True Or False? 30+ Things Your Doctor Wants You to Know
Fact or fiction? Doctors tell you whether these health myths are real or not.
Cold weather makes you sick
False! Germs are the only thing that can make you sick. You can go out in the freezing cold with wet hair, and if there aren’t any germs around, you’ll stay sniffle-free. But there is a correlation: The viruses that cause the common cold thrive in low temperatures.
Learn the 50 ways to avoid catching a cold.
Not all heart attacks involve chest pain
True! A 2012 study of more than 1.1 million heart attack patients found that 31 per cent of men and 42 per cent of women didn’t have any chest pain before being hospitalized. The American Heart Association recommends calling 911 for other symptoms, too, including shortness of breath, light-headedness, and pain elsewhere in the upper body.
Find out how to spot the silent signs of a heart attack.
Being overweight shortens your life expectancy
False! It’s what researchers call the “obesity paradox,” though the “overweight paradox” would be more accurate. Obesity is linked with a host of health problems, including so-called all-cause mortality, but the evidence isn’t strong for overweightness. A recent review looked at 10 studies of more than 190,000 people and found that overweight people had the same longevity as normal-weight adults, though they did have a higher risk of heart disease.
Consider trying these tiny diet changes that can help you lose weight.
You shouldn't ice a burn
True! Most skin damage from a burn comes from the inflammatory response, and ice can damage cells and make it worse. Instead, immerse the burn in cool water for about five minutes. Then wash with mild soap and apply an antibiotic ointment.
Check out these home remedies for burns that actually work.
Antiperspirants cause cancer
False! Antiperspirants temporarily keep sweat from escaping, and some scientists have suggested that letting it build up in the ducts could cause tumors. But research hasn’t confirmed that theory, and the largest study to date on the subject found no link between cancer and antiperspirants or deodorants.
Here’s what causes night sweats—and when you should see a doctor about them.
CPR doesn't require mouth-to-mouth breathing
True! A 2017 study found that when bystanders gave CPR to people in cardiac arrest, survival rates were higher when they employed uninterrupted chest compressions rather than pausing for rescue breaths.
Eating too much sugar will give you diabetes
False! Sweet foods don’t directly lead to chronically high blood sugar. But they can contribute to obesity, which is a risk factor for diabetes, so keeping a well-balanced diet and limiting treats is still the right idea.
Talk to your doctor if you experience these signs of diabetes.
Tilt your head back if you have a nosebleed
False! Tilting your head back might make you swallow blood, which could irritate the stomach and potentially make you vomit. Instead, tip your head slightly forward and pinch your nose shut for 10 minutes.
Find out how to manage nosebleeds the proper way.
You should eat several small meals throughout the day instead of three big ones
False! While some people who are natural grazers might do better on a small-meal eating plan, others won’t feel satisfied, and the diet will backfire. The goal should be to pay attention to the overall nutrients and calories you’re getting in your meals, not to how you’re spreading them out.
Cut your daily salt intake with these low-sodium foods.
Carrots help your eyesight
False! Carrots get their vision-boosting reputation from the chemical that gives them their orange colour: beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A, which helps your eyes see better in the dark. But the conversion process isn’t very efficient, and once you’ve taken in a certain amount, the body stops converting it. For improved eyesight, eat vegetables high in vitamin A itself, including leafy greens such as kale and spinach.
On the other hand, these foods will actually improve your eyesight.
Coffee will dehydrate you
False! The idea that caffeine is a diuretic that leaves your body short of fluids doesn’t hold water. In fact, studies show that coffee and tea drinkers don’t use the bathroom any more than water drinkers. A cup of coffee counts as part of your fluid intake and can actually help you hydrate.
Did you know coffee can help burn fat?
A person having a seizure is at risk of swallowing his or her tongue
False! Following conventional wisdom and putting a spoon in the person’s mouth won’t prevent tongue swallowing, but it could harm the teeth or jaws. Instead, turn the person on his or her side to prevent choking on saliva or vomit, and cushion the head with a pillow.
These are the differences between a stroke and an aneurysm.
Frostbitten skin shouldn’t be warmed up by a heater
True! Frostbite numbs the skin, so it could be burned without your realizing it if it’s next to a radiator, fire, or heating pad. Instead, immerse the area in warm water.
Never ignore these signs of frostbite.
Stress will give you an ulcer
False! The two main causes of stomach ulcers are overuse of NSAID painkillers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and infection from the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Stress might make an existing ulcer worse (and having an ulcer might trigger stress), but the current science shows it isn’t a direct cause.
Check out the best foods to avoid ulcers.
You should return to working out after a heart attack
True! “Too often, heart patients use their condition as an excuse to cut back on physical activity when they should be doing the opposite,” says Dr. Salim Virani, chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Council. Hitting the standard 20 to 30 minutes most days can help strengthen your heart. Talk to your doctor about creating a safe routine.
Eggs are bad for your heart
False! The old thinking was that cholesterol in food would raise blood cholesterol levels and in turn increase the risk of heart disease. A recent study of more than 400,000 adults found that eating an egg a day increased good cholesterol and cut the risk of cardiovascular death by 18 per cent.
Reading in dim light will harm your eyes
False! It might tire your eyes in the short term, but there’s no evidence that it will do any lasting damage. When reading, position light to shine directly on the page rather than from over your shoulder to reduce glare.
These benefits of reading will make you want to grab a book immediately!
Coughing too much can make you throw up
True! Little kids are especially prone to vomiting after coughing fits because their gag reflexes are extra sensitive, but it can also happen to adults. It usually isn’t a big deal, but if you keep puking, see a doctor.
Check out these natural remedies for a bad cough.
You don’t need eight glasses of water every day
True! There’s no scientific evidence that eight is the magic number. You might need more or less than that, depending on factors such as climate and body size. To make sure you are getting enough, just drink water throughout the day.
These are the best hangover foods to help you feel better fast.
Sitting up straight can be bad for your back
True! “Hunching can certainly be bad for your back. But the opposite is true, too,” says Dr. Neel Anand, professor of orthopedic surgery and medical director of spine trauma surgery at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles. “Sitting up straight for too long without a break can also cause strain.” When you’re sitting, keep your lower back supported and your legs uncrossed with your knees at a 90-degree angle, and get up to stretch every half hour or so.
Find out the most common reasons for back pain.
People with dark skin can’t get skin cancer
False! Dark skin is less likely to burn, but it isn’t immune to harmful UV rays and the damage they cause. People of all skin types need to use sunscreen.
You need to stop believing these myths about skin cancer.
If you don’t have a bull’s-eye rash, you don’t have Lyme disease
False! About 20 to 30 per cent of people with Lyme disease will never develop that classic rash. Other symptoms to watch for include fever, headache, achy muscles, and swollen lymph nodes and joints.
Find out what you can do to prevent and treat Lyme disease.
You need less sleep as you get older
False! Older adults often sleep less as a result of chronic conditions that are more common with age as well as the medications used to treat them. But that doesn’t mean they require less sleep. While sleep needs vary from person to person, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends most adults get at least seven hours of sleep for optimal health.
Find the best sleeping positions for you with this handy guide.
Bar soap is covered in germs
False! You might transfer germs to the soap while you scrub up, but they won’t last long enough to spread. The most rigorous study on the subject, published in 1965, found that bacteria on a bar of soap die within minutes and are not transmitted to the next person to use the soap.
Probiotics can help ease diarrhea
True! While studies haven’t pinned down which “good” bacteria, yeast strains, and doses are most helpful against diarrhea, the research is promising. There’s evidence that probiotics can prevent or reduce diarrhea associated with antibiotics and can ease symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome. Other potential benefits include weight loss, cold prevention, and protection from tooth decay, though the studies aren’t conclusive.
Maintain these simple bathroom habits to help keep your bowels healthy.
Holding in a sneeze is unhealthy
True! As your body gets ready to sneeze, pressure builds in your lungs. When your body tries to push the air out, it needs somewhere to go—and if you’re pinching your nose and mouth, it could be rerouted to the ears. In rare cases, sending the sneeze in that direction can lead to damage such as ruptured eardrums.
Here are the weird things that make people sneeze.
You can get the flu more than once a season
True! Every year, there’s more than one flu strain circulating. Getting sick from (or being vaccinated against) one of them won’t protect you or your loved ones from the other strains. That’s why it’s important to take everyday preventive actions during flu season: covering your nose and mouth with a tissue while coughing or sneezing, and washing your hands often with soap and water.
Consider trying one of these old-time remedies for the flu.
Depression is incurable
False! “Recovery from depression is not only possible; it’s actually likely when people receive the specific kind and amount of help that they need,” says Mark Henick, a mental health advocate. “When you combine medication with psychological therapy as well as social supports like housing, employment, and engagement, that’s the gold standard for recovery.”
Make sure you know the signs of high functioning depression.
You can stop taking antibiotics when your symptoms go away
False! Even if you’re back in tip-top shape, continue taking your meds as prescribed. The symptoms can fade before the infection clears, meaning you could get sick all over again— and this time it might be more resistant to the antibiotic.
You should rinse the toothpaste from your mouth after brushing
False! When you rinse with non-fluoride mouthwash or water, you’re spitting out the fluoride that prevents tooth decay without giving it enough time to work. If you still feel like you need to rinse, studies suggest using a tiny bit of water to swish the toothpaste foam, then spitting it out. This will keep more fluoride on your teeth.
This is exactly how long you need to brush your teeth.
Caffeine is good for hearts
True! It might seem as if anything that makes your heart race would put stress on your ticker, but mounting evidence says just the opposite. Studies suggest that drinking three cups of coffee a day is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular problems. The antioxidants in coffee may play a role, and caffeine might speed up cellular processes that help repair the heart.
Sugar causes cancer
False! It’s true that cancer cells tend to get their fuel from sugar, but that doesn’t mean that eating less sugar will prevent or slow down cancer. The body makes its own glucose when you eat less sugar, which could negate any cancer-fighting benefit. That said, obesity is a risk factor for certain cancers, so keeping your hands out of the cookie jar can still have an indirect anticancer effect.
Discover all the ways sugar is making you sick.
Running is bad for your knees
False! Research has found that recreational runners are not at in- creased risk of having symptoms of knee arthritis or other orthopedic problems. In fact, running may strengthen muscles that stabilize the knee, which may help prevent injuries and arthritis.
Learn the unexpected ways running changes your body.
Alcohol warms you up when it’s cold outside
False! You might feel warmer and your face may start to flush as you sip that hot toddy, because alcohol causes your blood vessels to dilate, moving warm blood closer to the skin. But this perception of warmth also causes you to stop shivering, which actually brings your core temperature down.
Vaccines can cause autism
False! Some people have raised concerns that substances used in trace amounts in certain vaccines—including formaldehyde, aluminum salts, and thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative—could cause autism. But none of these substances has been shown to cause harm in the small doses used in vaccines. Nor is there any evidence that multiple or combination vaccinations, such as those recommended for children, can weaken the immune system and trigger autism, as some people fear.
Learn about the medical experts fighting the war against vaccines.
Women should be as worried about colorectal cancer as men are
True! Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer among men but the second most common for women. Men do have a slightly higher risk overall: About one in 22 men will develop colorectal cancer, com- pared with one in 24 women.
Sitting too close to the TV damages your eyes
False! Until the late 1960s, the amount of radiation coming from TVs wasn’t well regulated, so some people worried that sitting too close could cause health problems. Modern TVs don’t pose that risk. Staring at anything for a long time can make the eyes feel tired, but it won’t do permanent damage.
To keep your peepers healthy, make sure to follow these eye care tips.
The flu shot might give you the flu
False! Vaccines do contain inactivated viruses in order to produce an immune response. You might experience minor side effects after your shot, such as aches or a low-grade fever, but unless you have a compromised immune system, it’s unlikely that you’ll get the full-blown flu.
Next, try these simple habits to naturally boost your immune system.