10 health myths shattered! - Same Same

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Growing up, we've all heard those classic lines from our parents and grandparents. "Don't eat chocolate, it will give you acne!" is one we hear every time we chow down on a Mars Bar. And I can bet everyone has been lectured on the classic 'cracking your knuckles gives you arthritis' tale.

But have you ever stopped to wonder whether these sometimes ridiculous myths are true? Below, Same Same's resident fact-finding pharmacist Glen Swinburne debunks a few of the most common ones floating around.
1 – You should drink at least 8 glasses of water a day

Wrong! It's easy to see why this myth has become an assumed truth. We are faced with healthy lifestyle campaigns nearly everywhere we look, and while this is a great way to preach lifestyle change to the public, the information is not always as reliable as you think.

While it's important to remain hydrated, the need to gulp down 2 litres of water a day is regarded as unnecessary. Coupled with the body's excellent ability to maintain a good water balance, and the fluid we get from other sources such as fruit, vegetables, juice, soft drink, tea and coffee, the need to drink so much water isn't as vital as once thought.

Obviously there are circumstances where drinking more water is important, such as after exercise or for those who live in more tropical or warmer climates.

#2 – Natural products are always harmless

We all know snake venom is natural, and definitely not harmless, so whoever spoke this myth wasn't thinking very hard. Herbal medicines are still essentially medicines, and can contain active compounds which can interact with your body, sometimes in a positive way, yet not always. It is possible to overdose on vitamins and natural medicines as well! Might be hard to believe but you can even take too much vitamin C, leaving you with stomach aches and bloating. Always chat to your doctor or pharmacist before you start on anything herbal, especially if you already take other medicines, just to be sure they don't interact!

#3 – Cracking knuckles gives you arthritis

This habit is more annoying (and creepy) than detrimental to joint health. A recent US study showed that there was no increase in the frequency of hand osteoarthritis in people who crack their knuckles. Knuckle cracking is the sound created when small vacuums are created in the joint fluid and then quickly collapse. This may be a myth, but it doesn't make it any less gross!

#4 – The flu vaccine gives you the flu

I've heard this one at work from a few patients, and I'm here to tell you, it's not true! The flu vaccine is made up of broken up fragments of the influenza virus, which are enough to trigger the immune system to mount an attack, but not enough to be able to replicate and bring you down with a man-cold. Like with all medications though, the vaccine does come with possible side effects which your GP or pharmacist would be more than happy to discuss with you on request.

#5 – It's OK if I have unprotected sex, I can just use PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) medication, right?

Totally, totally wrong! PEP medication is in no way a substitute for safe sex practices. For those who aren't in the loop, PEP or post-exposure prophylaxis, is a combination of anti-viral medications used daily for usually a month after suspected exposure to the HIV virus. It works by preventing replication of the virus in the body, and therefore stops it developing into a chronic infection. Although very effective, it does not assure complete success every time, and in some cases, it may fail to work. Besides, other infections such as hepatitis, chlamydia and syphilis, are spread through sexual contact, and the HIV PEP regimen won't do a whole lot for preventing these infections.

Always practice safe sex with any partner, and if you do believe you've been exposed to something untoward, seek medical attention immediately as PEP is only effective within 72 hours of exposure. Your local Emergency Department of major hospitals will be of
assistance in these circumstances.

#6 – Chocolate gives you pimples

Busted. Chocolate (or any other high fat food) does not cause acne and is instead caused by a bacteria which loves the oiliness of the skin. Good skin care, such as washing with a neutral pH soap substitute, will help prevent acne and there are plenty of options now for treating it, so have a chat to your doctor about which one would suit you best. Remember, don't pick or pop the pimples, they will scar.

As a side note, fatty food won't cause acne either but it can cause a raft of other complications. As with everything, moderation is the key.

#7 – It's impossible for girls to catch STIs if they only have sex with other girls

It's easy to see why this one is commonly thought to be true. When people are asked how STI's are spread they commonly suggest semen, therefore identifying the man as the requirement for transmitting infections. Look, I know men can be pretty gross, but hey, it's not just us!

Vaginal discharge also carries viral particles, which when in contact with broken mucous membranes (such as in the mouth) can sneak into the body and develop into an infection. The skin is also a common place for infections to hide, including HPV (human papilloma virus – warts) and HSV (herpes simplex virus – herpes), and can be spread from any contact with broken skin, both on the face or on the genitals.

So ladies, safe sex practices, and getting regular sexual health checkups, is just as important, even if you're sticking exclusively with women.

#8 – Cholesterol is bad for you

This isn't entirely a myth, but some aspects are definitely incorrect. When the word 'cholesterol' is mentioned, thoughts of heart disease, clogged arteries and greasy hamburgers automatically spring to mind. There has been a lot of hype about how horrible cholesterol is for your heart and that limiting intake is important for your health.

But what a lot of people don't know is that there are two types of cholesterol: low-density (bad cholesterol) and high-density (good cholesterol). The good cholesterol is important for making steroid hormones and bile acids, which are essential for growth and digestion. Foods such as fish, lean meats and nuts contain unsaturated fats which are the best fats for cholesterol production.

Eating in moderation and taking a proactive effort to lead a healthy lifestyle is enough to keep you kicking along nicely.

#9 – Heat, massage and anti-inflammatories are the best treatment for a sprain

Surprisingly, this one is a big no no! Heat and massage can actually cause further damage to the tissues that have been traumatised, leading to more inflammation, and possible complications. On top of this, anti-inflammatories (what we call NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and diclofenac, can lead to prolonged bleeding and mask the pain, making you believe that you can continue to play on the injury, only creating more damage!

A simple rule is to follow the RICE approach: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Going to blatantly plug pharmacy here, but your local pharmacist can give you great, free advice on the care of sporting injuries.

#10 – Taking pain killers before you hit the hay after a big night will prevent a hangover

So wrong! Going to bust out my pharmacy geek on this one. I have friends who swear by this method, but I'm telling you now, it's completely false.

Taking a pain killer, like paracetamol, before you go to bed will do…well…nothing. By the time you wake up in the morning, your body is going to have metabolised the paracetamol, leaving you with nothing but a thumping headache and a wallet full of shrapnel. If anything, it's more likely to be bad for your liver, since it's trying to breakdown all that alcohol you drank last night, plus the paracetamol you needlessly took.

Cure for a hangover? Time.
So I hope I've shot down a few of the most common myths floating around, and shown that not everything you hear on the grapevine bares truth. There are thousands more misconceptions floating around in the media, on the net and in the minds of your grandparents, so before you take them as gospel, release your inner geek and search for some scientific articles to get down the real truths.

Remember, if you ever have any questions or concerns regarding your health, make an appointment to see your GP or visit your local pharmacist for advice.

14 Sep, 2011

Source: http://news.google.com/news/url?sa=t&fd=R&usg=AFQjCNF0szPE-vDSmQJfm4rxBoh4PgIsbQ&url=http://www.samesame.com.au/features/7320/10-health-myths-shattered.htm
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