Things You Thought You Knew: 4 Health Myths Debunked

July 7, 2016

Drink enough water; get enough sleep; take your vitamins. Most of us think we know what our bodies need when it comes to our health, but do we really?

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Whether it’s something your mom told you, advice from your best friend, or something you learned in school, some of the “facts” we believe about women and their health simply aren’t true — and these misconceptions can be dangerous. Here are four of the most common health myths you may want to reconsider:

Myth 1: If you want to lose weight, you should cut your calories and watch your fat intake.

Reducing your caloric intake can certainly help some women lose weight, but for many women, reducing calories triggers your body’s built-in protection against starvation and can actually slow your metabolism, making it more difficult to lose weight.

Rather than just cutting calories, try exploring some reasons that your metabolism may be slow, such as hormonal imbalances. Addressing the underlying cause of weight gain can make all the difference in reaching your healthy weight goals.

Myth 2: Women need the same amount of sleep as men.

According to Dr. Jim Horne, the U.K.’s chief expert in sleep science, women tend to multitask more than men during the day, leading to an increased need for the brain to rest during the night. Lack of adequate sleep is associated with an increase in health risks such as elevated insulin levels.

In addition, a University of Warwick study found that women who sleep five hours or less per night are twice as likely to have hypertension compared to women who sleep for at least seven hours per night. The male participants, on the other hand, did not have similar heightened risks.

Although the causes of insomnia are varied, doctors recommend simple changes to improve your sleep habits, such as reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, improving your sleeping environment, and getting regular exercise. If your insomnia persists, be sure to discuss it with your doctor; good sleep is a vital part of a woman’s health!

Myth 3: Being properly hydrated means drinking eight glasses of water a day.

Water is a vital part of keeping your body healthy. Among other things, it regulates our body temperature, keeps our joints moving smoothly, aids digestion, increases energy, and improves our skin.

The “eight glasses a day” model most of us grew up with, however, is outdated. Current research suggests women need about 91 ounces of water a day, some of which can be consumed through fruit and vegetables with high water content or beverages such as coffee and tea.

Myth 4: Over-the-counter supplements are safer than prescription medications.

Your body needs a variety of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, which leads many people to use vitamin supplements. But most women will be able to take in everything their bodies need by eating a balanced diet and may not need to take any supplements at all.

What’s more, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate most health supplements, and some may cause side effects or other problems if taken incorrectly. If you are worried about the effects a supplement may be having on your body, don’t hesitate to check with your physician.

It’s easy to step into old habits that seem healthy without double-checking the facts, but don’t fall victim to popular misconceptions. What better time than now to make a change in your health routine? Your health is important; don’t trust it to a myth!