25 Health Myths Explained 

 Originally Written: June 25, 2009

By  Hanna Trafford

Last Updated on June 25, 2009 by Hanna Trafford

true_false_ss1When it to comes to health, there is a lot of “information” floating out there. And not all of it is recognizable for what it is – which can be anything from half truth to nothing-like-the-truth. Check out the 25 medical “facts” here – which ones do you believe?

1. If you are pregnant and carrying a male fetus, it will “show high”:

And it goes right along with: suspend a pregnant women’s wedding ring on a thread over her belly. if the ring swings around in circles, it’s a girl it it swings in a straight line, it’s a boy. Or there is the belief that if you have a lot of morning sickness during the first trimester, you are carrying a girl. These are all fun ways to guess the sex of the unborn baby, but they are nothing more than games. How you carry your baby has nothing to do with gender. In fact, you may find that even in a family that is all girls or all boys, the babies all carried differently before they were born.

2. You are guaranteed to lose weight on a low-fat diet:

Although you are wise to cut your fat intake, low-fat is not necessarily low-calorie. Once upon a time, a low-fat diet was one that consisted of a lot of fruits, vegetables and fibre-rich foods. It was easy to lose weight, because these foods are not only low in calories but also will fill you up. However, things have changed and supermarket shelves are now loaded with low-fat products, such as cookies and muffins, that are often high in calories from sugar. Low-fat processed foods don’t contain the nutrients and fibre found in low-fat whole foods. As a results, you may feel hungry soon after eating them. To lose weight, you need to cut calories and increase your physical activity as well as cut you fat and sodium intake.

3. Sitting too close to the TV will ruin your vision:

Being close to the TV will not ruin your eyesight, but sitting less than 1.5 meters form the set can tire the muscles that focus the lens of the eye,resulting in eye strain and tired eyes that burn and water. Make sure you and your children sit far enough from the TV set, have enough light in the room and give your eyes a break by refocusing your gaze during commercial breaks.

4. Herbs are harmless because they are natural:

While herbs may have been around for centuries, it is only recently that some of the problems associated with their use have come to light. For instance: kava – popular for its ability to reduce anxiety – has now been shown to be toxic to the liver. Ginkgo leaf extracts promoted to improve mental clarity and treat dementia and peripheral vascular disease, are known to cause headaches, nausea and diarrhea. Echinacea, St. John’s wort, German Chamomile and Ginkgo-biloba have been reported to cause allergic reactions. It is a good idea to tell your family physician about any natural products or supplements that you are taking – or considering taking – to find out whether they are compatible with your health needs and other medication you may already be taking.

5. Everyone should take Aspirin (ASA) every day to prevent heart attack to stroke:

Yes, if you already had a heart attack or stroke. Studies show  that taking ASA daily can reduce the risk of heart attack by 25%. As a result ASA has become a standard treatment for many types of heart disease and stroke and is an important part of emergency treatment for a heart attack that’s in progress. However, researchers have yet to determine whether ASA can prevent a first heart attack or stroke and for people who are perfectly healthy, the risk of gastrointestinal upset – even bleeding – can be significant. Bottom line: Always check with your physician before embarking on any drug therapy, including taking ASA each day to prevent heart attack or stroke.

6. The main reason to brush your teeth is to remove food debris:

Brushing is a great way to get the gunk out of your teeth after a meal. But the real benefit of brushing is to eliminate the bacteria that can cause cavities and gum disease. Bacterial plaque constantly forms on teeth and gums and is one of the main causes of tooth decay and gum disease. Since plaque building bacteria thrive on foods  that contain sugars and starches, you need to brush your teeth at least twice a day for at least two minutes each time and floss once a day. If calcified plague, known as tartar, starts to get under your gum line, it’s time to head to the dentist for a professional cleaning – usually every six to nine months.

7. Once you’ve had a Cesarean section, you’ll always have to have one:

Not so. Fifty to 80 % of women who deliver by C-section because their labour failed to progress ot their babies were in a breech position can successfully have vaginal deliveries for their next baby. There are, however, some circumstances under which a woman would always have to have another C-section. These include a vertical incision of the original C-section or extensive uterine surgery. Both can increase the risk of uterine rupture during a subsequent labour and delivery .

8. A heart attack is always accompanied by significant pain:

While men having heart attacks typically feel a crushing, squeezing pain in their chests, often accompanied by sweating, shortness of breath and light headiness, women experiencing heart attacks are more likely to complain of vague chest discomfort and nausea. Since these symptoms can come and go, many women chalk them up to heartburn. When they do have significant chest pain, women are more likely than men to describe it as radiating from their chests up to their necks, jaws or backs. Men describe the pain as just the pain in their chests. Whatever the symptoms, if you are concerned that you may be having a heart attack, call for assistance to the nearest emergency and chew on ASA en route. Medical therapy for a heart attack is most beneficial during the first two hours, when risk of death is the highest.

9. Starve a fever – feed a cold:

At some point in history, people may have believed that stuffing your face while you had a cold would get rid of it. But modern doctors say that’s a lot of myth only. Colds are caused by viruses and the only way to feel better is to rest and drink lots of fluids. These fluids replenish those used by the immune system to fight the virus. If you have a fever that is higher than 38C for more than 48 hours, then it’s not about whether to eat; it’s about consulting a doctor to find out what is causing the fever. If you feel that having something soothing, such as chicken soup, will comfort you, then go ahead and have it. If it makes you feel better – why not? But it’s not going to cure you.

10. Ulcers are caused by stress:

Doctors used to think that a peptic ulcer- a sore on the lining of the stomach or the top part of the small intestine – was a result of too much stress or  spicy food or both. However, research has pinned the blame on Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a spiral shaped bacterium that causes more than 90 % of ulcers by weakening the protective mucus of the stomach and intestines, allowing acid to get through to the sensitive lining underneath. While it’s not clear how how people get infected with H.pylori, researches suspect that it’s from person-to-person contact, either through infected saliva, vomit or fecal matter that comes into contact with hands, food or water. Some people who have used non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen or ASA for a long time are also prone to developing ulcers. in a few cases, ulcers are caused by cancerous tumors in the stomach or pancreas.

11. Breast Cancer has reached epidemic proportions in young women:

While breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among Canadian women, with the exception of non melanoma skin cancer, few of these cases involve young women.With an average of over 400 Canadian women diagnosed with breast cancer each week and over 100 dying each week as a result – it is no wonder that women of all ages – particularly young women are concerned. The reality is that breast cancer is far more common in older women.

12. Vegetarians don’t get adequate protein in their diets:

You don’t necessarily have to eat meat to get adequate amounts of dietary protein – but to get enough protein, vegetarians do need to eat wide  variety of foods, including legumes, dried peas, beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds and soy products. Whether you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian (who eats dairy products and eggs), lacot vegetarian (who eats dairy products) or vegan (who eats no animal products), you may wish to consult a registered dietitian or nutritionist for an eating plan that ensures that you are getting enough calcium, iron, vitamins B and D and zinc.

13. It’s impossible to drink too many fluids while exercising:

You may think it’s safe to drink as much water as you want when you are sweating, but studies of athletes show that drinking more than 500 ml of water per hour can lead to hyponatremia – or water intoxication. This condition – though rare – can occur when blood becomes so diluted that it doesn’t contain enough salt for adequate brain, hearth and muscle function. In a worse case scenario, water intoxication can result in coma or even death.  Some people with water intoxication have no symptoms; others have symptoms similar to those of dehydration (apathy, confusion, nausea, fatigue) However, water intoxication is usually associated with long-distance running and cycling. It’s important to drink when you are exercising – especially in a heat, but instead of drinking lots of water at once, drink smaller amounts at a time. And while sports drinks that contain sugar and calories are OK, if you are exercising for four hours or more (such as in a marathon or cycling event) or working out in a hot environment, water is generally your best choice.

14. Cracking your knuckles will cause arthritis or big knuckles:

Cracking your knuckles may occasionally annoy those around you and make your joints sore, but there is no evidence that this directly causes arthritis, a disorder characterized by sore and swollen joints. If you crack your knuckles all the time, however, you could injure the cartilage and cause joints to swell. Keep this up and eventually it may lead to degenerative joint disease, such as arthritis.

15. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always more nutritious than frozen or canned:

It depends – if fresh fruits or vegetables have been stored in the fridge for a week, some of the vitamins may have been lost – just as they can leach out into cooking water. In that case, fresh produce may not have the same nutritional value as canned or frozen fruits or vegetables. Similarly – if you leave cut-up fruits or vegetables on a kitchen counter for more than 20 minutes, exposure to air may rob them of some of their nutrients. Generally speaking, however, frozen or canned fruits or vegetables aer just as vitamin rich as fresh.

16. Children with asthma shouldn’t play sports:

Parents and doctors used to counsel children with asthma to stay away from all sports. Physical activity, the thinking went, increases breathing rate and could  trigger asthma, a disease of the respiratory system characterized by coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. We now know that exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, can actually improve the lung power of a person with asthma. Studies show that when people with asthma exercise, they have fewer attacks, use less medication and miss less time at school. For this reason, children whose asthma is well controlled by medication and avoidance of triggers should be encouraged to take part in most sports and other physical activities – even if they have exercise induced asthma. While activities that are most intense and sustained, such as a long periods of running, should be avoided, there are many sports that are less likely to trigger asthma – such as walking, cycling, swimming and sports that require short bursts of energy, such as baseball, softball, volleyball, tennis, football, wrestling, golf, gymnastics and short distance track and field events.

17. Becoming a vegetarian will ensure that you;ll lose weight and be healthier:

While a vegetarian diet can be nutritious, your food choice – not whether you choose to eat meat – will determine whether you’ll loose weight. If you order the dressing soaked Caesar salad and french fries, rather than grilled chicken breast and a lightly dressed green salad at a fast food restaurants, you could be eating a meat that’s actually higher in fat and calories than a meat based one. Also – if you don’t know how to eat to stave off hunger on a vegetarian diet, you may end up actually eating more. It’s all about balance.

18. Women are more likely to die from cancer – especially breast cancer – than from any other cause:

Wrong. Hearth disease kills more women (and men) than all cancers combined. Statistics form 1999 show that cardiovascular disease accounted for 39,134 deaths of Canadian women and 37 percent of female deaths compared with 28,624 deaths for women from all cancers. – 17 percent of these were from breast cancer.Of the cancers, lung cancer kills more women that breast cancer, even though more women are diagnosed with breast cancer. in 2002, for instance, 20,500 Canadian women were diagnosed with breast cancer; of this group, 25 percent didn’t survive it. By comparison, only 8,800 women were diagnosed with lung cancer – but the disease killed 87 percent of them.

19. Gum that is swallowed takes seven years to dissolve:

If swallowed, the average piece of gum will be expelled in the stool- just like any other food – a few days later. Gum, which is not digested takes slightly longer to be expelled that food that is digested and passes through the intestinal track in about 24 hours. Only if  a very small child swallows a huge wad of gum is there a danger of the gum causing in intestinal obstruction. If that happens, it could take much longer to be expelled – but nothing close to seven years. In sever cases, this could lead to distention of the intestines and sever abdominal cramps and it would require surgery to remove the obstruction.

20. Hyper people are more likely to have hypertension:

Even if a person who is in rage can temporarily increase his blood pressure (witness the beet-red face). The reality is that a person’s temperament doesn’t cause high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. In about 10 percent of  people with high blood pressure (greater than 140/90), the problem is caused by kidney disease, hormonal disorder or certain drugs. But in most cases of hypertension, the cause is unknown.

21. You can’t get breast cancer if nobody in your family has it:

Unfortunately, that is not the case. It’s true that women with a family history of breast cancer are more likely to develop it than women with no family history; for example if your mother or sister had breast cancer prior to menopause, your risk increases by six times and by 10 times if your mother or sister had cancer in both breasts. Similarly, if your mother of sister carries the BRCAI of BRCA2 gene – considered to be genetic markers for breast cancer – your risk of breast cancer is markedly increased . However, many cases of breast cancer occur in women with no family history of the disease. In fact, 70 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no known risk factors. Other factors that appear to increase your risk of developing breast cancer include:

  • being 50 years of age or older,
  • a family history of cervical, uterine, colorectal or ovarian cancers,
  • previous breast disorders, such as benign breast cysts,
  • having a first pregnancy after 30 or never  being pregnant
  • early menstruation and later than average menopause (a longer exposure to estrogen increase the risk)
  • living in a developed country (experts suspect that this is due to high-fat diets and perhaps environmental pollution)

research continues on the effects of diet, obesity, alcohol, hormone replacement therapy, smoking and level of physical activity on your risk of developing breast cancer.

22. Beef will raise your blood cholesterol level higher than poultry or seafood:

Not necessarily. It isn’t just how much cholesterol a particular food contains, but also the kind of fat the food contains and how this fat affects blood cholesterol levels when eaten. For instance, saturated fat has more of an impact on boosting blood cholesterol levels than the actual cholesterol content of foods, so if the beef  is lean and well trimmed, it could contain less cholesterol boosting saturated fat than chicken drumstick (dark meat)with the skin on it. And some seafood  – such as shrimp, may be high in cholesterol, but may also contain heart-healthy polyunsaturated fat,which can help lower blood fats.

23. All fibre prevents heart disease:

There are two types of dietary fibre, and one of them is thought to promote heart health – it is called soluble dietary fibre and it can be found in oat products. Examples would be oat bran and oatmeal, legumes, such as dried beans, peas and lentils, and pectin-rich fruits, such as apples, strawberries and citrus fruits. Soluble fibre seems to help stabilize blood sugar levels and lower blood cholesterol, especially when its high.on the other hand, insoluble fibre, found in wheat bran and wheat bran cereals, whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables, hasn’t been directly linked to boosting heart health by itself. It may, however, help prevent some of the cancers, including colon cancer.

24. All vegetable oils are heart healthy:

Some are and some aren’t. Coconut, palm and palm kernel oils – often used in cookies, crackers and cakes – are sources of saturated fats, which can raise blood cholesterol levels and be detrimental to heart health. When vegetable oil are hydrogenated ot partially hydrogenated(the kinds found in hard margarine, cookies, crackers and commercially baked products( they can raise blood cholesterol levels. read the nutrition information on the label and look for partially hydrogenated to indicate the presence of unhealthy trans-fatty acids. Instead, choose extra-virgin olive , canola or peanut oil, which contain monounsaturated fats that can also help lower blood-cholesterol. Similarly, safflower, sunflower and corn oils contain polyunsaturated fats, which can help lower blood cholesterol.

25. Eating after 8 p.m. causes weight gain:

It’s probably wise to space your calories out throughout the day to coincide with activity levels. But there is no magical moment weight wise that happens at eight o’clock at night. However, during the evening, you may be more apt to wind down in front of the TV and of you sit eating high calorie snacks like chips, you will most likely pack on the pounds. Eating these kinds of snacks at night may be a sign that you haven’t eaten enough during the day. If you eat several small and nutritionally balanced meals every three to four hours throughout the day, you won’t get the munchies later on.

Note: The information in this article is from Canadian Living magazine and it has been compiled from input by numerous experts, including medical professionals, spokespersons for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society and others.

Hope you have enjoyed reading this article – I did and that is why I decided to include it here. Please send in your comments and additional information at any time!


Hanna Trafford

Hanna is the mother of two grown sons Dan and Dusan Nedelko, and is also the Grandmother to Jax, Cohen and Mila. She is the lead editor of Mama Knows and is hoping to create an exchange of communications with other grandmothers, mothers and daughters - giving everyone the opportunity to learn and share about everything that is "Mama"

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