4 ways to save yourself from bogus health claims

October 5, 2015

An amazing number of our ideas about health are misconceived or simply wrong. Here's some ways to keep yourself informed and healthy.

4 ways to save yourself from bogus health claims

1. Know that misinformation is harmful

  • Medical myths and misconceptions are passed along, being accepted as fact over time.
  • Many are trivial and harmless, such as, "Don't go swimming for one hour after eating, or you'll get cramps and drown."
  • However, some old or misguided ideas can affect your health. The rumours surrounding vaccines, for example, can be fatal for children and adults.
  • Sometimes these myths are convenient to us because they justify behaviour that in reality isn't so smart.
  • For instance, ardent smokers may choose to believe, despite the evidence to the contrary, that low-tar cigarettes are less dangerous than other cigarettes because it gives them license to smoke.
  • As a member of society, it's important to learn how to separate bogus health claims from factual science.

2. Stay informed with new information

  • Testing medical questions is expensive and time-consuming.
  • If no one ever challenges an established belief, it's likely to live on.
  • Even when the research is done, it can take years for new research to spread and overturn old ideas.
  • Doctors are hardly immune to this phenomenon.
  • For instance, some physicians continued to prescribe vacations and bland diets years after scientists discovered the true cause of most stomach ulcers. They still thought the cause was stress and spicy food.

3. Always question

  • If a person you respect or fear tells you something, you're likely to believe it without question.
  • Sometimes we go on believing "facts" learned from authority figures despite evidence to the contrary.

4. Listen to your instincts

  • If you sit 30 centimetres away from a TV and stare at the screen for an hour, your eye muscles may tire from having to alter their normal focus.
  • While that won't cause blindness, your instincts may tell you that the feeling of eye strain is evidence that you've wrecked your retinas.
  • And while your eyes will be fine after awhile, it's still important to limit your viewing time with screens, since it can affect your health in many ways.

Becoming a smarter medical consumer requires more than seeking out new information and fresh ideas. It means challenging old assumptions, too, by checking their validity with your doctor or other trusted sources.

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