Will you get heart disease if your whole family has it?
Is it only older men who have heart attacks? And will you get heart disease if your whole family has it? Dr. Marc Eisenberg breaks down five big health myths you can stop believing.
Myth: Only Older Men Have Heart Attacks
Being a cardiologist, it would be irresponsible of me to not unravel the health myths associated with heart disease; after all, it is not just older men who suffer from heart attacks. In fact, one-in-five women die from heart disease (sorry to be so candid), making it the leading cause of death for both men and women in our country. Moreover, with the increasing abdominal girth in our younger populations, heart disease is now becoming more common in people under the age of 65. Perhaps now may be the perfect time to head over to the gym (of course, after you finish reading this column).
Myth: Your Whole Family Has Heart Disease, So You'll Get It Too
It is also a myth to think that there is nothing we can do about our genetics (a thought most of us consider when looking around the dinner table during the holidays). But when it comes to heart disease, even if everyone in your family has had a heart attack, there are many things you can do to mitigate your risk. If you are a smoker, stop. If you have high blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol level or diabetes, see your physician and start treatment. If you are a couch potato, start a protocol of fast walking or the equivalent for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Of course, if you are experiencing chest pain or dizziness during this new exercise protocol, see your doctor immediately or haul yourself over to the nearest emergency room.
Myth: Cracking Your Knuckles Gives You Arthritis
For those of you who love to annoy everyone around you by cracking your knuckles every hour on the hour, it turns out that you are no more at risk for developing arthritis, according to several studies. Fun fact: the popping sound is actually caused by the release of the dissolved gases in our joint fluid into the lower pressure joint space caused by the stretching of the outer capsule of the joint. I must add that although you may not develop arthritis, one study found that chronic knuckle cracking can lead to diminished grip strength (possibly making it difficult to eat corn on the cob in the future).
Myth: You Should Drink Eight Glasses of Water a Day
Unless you like to spend innumerous hours searching for restrooms, there is no scientific evidence that you need to drink eight glasses of water per day. Perhaps you have been convinced that drinking this much water will keep you healthy by flushing out the horrible toxins in your body. However, this is not true. The rule of thumb is: if you are thirsty, drink. Of course, on those very hot days, it may be reasonable to stay ahead of the dehydration curve and to drink a little more than you normally do.
Myth: Vaccines Cause Autism
The vaccine-autism debate highlights the dangers of irresponsible medical studies and reporting. This myth was generated during the 1990s when British research purported that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism. Although this research was subsequently disproved and formally declared to be fraudulent, skeptical views still abound. Disturbingly, a survey released in 2014 by the National Consumers League reported that about one-third of all adults still thought there is a link. After numerous scientific studies involving over 20 million children have been published, it is clear that vaccines, or the ingredients in them, do not cause autism. During this current coronavirus pandemic, we can only hope that these detrimental, preconceived notions about the dangers of immunizations do not undermine confidence in the current, highly effective COVID-19 vaccines.
Want to bust more health myths? Dr. Eisenberg tackles them here!
By Dr. Marc Eisenberg
Dr. Marc Sabin Eisenberg, M.D., F.A.C.C. is an associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. He is co-author of the book "Am I Dying?!: A Complete Guide to Your Symptoms and What to Do Next" and co-host of the "Am I Dying?!" podcast, which provides light-hearted advice for the hypochondriac in all of us. Listen to an episode below!
Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away? Is tryptophan in turkey affecting your Thanksgiving dinner? The doctors explore more medical myths and Chris describes to Marc what a Scotch Egg is. Finally, Marc reveals his lack of control when it comes to Valentine's Day chocolate bars.