Work out more! Work out less! Carbs are going to kill you! But fat is OK! These days, between fad diets and sensational headlines it’s hard to know what actually helps you live a healthier, longer life. And all the confusing, conflicting advice is enough to make anyone’s head spin. But you don’t need a PhD or a polygraph machine to spot the shaky science. Here are some common health claims — and clear-cut answers that support or dispel them.
1. A 30-minute run is better for you than two 15-minute runs.
False. Exercise spurts that are at least 10 minutes can offer similar benefits to longer workouts, as long as the total amount of activity time is the same and you break a sweat (getting your heart rate up is what matters most). In fact, a 2018 Duke University study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that walking for up to an hour total each day (no matter if each bout of exercise was only five or 10 minutes) could lower a person’s risk of an early death by nearly half. And if you can’t tally 30 minutes in a day, don’t get discouraged. Any amount of activity is better than none, when it comes to your health.
2. Calorie counting is the only thing that matters when it comes to losing weight.
False. While controlling the number of calories you eat is important to weight loss, exercise matters, too, especially in maintaining weight loss. And if you’re exercising, you may not have to cut as many calories from your diet to lose weight.
3. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
True. Heart disease is responsible for about 610,000 American deaths every year, making it the leading cause of death for both men and women. The good news is, you can control many of the risk factors, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and being overweight, just to name a few. By reversing many of these risk factors through diet and exercise, you can lower your risk of developing heart disease.
4. Feeling nauseated or lightheaded can be a symptom of a heart attack.
True. In addition to chest pain and shortness of breath, other warning signs of a heart attack may include nausea, feeling woozy, and breaking out in a cold sweat. It’s also important to know that men and women can present with very different symptoms when they’re suffering from a heart attack. Chest pain is still the most common symptom for both, but women may be somewhat more likely than men to experience nausea and vomiting and pain in the back, shoulders and jaw.
5. Healthy people fall asleep as soon as their heads hit their pillows.
False. Falling asleep that fast is a sign of sleep deprivation. If you’re getting adequate rest, it’s normal to take between 10 and 20 minutes to nod off, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
6. Everyone feels better after eliminating gluten from their diet.
False. Only those with celiac disease, a gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance must avoid gluten — even small amounts of the protein can actually damage the lining of the small intestine. That said, some people with gastrointestinal symptoms, such as irritable bowel syndrome, do report feeling better if they don’t eat it. A blood test can help you determine if you have celiac disease, or you can talk with your doctor about eliminating it from your diet to see if you feel better without it.
7. A flu shot cannot give you the flu.
True. The vaccines are made of inactivated viruses or no virus at all. In short: You can’t get the flu from the flu shot. In fact, there are just a few common side effects from the flu shot, such as headaches, soreness at the injection site, fever, muscle aches – and they’re generally mild and go away within a few days. If you do catch a cold or come down with the flu, it’ll be from another source — not from the shot itself.
8. The higher the SPF, the less often you need to reapply.
False. You should apply every two hours, regardless of SPF. Sunscreen with SPF 15 is supposed to filter out roughly 93 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 50 filters out up to 97 percent. You should wear a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30. And keep this in mind: No matter what SPF strength you choose, all sunscreens are effective for only about two hours. And if you’re swimming or sweating, you should re-apply right after you dry off even if your two hours aren’t up yet.
9. You don’t need a colorectal cancer screening until you turn 60.
False. In general, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends colorectal cancer screenings for healthy adults from ages 50 to 75. However, if you think you might be at greater risk of developing the disease because of things like a family history or genetic risk factors, you may need to start screening even earlier. You’ll want to consult with your doctor about the best age for you to start screening (most tests are done every five to 10 years) and which test is right for you.