by Al Lewis
The core of our mission at Quizzify is to improve results in health care by spreading accurate, accessible information. With that goal in mind, we went through our curriculum to highlight some of the more prominent health myths and misconceptions out there today—and provide the truth about them.
1. The Truth About Sleep Guidelines
Every American has heard that we ideally ought to sleep for 8 uninterrupted hours in every 24-hour day. But this one-size-fits-all guideline doesn't account for individual differences. The ideal arose during the Industrial Revolution: eight hours of work, eight hours of recreation, eight hours of sleep. The ideal has a nice ring to it, but it's not right for everyone. Doctors recommend that children and teenagers sleep far more often than that—and many adults can function on even less, or even sleep broken up into segments. Most adults do perform best with 7-9 hours of sleep, but if you're regularly waking up and feeling functional with 6 hours of sleep, there's no need to fear that you're missing the mark because of some rule: in the end, your body knows what rest it really needs, and will push for it if it's not getting it.
2. 'Diet and Exercise'
In everyday life, we invoke the phrase 'diet and exercise' as the practical formula for good health—which is, all things considered, a pretty reliable formula. But the two are not equal in importance. Adding just 10 to 15 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise to your routine each day will do more good for your health than any single change to your diet. Of course, the optimal approach is to maintain a workable balance in both departments—but if you've got to focus on just one, make it exercise. The benefits of exercise are simply too numerous to list: we recommend checking out the CDC's guidelines for adults.
3. Questioning Screenings
In theory, undergoing screenings in the name of prevention sounds like it can only be a good thing. If we can catch diseases as they are emerging, we will not only save money down the line, but keep diseases from advancing and becoming more deadly and aggressive. So: the more prevention, the better...right? It turns out in practice, however, that undergoing screenings beyond standard guidelines can be counterproductive. The risks of false positives and misleading red flags—not to mention burdensome screening procedures—often mean that undergoing extra screenings can result in more harm than good. [Update: we wrote a blog post on this topic. Read it here.]
Here's a point we wish we didn't have to press as hard as we do. There has been a recent surge of rumors and misinformation in our society regarding a supposed link between certain vaccines and a variety of disorders—especially autism. We cannot be more emphatic about this: there is no link between vaccines and autism. None. The question of the safety of vaccines has stood the test of time, and so have the reasons to vaccinate.
5. What's Really 'Bad for You'?
The good news has been out for a little while, but not everyone has heard it: the war against a lot of supposedly bad stuff in our food seems to have been based on findings that were—to put it mildly—a little overstated. In the New York Times last year, Nina Teicholz writes:
“In 2013, government advice to reduce salt intake (which remains in the current report) was contradicted by an authoritative Institute of Medicine study. And several recent meta-analyses have cast serious doubt on whether saturated fats are linked to heart disease, as the dietary guidelines continue to assert.
Uncertain science should no longer guide our nutrition policy. Indeed, cutting fat and cholesterol, as Americans have conscientiously done, may have even worsened our health. In clearing our plates of meat and eggs (fat and protein), we ate more grains, pasta and starchy vegetables (carbohydrates). Over the past 50 years, we cut fat intake by 25% and increased carbohydrates by more than 30%, according to a new analysis of government data. Yet recent science has increasingly shown that a high-carb diet rich in sugar and refined grains increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease—much more so than a diet high in fat and cholesterol.”
It's an instructive reminder of how popular guidelines sometimes lag behind the latest research—and how government standards are only reliable up to a point. Either way, it's a highly important finding—one to keep in mind when making choices about your diet.
Popular health myths and misconceptions can mislead your employees into negative health practices and outcomes. We do our due diligence here at Quizzify, and base all our content and curriculum on data and research. And for an extra level of authentication, our quizzes are reviewed by doctors at Harvard Medical School. Learn more about our content here.