Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - Spring 2012
Health Myths That Hurt
|Stop buying into outdated, misguided and just plain wrong medical and nutrition lore. Instead learn the truth about five common misconceptions.|
Many common health myths are harmless. Cracking your knuckles may annoy your neighbors but it won't hurry the onset of arthritis. On the other hand, some myths can be dangerous. Here are a few you don't want to fall for, and the facts you need to know to help protect your well-being.
The newest drug is always the best.
Older drugs may work better and cost less.
Some new drugs are indeed miraculous, but not all provide a measurable improvement over older standbys. For example, according to Consumer Reports magazine, retail prices of antidepressants range from $20 to $400 per month. Many people still find that generic versions of the traditional workhorses are just fine, keeping their monthly costs closer to the lower end of the spectrum.
Another common example: drugs to control high blood pressure. Data released in 2002 from the Antihypertensive and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT) – an eight-year-long study of blood pressure- and cholesterol-lowering drugs – found that old-fashioned "water pills" (also called diuretics) were just as effective in treating hypertension as their newer rivals, often with fewer and less-disturbing side effects.
The bottom line: If a high-priced new drug is too costly for you, or if you're troubled by the side effects of your medication, ask your doctor if there's another effective but less expensive option.
Only kids need vaccinations.
All adults need at least one shot in the arm every 10 years.
It's true that we get most of those crucial shots during childhood, but there are a few jabs and pokes that are especially important for adults. One in particular is vital for the post-kindergarten set: tetanus.
Tetanus boosters often are a routine part of many childhood adventures gone wrong, but most adults aren't up-to-date on the boosters needed to keep immunity at full force. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should receive a tetanus booster every 10 years. The bacteria that cause tetanus live in the soil and enter the body through a break in the skin. It doesn't have to be a big break; a little scratch is opening enough. Most of us bother with tetanus boosters only if we get a cut that requires medical attention, but that can be a dangerous oversight. Gardeners and other outdoor types need to be especially careful to keep those tetanus boosters current.
Breast cancer is a woman's number-one health threat.
Heart disease is actually a far bigger risk.
In surveys women consistently rate breast cancer as their greatest health concern. In real life, though, heart disease kills six times more women each year. Thirty-five percent of deaths of women over 20 are caused by cardiovascular disease. Another surprise: More women than men die of heart disease each year, and women under 60 are more likely to die after a heart attack than men.
While breast cancer is a serious concern, don't neglect your risk factors for heart disease. "Eighty percent of the causes of heart disease are preventable using simple tools like maintaining a healthy weight; eating a healthy diet; keeping physically active; treating chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension—and not smoking," says Martha Gulati, M.D., director of women's cardiovascular health at Ohio State University Medical Center
Fresh produce is much more nutritious than frozen or canned.
Both fresh and preserved fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses.
The produce department at your neighborhood Publix offers a vast selection of fresh fruits and vegetables year-round. But what if you crave blueberries or corn in the middle of winter? Should you be concerned that you're not getting full nutritional value if you dive into a bag of frozen fruit or open a can of veggies? Not at all.
Often, high-quality fruits and vegetables are flash-frozen or canned within hours of harvest. How much nutritional benefit is lost in the freezing process? "Basically none," says Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and author of What to Eat (North Point Press, 2006). "In fact," she says, frozen fruits and vegetables "are often higher in nutritional value because they were picked at peak ripeness."
Of course in-season produce is loaded with flavor and nutrients and tastes delicious. Look for the freshest, brightest fruits and vegetables when you shop. But if what you want isn't available, don't hesitate to try the freezer case or canned goods aisles instead.
When you do choose frozen or canned vegetables, preserve the more delicate, water-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin C, by lightly steaming or sautéing the veggies rather than boiling them.
Workouts must last at least 30 minutes to be beneficial.
Short bursts of exercise can add up to an effective workout.
You may remember when fitness gurus told us that tennis was no good as an aerobic exercise because of the stop-and-start nature of the game. No one believes that nonsense anymore, but you still hear that workouts of less than 30 minutes aren't worth the trouble.
Experts do recommend 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week. However you don't have to do it all at once. If it's more convenient for you to break up exercise into three or four sessions a day, that will be just as effective as one longer session -- maybe even better, says Marcas Bamman, Ph.D., exercise physiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. However, there is one big caveat: The exercise has to be intense. "Three 10-minute bouts of high-intensity exercise is very, very good," says Bamman. "But don't expect dramatic changes in body fat, cholesterol or blood pressure from low-intensity exercise. People don't want to hear this, but intensity is what matters," he says.
According to Bamman, breathing hard is a good indication that you're getting a significant metabolic benefit. But even when it comes to short bouts, check with your doctor to make sure you're ready for the intensity -- and then break it up into whatever routine works for you.
Sources: Mayo Clinic; Royal College of Psychiatrists; American Medical Association; National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institutes of Health; USDA Nutrient Database; Center for Exercise Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham