Finger on the Pulse: 10 health myths debunked
A health and wellness series of articles by Dr Andrea Lim this month debunks some of the most common myths and conceptions about health out there.
Old people don’t need as much sleep as young people. I’m sure we’ve all heard that one before and I can’t stress enough the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, for both young and old.
The heart was once believed to be the centre of thought, and the brain would cool the body in ancient Egyptian times.
We have come a long way since those days where bloodletting was the cure for most common ailments, but cold weather is still believed to make you ill, and chocolate is the culprit for acne.
Some myths have died with time, but some have a mysterious longevity despite the incontrovertible evidence. The truth of the matter is that myths are so much more convenient and sound more romantic than the plain bald facts – that eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly are the keys to living a healthy life.
Whilst some misconceptions are mere annoyances to the medical community, some are harmful to your health. Here’s a cold, hard, evidence-based look at some of the most popular old wives tales, and the facts behind them.
Exercise is too dangerous for those with heart disease.
This is almost always false. There are really very few people who have significant long-term restrictions for exercising.
After a coronary incident, such as a heart attack, people are usually encouraged to get right into rehabilitation, and start exercising within a fortnight.
Exercise reduces the progression of heart disease, and makes people with heart disease less likely to have a first or recurrent heart attack.
10 minutes of exercise daily, and increasing it weekly by 10 minutes until you are getting at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days is recommended. However, your doctor will give you guidelines best suited to your case specifically.
Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.
It’s simple arithmetic. Eat more calories than you burn within a 24-hour period = weight gain, and vice-versa.
There is no magical strike of the clock that will turn all odds against you weight-wise. It makes most sense to space your caloric intake throughout the day to cater to your activity levels, which may be the highest in the early morning for some, but the in the evenings for others.
People with asthma shouldn't play sports.
Many asthmatics steer clear of sports as physical activity is thought to trigger an asthma attack. However, exercise, especially aerobic exercise, can actually improve the lung performance of asthmatics.
Studies have shown that when asthmatics exercise, they have fewer attacks, use less medication and have less sick days.
Those 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 (EIA). Walking, cycling, swimming and sports that require short bursts of energy, such as tennis, football, golf and short-distance track-and-field events are less likely to trigger EIA. More intense endurance activities such as long-distance running may need to be avoided.
Angry people are more likely to have hypertension.
Although a person in a rage can temporarily increase his or her blood pressure, the person's temperament does not in fact cause high blood pressure. Around 10 per cent of high blood pressure (greater than or equal to 140 mmhg systolic / greater than or equal to 90 mmhg diastolic pressure) is caused by kidney disease, hormonal disorders or medication. However in most cases of hypertension, the cause is unknown.
The more you sweat, the more you burn.
Sweating is a biological response that regulates our body temperature. If you’re especially drenched after a run in the afternoon sun, it does not mean that you’ve torched any more calories than you would have running on a winter morning and sweating less. Sorry.
Vaccines can cause developmental disorders in children.
A vaccine scare in the early 2000s resulted in large number of people shying away from vaccinating their children against measles, mumps and rubella. Autism merely appears at the same time in life when a child is due for an MMR jab. A false sense of security harbours this behavior: because our children are immunised, they do not contract these diseases; children who are not immunised feel relatively safe because people around them are immunised. Should these levels drop, we’ll be back in the 19th century.
Take vitamin C to prevent colds
You will get ill yes if you are deficient in vitamin C, but with scurvy, not a cold.
Countless studies have found no difference in the number or the duration of colds between people who take vitamin C supplement and those who don't.
The higher the SPF number, the better the protection
What exactly is Sun Protection Factor (SPF)? Essentially, if you develop a sunburn in 10 minutes sitting in the sun without sunscreen on, the time you will become sunburnt will be 150 minutes if you have SPF 15 sunscreen on (SPF number x time). Put differently, SPF 15 protects against 93% of rays, SPF 30: 97%, and SPF 50: 98%. However, labels can be misleading, and we frequently see SPF numbers over 100 in the market these days. There is no proof that anything above SPF 50 is more protective against sun damage.
I can take any herbs in any quantity, because they are harmless.
The trend towards alternative medicine and taking untested herbs revolves around the idea that the natural world in ancient days was a better place, that our ancestors knew what they were doing with natural remedies that restored balance. In reality, up to only a hundred years ago, diseases wiped out entire cities, people lived debilitating lives, and the life expectancy was 50 years old.
While herbs may exist naturally in our environment, it does not mean we should ingest them or apply them on ourselves willy-nilly. Recent findings associated with use of certain herbs have been confirmed; Kava, the popular calming herb has found to be liver-toxic, Ginkgo leaf extracts, Echinacea, German chamomile have had high allergy reaction rates.
It would be wise to inform your family doctor about any herbal and alternative medication to ensure that you need them, but more importantly that they don’t interact with any medication that you may be taking.
I can help my eyesight by eating carrots
Just half a cup of raw carrots a day will provide you with the necessary amount of beta carotene required for good vision, but excessive amounts have shown to be harmful. Therefore, no need to go overboard at the supermarket this weekend. If anything, spending more time outdoors seem to be the key to better eyesight according to recent studies.
With a perfect combination of charismatic beauty, grace and intelligence, Dr Andrea Lim is a firm believer in the values of hard work and dedication. Besides working in her family business, KL Sogo, the medical degree holder is also a partner in her husband’s health and fitness venture, Peak Fitness.
To get in touch with her, please email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Here is a list of foodswhichcouldreduce eye-related diseases.