In the interest of improving or maintaining their health, many people will search out information about wellness on their own.
The challenge is navigating the vast resources available to find truly helpful information. Some of what is out there is contradictory, and at times, just plain wrong. Other times, what seems like good information about health and wellness turns out not to be so good after all.
As with any matter involving your health, when you hear about a tip that sounds like a good idea, consult with your family doctor. Your doctor knows your health history better than anyone and is best equipped to give you guidance.
And there is some sound advice experts agree on. Regular exercise is important to control weight, blood sugar, blood pressure and balance as well as to build endurance. Maintaining a proper diet — one low in fat, sugar and salt, but high in complex carbohydrates and moderate in protein — is also wise.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of information out there that sounds good, but isn’t. Below are five suggestions that appear healthy on first glance. Upon further study, however, the drawbacks become apparent.
Fat-free salad dressing: The problem is that fat adds flavor to food. Removing the fat often removes palatability. To compensate, a manufacturer might add more sugar and salt. An alternative is to use small amounts of regular salad dressing, about two tablespoons for a side salad.
Daily weigh-ins: Frequent weight monitoring can actually work against weight loss. Excess weight didn’t creep on overnight; it won’t depart overnight. Daily checking and seeing little progress can become discouraging and result in the abandonment of good intentions. Instead, stick to a plan and hop on those scales once a week.
Enhanced water: Since calcium and magnesium are also found in regular bottled or tap water, creating a specialty product is a waste of money. Caffeine, present in some brands, may cause elevated blood pressure or abnormal heart rhythms.
Avoiding the sun: While the notion of a “healthy tan” has been debunked, the opposite extreme — avoiding the sun as if it were toxic — is not good either. Increasingly, people are experiencing low levels of vitamin D. That is linked to osteoporosis and bone fractures. Sun exposure helps the body synthesize vitamin D. About 15 minutes a day should help prevent low vitamin D levels.
Healing herbs: Many health-minded individuals assume that, if a substance is “natural,” it must be beneficial, especially if that substance is an herb. Many herbs claim certain healing properties, but often do not have well-controlled scientific studies to support them.
Some herbs may actually be harmful. For instance, some people drink tea made from licorice to assist with digestion, but licorice may raise blood pressure in some individuals.
That said, two herbs show evidence of living up to their promises. One is ginger root, which appears to reduce pregnancy nausea in some women. Ginger root also seems to be free of negative side effects. The other is glucosamine, derived from animal sources, which may reduce joint pain in people with osteoarthritis.
If the internet is full of good information, as well as misinformation, you may wonder what reliable, trustworthy sources are available.
For accurate, clear, concise and up-to-date general health information, I recommend the Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.com. Other useful, more specific sites include the American Cancer Association, www.cancer.org; the American Diabetes Association, www.diabetes.org; and the American Heart Association, www.heart.org.