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There’s nothing like a health message to make you feel even more anxious about your body. But it seems many commonly held beliefs about what we should – and shouldn’t – be doing are entirely unfounded. Here we tried through different internet websites to reveal the steps we ought to be taking to protect our health…
MYTH: HAVING SEX CAN CAUSE HEART ATTACKS IN MEN
FACT: Research shows that the chances of a 50-year-old, non-smoking man suffering a heart attack is about one in a million in any hour.
Having sex increases these odds to two in a million. Sex, like any other form of physical exertion, does raise the heart attack risk in men with heart disease, or who experience severe chest pains regularly, have very high blood pressure or have a weak heart muscle or heart palpitations.
Sex raises your heart rate to around 130 beats a minute, which is roughly the same effect as climbing stairs for 15 to 20 seconds – so if you feel comfortable climbing the stairs, sex shouldn’t be a heart attack worry.
If you are comfortable climbing stairs you shouldn’t worry about having sex
MYTH: YOU SHOULDN’T MIX ANTIBIOTICS AND ALCOHOL
FACT: It is always wise to try to avoid drinking alcohol when taking medication, since there is a possibility the combination will make you feel unwell. But doing so while taking antibiotics is unlikely to have any effect.
It’s likely the myth came about since there are many drugs which can interact with alcohol, and either increase in potency of the medicine, or make you get drunk quicker.
The only exception, says Sean Woodard, a spokesman for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, is Metronidazole, an antibiotic used for a variety of infections. When mixed with even small amounts of alcohol, it causes vomiting.
Drinking alcohol has no effect on antibiotics but can make you drunker faster when combining the two
MYTH: EATING TOO MUCH SUGAR TRIGGERS DIABETES
FACT: Diabetes is not caused by having too much sugar, but by a failure of the pancreas to produce enough insulin to control glucose levels in the blood, says Caroline Butler, a care adviser for Diabetes UK.
This means having too much sugar cannot in itself cause such a malfunction.
However, she points out that Type 2 diabetes can be triggered by excess weight gain, perhaps through eating too many sugary foods.
It is also a myth that those with the condition need to buy sugar-free foods suitable for diabetics. This is not the case, particularly as many products contain sweeteners which could have a laxative effect.
It is not necessary to cut sugar completely out of a diabetic diet. Intake should be moderate and monitored in accordance with insulin intake and general health.
Too much sugar doesn’t lead to diabetes but may lead to excess weight gain
MYTH: BREAST EXAMINATION SAVES LIVES
FACT: The idea that regular breast examinations prevent women from dying of cancer was discredited by a major American study.
In a survey of 266,000 women by the prestigious Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, the death rate from breast cancer was the same in the group taught to check their breasts as in the group given no information.
The researchers also found that self-examination led to an increase in anxiety and needless biopsies.
Rather than routine breast self- examination, it is far more important to be breast aware, advises Lester Barr, a consultant at the Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Centre in Manchester.
‘Breast examination may not have an effect on mortality, but being quick to respond to any noticeable changes such as a lump, any puckering or pain, may reduce the need for more extensive treatment.’
He also added that screening programmes and mammograms have been shown to improve survival.
FACT: Though it might leave you with a sore arm or slight fever, you will not develop flu, says GP Dr Sarah Brewer, as the vaccine does not contain live germs.
Many people make this mistake because the jab is usually given in autumn, which is the peak time for viruses such as the common cold.
And when people go on to get a cold, this is misinterpreted as flu, and incorrectly linked to the vaccination.
It is also a myth that if you are healthy you don’t need the vaccination. It’s recommended to all over-65s, even if they’re fit and well, as they may have lower immunity to the virus.
MYTH: BRUSH TEETH AFTER EATING SWEETS TO AVOID DECAY
FACT: You should never do this, says Dr Phil Stemmer, a dentist at the Teeth For Life clinic in London.
Whenever you eat something acidic or sugary it causes a temporary softening of the enamel.
So if you brush straight away, you are scraping off this protective coating and, in effect, spitting your teeth down the sink. Wait at least an hour before brushing with a fluoride toothpaste as the enamel will have hardened by then.
Dentists advise waiting an hour to brush teeth after eating something sweet
MYTH: CONSTANT HEADACHES CAN BE A SIGN OF A BRAIN TUMOUR
FACT: Headaches alone are very rarely sign of a brain tumour, says John Wadley, consultant neurosurgeon at barts and The London hospital.
Brain tumours may cause headaches, but generally this will by no means be the only symptom. Other signs to look for you’re worried include memory problems, personality change or unnsteadiness. But always see your doctor if the problem persists.
FACT: Since the disease is caused by uncontrolled cell division, many patients fear that massage or even pressing on the skin could encourage cancer cells to multiply.
However, Lester Barr says there is no evidence for this; many studies testify to the benefits of massage for patients, in terms of reducing anxiety and dealing with the symptoms of the disease or the side-effects of treatment.
MYTH: WEARING GLASSES MAKES YOUR VISION WORS
FACT: As we get older, our eyesight naturally deteriorates which is why many of us start wearing glasses in our early 40s. People often assume this makes the eyes ‘lazy’, causing further deterioration.
This is wrong, says Dr Rob Hogan, President of the College of Optometrists. It’s true that when you take your glasses off, your sight seems much worse.
But this is a psychological impression: glasses improve your focus; when you take them off you lose that focus that’s all
Wearing glasses doesn’t make vision worse, but helps our eyes stay focussed
MYTH BEING OVERWEIGHT IS A SIGN OF SLOW METABOLISM
FACT: Unfortunately, a slow metabolism is no excuse for being overweight. In fact, according to Dr David Ashton, medical director of the Healthier Weight Centres, heavier people often have a faster metabolism.
He explains that the heavier a person is, the higher their basal metabolic rate (BMR) – meaning they need to consume more calories each day simply to sustain life.
‘People think that they’re overweight because their metabolism is slow – which means they burn calories very slowly and therefore can do nothing about it.
‘But heavy people actually carry more weight, have heavier organs and therefore need more calories to sustain themselves. As you lose weight, it is then that BMR slows down.’
MYTH CHANGING YOUR DIET CAN CUT CHOLESTEROL
FACT: Though a well-balanced diet, low in fat and rich in fruit and vegetables, is important for overall health, simply following this and using low-cholesterol products such as margarine is rarely enough to reduce high cholesterol significantly, says Dr Mel Lobo, a consultant in cardiovascular medicine.
In fact a ten per cent reduction is the best that’s ever been shown to be achieved. High cholesterol is often genetic, therefore dietary intake will make little difference to bringing it down.
The condition can be successfully treated with drugs such as statins.
However, Dr Lobo does point out that once cholesterol level drops through the use of drugs, a healthy diet is needed to help maintain it at an acceptable level.
High cholesterol is not dangerous in itself, but is a marker for potentially serious conditions such as high blood pressure, which is why it is vital to keep it in check.
MYTH: CONSTANT TIREDNESS IS A SIGN OF ANAEMIA
FACT: Though tiredness and general fatigue is very common, it is usually caused by stress or depression or even a lack of exercise rather than ill health, says Dr Dawn Harper, a GP with a specialist interest in women’s health.
She says that being ‘tired all the time’ is such a common reason for a GP visit that patients will be given a diagnosis Tired All The Time.
Classic signs of anaemia include looking pale, weakness, feeling faint, shortness of breath, palpitations, headaches, sore mouth and gums, and brittle nails. As many doctors may do a routine blood test when a patient complains of tiredness, it is sometimes the case that unrelated anaemia is detected this way, causing patients to make the link.
Constant tiredness is more likely due to depression or lack of exercise
MYTH: SUN CREAM PROTECTS AGAINST SKIN CANCER
FACT: Skin cancer is a direct consequence of sunburn. Reducing exposure to the sun, through protective creams, can reduce the risk of burning, but this does not mean that you are protected from skin cancer, particularly if you spend hours in the sun.
Sun creams are simply filters, not total blocks, so they still allow some of the cancer-causing UV light to hit the skin, explains Mike Brown, sun-care scientific adviser for Boots.
The lesser forms of skin cancer, such as Basal cell carcinoma, are linked to rays known as UVB, while the more dangerous forms – malignant melanomas – are thought to be connected to UVA exposure.
When buying a sunscreen, look for a product that offers high protection against both (Mike Brown advises opting for a cream or lotion with four or five stars).
Sunscreen alone isn’t enough to protect us from skin cancer
MYTH: LUNG CANCER IS A SMOKER’S DISEASE
FACT: Although smoking is the main cause of lung cancer, one in eight cases are not linked to smoking, explains GP Dr Dawn Harper.
Second-hand smoke and contact with some substances such as asbestos will increase the risk, though the disease can occur in those who have not had any obvious exposure.
An American study found around eight per cent of men and 20 per cent of women who are diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked.
Even if you are not an obvious candidate, it is always wise to see your doctor if you experience symptoms such as a prolonged cough or unexplained pain and weight loss.
Although smokers have a higher risk of getting lung cancer, one in cases are diagnosed in non-smokers
MYTH CRACKING KNUCKLES CAUSES ARTHRITIS
FACT: The popping sound is caused by a change of pressure in the joints, which is created by the action of cracking the knuckles rather than as a result of wear and tear in the fingers, says Robert Moots, professor of rheumatology at the University Hospital Aintree in Liverpool.
Since there is no cumulative damage, cracking knuckles will not lead to arthritis. However, when joints produce a creaking sensation this is usually a sign of arthritis.
MYTH: IF YOU ARE BETTER YOU DON’T NEED TO FINISH ANTIBIOTICS COURSES
FACT: Doctors usually prescribe a couple of days’ worth of antibiotics more than are needed to ensure that the bacteria which cause an infection are killed off, explains Sean Woodward.
That’s why you may feel better even if you have a further couple of days worth of medication left. However, if you don’t finish the course there is always a risk that some bacteria remain in the system.
These will not only multiply, but can also mutate so that they become resistant to the antibiotics you have been taking in the first place, so always finish the course.
MYTH: PINS AND NEEDLES MEANS MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
FACT: Pins and needles alone are very rarely a sign of multiple sclerosis, or any other serious neurological illness, says Dr Mike Boggild, consultant neurologist at the Walton Centre in Liverpool.
In most cases, pins and needles are caused by pressure on a nerve, and this can be triggered by anything from wearing tight shoes to sleeping on your arm. The sensation should pass after a few minutes.
The difference with MS, says Dr Boggild, is that the problem will persist for days on end – having a family member who suffers with the disease may also increase risk.
He also points out that pins and needles almost never occur in isolation if they are caused by the disease, and that a sufferer is likely to have other symptoms such as numbness or loss of feeling in the limbs.
MYTH : THE LONGER YOU BRUSH YOUR TEETH, THE BETTER
FACT: Too much brushing can actually harm teeth, as once plaque has been removed, lengthy, aggressive brushing can damage the tooth enamel, causing the teeth to wear away.
Up to 20 per cent of people suffer from receding gums, often caused by scrubbing their teeth too aggressively.
Dr Phil Stemmer suggests brushing for no more than two minutes at least twice a day, using a rotating motion.
Place the brush at the neck of the tooth where it meets the gum and use small movements at a 45 degree angle. (Electric toothbrushes can do the job for you more easily, but should be used for just as long.)
Myth: READING IN DIM LIGHT RUINS EYESIGHT
This is completely false no matter what your mom told you. Reading in the dark can cause temporary strain to the eyes but rapidly disappears once you return to bright light. 200 years ago people were reading by candle light. There is just no scientific evidence to support this myth.
Myth DRINK 8 GLASS OF WATER A DAY
Most of the fluid we intake comes from juices, milk and even caffeinated drinks. Too much water has been proven to cause electrolyte imbalances, intoxication and sometimes death. Bottom line, drink when you are truly thirsty.
Myth : A SOY BURGER IS HEALTHER THAN BEEF
Sorry not this time. Soy in all of its forms contains Phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) while it is ok in small quantities, it’s when we exceed that limit we do more harm then good. A medical study done showed that eating lean cuts of beef helped lower bad cholesterol and raise the good. Soy in some cases actually raised bad cholesterol .
Myth : GINKO BILOBA IMPROVES MEMORY
Reality check, go grab a 10-20 minute nap which has been proven to refresh the brain and improve memory function. Gingko Biloba does not have any effect on your memory.
Myth : TAKING VITAMIN IS GOOD FOR HEALTH
While this might be partially true to help you in promoting good health, taking too many vitamins in unnecessary and will cause harm to your body. If you eat right you will take in all the nutrients and minerals your body needs without having to supplement them through vitamins.
Myth : ANTI- BACTRIAL SOAP IS BETTER THAN REGULAR SOAP TO KILL GERMS
Germs do not know the difference. Researcher’s found that anti-bacterial soap has no special germ fighting ingredients so the best way to get rid of germs is to wash your hands properly.
Myth: THE HIGHER THE SPF IS BETTER
SPF 45 and SPF 60 block out the same percentage of rays. You cannot block 100% of the suns rays so if you use at least an SPF 30 broad spectrum sunscreen it is just as effective as a higher SPF so don’t waste your money.
Myth : ONLY THE ELDERLY DEVELOP ALZHEIMIR DISEASE
Each year 4% of patients who develop this debilitating disease are under 60. Early on-set of the disease can strike men and women in their 30’s and 40’s. Your family history will determine your risk factors.
Myth: FRESH IS BETTER THAN FROZEN
Not on your life! Frozen can be just as good as fresh if harvested at the proper time when plants are at the peak of their nutritional value and frozen right on the spot.
Myth:GET COLD AND YOU WILL CATCH A COLD
NOPE! Chilled air does not cause colds.
Myth-Feeling sore after exercise means you lost weight.
Actually, soreness is basically fatigue in your muscles. When you have a tough workout and have done numerous reps of an exercise, the burn you feel is the blood getting squeezed with your muscles. It doesn’t reduce the amount of fat around the muscles. To do that, one must combine regular exercise with healthy eating.
Myth-Not eating after exercising will help you lose more weight.
While it’s not advised to eat a huge meal right after you exercise, you need to refuel with a 200-calorie snack about 30 minutes after you work out and a full-size meal about two hours after. When you don’t eat, your body conserves food as fat, which is harder to burn off.
Myth-Once you find a fitness routine you like, you should do it all the time.
Variety is the spice of life, and changing your workout routine every six to eight weeks will help you to avoid a fitness plateau if you’re trying to lose weight. Your body will conform to the routine and will no longer be challenged. Mixing it up makes your workouts more interesting and will give you better results.
Myth- Being a vegetarian means you’ll be thin.
Vegetarians don’t just eat salads all the time. While some of the vegetarians I know became vegetarians because they wanted to lose weight, they found it was actually harder to maintain their weight. You need the protein found in meat to help stabilize your metabolism and give you energy to exercise. Also, foods like chicken and turkey often have fewer calories than some vegetarian dishes. Whether you are a carnivore or a herbivore, it all comes down to balance and moderation.
Myth- You’ll be happier once you lose 5 pounds.
Once you start that attitude, it’s very difficult to stop it. After losing 5 pounds, you want to lose five more, and then you’d be happy if you lost five more after that – it becomes a mess. Also, thinking that way just sets you up for disappointment. What if you don’t lose 5 pounds? Is your life over? Be confident in your size now. Feel good about yourself, eat healthy and work out because it makes you feel good, not because you want to live up to someone else’s standards.
You can test your own fitness myth savvy with The Fitness Myth Quiz on About.com. If you have other myths that you want busted, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to send questions, comments and ideas my way.
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