Five Top Medical Myths

1. Heavy Problems

Everyone's heard these medical myths, and your mom (and maybe even your doctor!) may have been guilty of spreading a few of them:

* High blood pressure causes headaches. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. Neither does it cause dizziness, although dizziness is a common side effect of treatments for high blood pressure.
* Women should examine their breasts. Research shows that routine breast self-examinations aren't sensitive enough to detect many lumps, and may subject women to increased anxiety.
* It's dangerous to mix alcohol and antibiotics. Alcohol doesn't interact with antibiotics. Metronidazole (Flagyl) is an exception, however, and can cause vomiting.
* Bed rest is useful additional therapy. According to 39 studies of bed rest versus early mobilization, bed rest is usually not beneficial and may, in fact, be harmful.
* Hot black coffee will help you sober up. Although caffeine will reduce the sedating effect of alcohol, it will not reduce the amount of alcohol in your system any faster.
* Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight. Reading for long periods of time in dim light may cause you to squint and strain your eyes — maybe even triggering a headache — but it won't hurt your eyes.
* We use only 10 percent of our brain. Although this myth has been around for a hundred years, numerous imaging studies have shown that no part of our brain is inactive.
* Drink eight glasses of water a day. Drinking so much water is unnecessary since most of us get plenty of water from our food and other drinks, including tea and coffee.
* Eating sugar causes diabetes. While eating sugar doesn't cause diabetes, it does make you fat and that increases your risk for the disease.
* Chocolate causes acne. Relax and enjoy a sinful chocolate treat. Hormones, not chocolate, are the main cause of acne.

2. Heavy Earrings — A Harmful Fashion Accessory?

*They're definitely in style — but according to doctors — heavy earrings can be a dangerous fashion accessory from which more and more women are seeking surgery.
*At first, patients with tears in their earlobes from wearing heavy earrings are told to simply stop wearing them in order to let the lobe heal on its own, but often that doesn't work.
*"Just removing the earring often times does not allow the hole to close because that has become a mature tract," says Richard Ha, plastic surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. "Fortunately, there's a relatively simple solution to the problem."
*According to plastic surgeons, it's becoming more and more popular for patients to get their lobes surgically repaired.
*"It's a pretty simple procedure actually. It probably takes about 30 minutes to an hour in the office under local anesthesia," explains Dr. Ha.
*After the tear is fixed, it will need several weeks to completely heal.
*Surgical repair of torn earlobes can vary between $300 and $1,500 depending on how severe the tear is and whether or not you need one or both earlobes done.
*If you love wearing heavy earrings — but don't want to end up needing surgery one day — you may want to consider using some of the over-the-counter earlobe support products to help prevent tears.

3. Four Steps Reverse Damage from "Super-Size Me" Diet

*It was probably enough to make many Americans lose their appetite: A recent study from Europe showed that eating too much fast food — a diet high in fat and sugar — could cause serious damage to your liver.
*Yet for those who overdo it with too many trips to their favorite burger joint, there's good news. You can likely reverse the damage to your liver and other vital organs if you simply give up the unhealthy lifestyle, according to a leading liver specialist at Saint Louis University who conducted a similar study with mice.
*"There's strong evidence now that a fast-food type of diet — high in fat and sugar, the kind of diet many Americans subsist on — can cause significant damage to your liver and have extremely serious consequences for your health," says Brent Tetri, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the Saint Louis University Liver Center and one of the country's leading experts on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
*"The good news is that most people can undo this damage if they change their diet and they keep physically active," Tetri says. "If they don't, however, they are asking for trouble."
*Tetri is quick to emphasize that fast food per se doesn't causes liver damage. Rather, he says, the harm comes from eating too many calories and too much fat and sugar — which happens with a steady diet of burgers, fries, sodas and most other items on the typical fast-food menu.
*"The big issue here is caloric content," says Tetri. "You can put away 2,000 calories in a single fast-food meal pretty easily. For most people, that's more calories than they need in an entire day."
*For adults and children who've repeatedly indulged in fast food, Tetri urges four key steps to help reverse the damage they've done to their liver.

1. Limit yourself to no more than one fast-food meal a week. For some people, that's going to be a major downshift. But for the sake of your health, a visit to a fast-food restaurant should be considered a treat — not a regular event.
2. When you do eat fast food, eat as healthfully as possible. Try the burger without mayo and cheese, and avoid fries and sugary soft drinks. Better yet, go for a grilled chicken sandwich, a salad with a lower-fat dressing and bottled water or a diet soft drink.
3. Get active. If you don't already exercise at least three times a week, start now. Regular exercise helps keep your weight down and helps your body better metabolize and process the food you eat.
4. Ask your doctor to do a blood test to check your level of liver enzymes, a key measure of the health of your liver. Many doctors now order test this routinely when doing blood work on adults, but kids who eat a lot of fast food especially need to have their liver enzymes checked.

*"Even for those people with the worst kind of diets, it's not too late to start exercising and eating right," Tetri says.

4. Protect Your Children from Lawn-Mower Injuries

*Spring marks the onset of what Johns Hopkins Children's Center specialists call lawnmower injury season. Lawnmowers can cause devastating injuries in children and are the leading cause of amputations in teens, Hopkins Children's experts warn.
*"Every spring and summer we see children so badly injured by lawnmowers that they need amputation or extensive reconstructive surgery," says Rick Redett, M.D., director of reconstructive and plastic surgery at Hopkins Children's, Maryland's designated pediatric trauma center where the most severe cases are treated.
*Many more children with less serious injuries end up in local emergency departments, Redett says.
*Each year, lawnmower accidents send 9,400 U.S. children to the hospital, causing injuries more severe than any other tool or device, research shows. The most common injuries are lacerations, fractures and amputations of the fingers, hands, toes, feet and legs.
*Most injuries occur when a person operating a ride-on mower is unaware that a child is behind the mower and shifts into reverse, backing over the child.
*Hopkins Children's experts offer the following prevention tips:
* Keep children under 6 years old indoors while a power mower is in operation.
* Don't allow a child under 12 to use a walk-behind mower.
* Keep children under 16 off ride-on mowers, even with a parent.
* If you are mowing and see a child running toward you, turn off the mower immediately. Children can fall and slip into the blade, especially if the grass is wet.
* Wear protective goggles and close-toed shoes when operating a mower or when near one.
* Before mowing, clean the lawn of debris such as sticks and stones, which may get caught in the blades and propelled out.
* If injury occurs, call 911 right away and apply pressure to the wound to stop bleeding while you await an ambulance.
* Buy mowers with a no-reverse safety feature that requires the operator to turn the mower around instead of shifting into reverse.

5. Teen Pot Use Can Lead to Mental Illness

*Depression, teens and marijuana are a dangerous mix that can lead to dependency, mental illness or suicidal thoughts, according to a White House report being released Friday.
*A teen who has been depressed at some point in the past year is more than twice as likely to have used marijuana as teens who have not reported being depressed — 25 percent compared with 12 percent, said the report by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
*"Marijuana is a more consequential substance of abuse than our culture has treated it in the last 20 years," said John Walters, director of the office. "This is not just youthful experimentation that they'll get over as we used to think in the past."
*Smoking marijuana can lead to more serious problems, Walters said in an interview.
*For example, using marijuana increases the risk of developing mental disorders by 40 percent, the report said. And teens who smoke pot at least once a month over a yearlong period are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than nonusers, it said.
*The report also cited research that showed that teens who smoke marijuana when feeling depressed were more than twice as likely as their peers to abuse or become addicted to pot — 8 percent compared with 3 percent.
*Experts who have worked with children say there's nothing harmless about marijuana.
*"I've seen many, many kids' lives negatively impacted and taken off track because of marijuana," said Elizabeth Stanley-Salazar, director of adolescent services for Phoenix House treatment centers in California. "It's somewhat Russian roulette. There are so many factors, emotional, psychological, biological. You can't predict the experimentation and how it will impact a kid."
*The drug control policy office analyzed about a dozen studies looking at marijuana use, including research by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
*Overall, marijuana use among teens has decreased 25 percent since 2001, down to about 2.3 million kids who used pot at least once a month, the drug control office said.
*While the drop is encouraging, Walters appealed to parents to recognize signs of possible drug use and depression.
*"It's not something you look the other way about when your teen starts appearing careless about their grooming, withdrawing from the family, losing interest in daily activities," Walters said. "Find out what's wrong."



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