Health and medicine are complex topics, full of long and confusing words that most of us don’t understand.
The general public can’t possibly be expected to keep up with all the latest research or be experts on topics of human physiology.
In our quest to be healthy and happy, we often rely on others to give us information about what we should and shouldn’t do.
Unfortunately, the information that spreads quickest and furthest tends to be oversimplified, sensationalized, and sometimes just plain wrong.
These memes and myths can seriously impact our health, which is why it’s so important to think critically about the health advice we’re given.
“You Need to Drink 8 Glasses of Water Every Day”
This pervasive suggestion is an excellent example of an oversimplified health recommendation.
Yes, water is essential for our bodies to function properly, and dehydration can lead to several problems. And higher intake of fluids appears to be associated with significantly lower incidents of coronary heart disease and premature death.
But there’s no evidence to support the specific claim that you need to drink eight glasses of water every day. Each person’s individual needs vary depending on age, activity level, and climate.
A better rule of thumb may be to drink when you’re thirsty and drink more if your urine is yellow – a sign that you’re underhydrated.
“Reading In Dim Light Damages Your Eyes”
This warning can feel genuine if you’ve ever struggled to read in a dark room. You probably felt like your eyes were working overtime, they may start to hurt, and you might even get a headache.
But reading in dim light won’t damage your eyes. It may cause temporary discomfort but not permanent damage. Of all the many eye disorders, reading in darkness has never been proven to be a risk factor.
Eye fatigue from reading in the dark is more likely because dim lighting leads you not to blink as often, leading to dry eyes. This dryness should go away once you give your eyes a rest.
How To Avoid Being Misled By Health Advice
When you’re trying to sort out the good health advice from the bad, there are a few things you can keep in mind:
- Be wary of oversimplified advice – there are usually exceptions and individual differences to consider.
- Beware of absolutes – words like “never,” “always,” and “guaranteed” and recommendations that apply to everyone regardless of individual circumstances.
- Be skeptical of sensationalized headlines – often, the reality is more nuanced than what you read in a headline.
- Look for evidence – does the advice align with what we know from research? Are there studies to support the claims?
- Read the research – don’t just take someone else’s word for it. Track down the primary sources and read them for yourself.
- Consider multiple sources – don’t just rely on one person or one article for your information. Get a second (or third) opinion.
- Think critically – ask questions, challenge assumptions, and don’t be afraid to change your mind if the evidence tells you to.
When it comes to your health, it’s essential to be an informed and active participant. Don’t just blindly follow advice, regardless of where it comes from. Take the time to think about what you’re being told and search for evidence to back it up. And if you’re ever unsure, don’t hesitate to ask a qualified professional for help.