She’s one of those exercise fanatics who is going to tell me that I need to exercise several hours every day. Well, no. What I am going to tell you is that you can make exercise work for you. It is imperative to find your “soulmate workout” or simple activities you can do. You might think that you need to be a certain size or already in shape to engage in exercise. This is simply not true, nor is it helpful for your health and well-being, since exercise — even small amounts — helps improve blood pressure, heart problems, blood sugar control, and mood. It can help you live longer, too.

So, let’s start with some questions that you may have. How much physical activity does your body need? Is it possible to be active during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic? How can you make exercise work for you? What if excess weight or painful joints make it hard to be active? And what if you haven’t been active at all? We’ve got the answers for you.

How much exercise do I need?

Before you start counting minutes, understand this: almost anything that gets your body moving counts as exercise, and active minutes add up over your day and week.

Every week, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity. So depending on the intensity of exercise, that could be 30

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Can I take something to prevent colorectal cancer? – Harvard Health Blog

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. There is compelling evidence that screening to detect CRC early to find and remove precancerous polyps can reduce CRC mortality. However, screening has associated harms, including procedural complications, and inherent limitations. For example, colonoscopy, the most common screening tool in the US, is less effective in preventing cancers of the right, or ascending side, of the colon compared with cancers of the left, or descending, side of the colon.

Moreover, only 60% of US adults recommended for screening actually follow through. Even under the best circumstances, screening is resource-intensive, requiring time, equipment, and a trained doctor to perform the procedure, and cannot be widely implemented in many parts of the world. Thus, alternatives to screening to effectively prevent CRC are a high unmet need.

What are alternatives to screening for prevention of colorectal cancer?

Adherence to healthy lifestyle habits, including maintaining a healthy body weight, keeping physically active, and abstaining from tobacco, can reduce risk of CRC in all individuals. These habits also help prevent other chronic health conditions.

In addition to lifestyle, chemoprevention — the use of agents to inhibit, delay, or intercept and reverse cancer formation — also holds significant promise. The ideal chemopreventive agent, or combination of agents, requires the benefits to outweigh the risks, especially since effective prevention likely requires long-term use. Many different agents have been proposed and studied over the last several decades.

Study suggests aspirin may help prevent colorectal cancer

In an article published in the journal Gut, researchers performed a systematic review, analyzing data from 80 meta-analyses or systematic reviews of interventional and observational studies published between 1980 and 2019, examining use of medications, vitamins, supplements, and dietary factors for prevention of CRC in people of

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3 simple steps to jump-start your heart health this year – Harvard Health Blog

In 2020, the terrible toll of the COVID-19 pandemic largely overshadowed the affliction that remains the leading cause of death in this country: heart disease. In the United States last year, at least twice as many people died from cardiovascular causes as those who died from complications from SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus.

While the challenges from the virus are new, experts have been studying heart disease for decades — and everyone can benefit from that knowledge. “The lifestyle habits that keep your heart healthy may also leave you less vulnerable to serious complications from infections such as COVID-19 and influenza,” says cardiologist Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter.

So what exactly are those heart-healthy habits? The American Heart Association refers to them as “Life’s Simple 7.” Put simply, they are:

1) Stop smoking

2) Eat better

3) Be active

4) Lose weight

5) Manage your blood pressure

6) Control your cholesterol

7) Reduce your blood sugar

Choosing three steps to jump-start heart health this year

But seven steps may seem like too much to manage, or may even seem overwhelming. So, let’s make it even simpler by focusing on just a few. Of course, not everyone needs to lose weight or lower their blood sugar. And in reality, most Americans don’t smoke, so step one doesn’t apply to very many people.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for steps two and three. Most people don’t eat enough plant-based foods like vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fruit. And few Americans get the recommended amounts of exercise. That’s at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (like brisk walking) each week, plus muscle-strengthening activity (like lifting weights) at least two days each week.

Of course, improving both your

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