Many People Have These Health Fears, Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Them

Cracking Your Joint Isn’t How You Get Arthritis Cracking knuckles is a satisfying, if annoying, habit. But some people also worry that it could cause arthritis.… Aisha Abdullah - March 23, 2023

We all have our health fears. It’s a normal part of being human. Maybe you’re worried about developing a rare, deadly disease or convinced that everything could give you cancer. Whatever your health fears, there are simple steps that you can take to save your health and your peace of mind. So here are some common health fears you’re probably worrying about too much.

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Your Headache Is Probably Not a Brain Tumor

When you have a bad headache, it can be easy to assume the worst. Could it be a brain tumor? Maybe you’re having a stroke? Fortunately, the vast majority of the time, a headache is just a headache. Most people have occasional headaches, and as much as 4 percent of the population has chronic headaches. These headaches are usually aren’t signs of anything more serious than a cold. Headaches have dozens of non-terrifying causes, including lack of sleep, stress, dehydration, grinding teeth, hunger, poor diet, too much alcohol, and allergies.

Common sense steps to care for your health, like drinking lots of water and getting plenty of sleep, can also help reduce your headache frequency. However, sometimes, headaches may be a sign of serious issues. You should see a doctor if your headaches are very severe and persist for longer than a few days or if they are accompanied by blurred vision, slurred speech, numbness or tingling in your limbs, or personality changes.


Numb or Tingling Fingers Don’t Mean You’re Having a Stroke

Experiencing sudden numbness or tingling in your hands, feet, or limbs can be scary and disorienting. Some people’s minds will immediately jump to a stroke. But don’t panic just yet! There are plenty of reasons why you might occasionally feel tingling or numbness in your extremities. Sitting or lying in a way that puts pressure on nerves or restricts blood flow can cause temporary numbness. Overuse or injury can cause tingling in the wrists and ankles. Malnutrition, especially vitamin B deficiency, is known to result in numbness.

Insects and spider bites can also cause these sensations, as can nerve damage from toxins in alcohol, tobacco, and certain medications. Changing position, resting, eating a nutritious diet, wearing looser clothing, avoiding substances that cause or worsen symptoms, and avoiding or promptly treating injuries can help reduce your risk of numbness and tingling. These symptoms can be of certain underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia. Seek medical attention if numbness or tingling with no clear cause doesn’t resolve over time or is accompanied by swelling, discoloration, or changing temperature changes.

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Occasional Brain Farts Aren’t Signs of Dementia or Alzheimer’s

We’ve all experience it. You walk into a room and can’t remember why. Or you’ll blank on the name of someone you met minutes ago. These random lapses in memory happen to everyone and aren’t usually a cause for concern. Our brains have a limited capacity for remembering things in the short term. If you’re trying to focus on multiple tasks or your mind is occupied with other thoughts, it’s easy for some things to slip through the cracks. As you age, those cracks might widen, making it more difficult to hold on to short-term memories.

Fortunately, there are some ways to improve your memory. Reducing stress and ensuring you get enough sleep might help make brain farts less frequent. Making a conscious effort to focus on things you’re prone to forget, like names or directions, might make remembering easier. Keep track of what and when you forget things. If you notice that memory lapses are becoming more frequent, it might be worth talking to your doctor to put your mind at ease.

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Eating A Lot of Sugar Won’t Give You Diabetes

It’s maybe one of the most common health myths: if you eat lots of sweets, you’ll get diabetes. The truth is that sugar does not cause either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that prevents your body from processing sugar properly. Normally, the hormone insulin helps glucose (sugar) move from the blood into cells, where it can be broken down and used as energy. In people with diabetes, the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t respond to it. This allows glucose to accumulate in the blood outside of cells. Very high blood sugar is very dangerous and can even be life-threatening.

If you aren’t already diabetic, your body should be able to process even large amounts of sugar just fine. Although sugar doesn’t directly cause diabetes, that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Eating excessive sugar can, over time, cause inflammation and lead to weight gain, both of which may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Avoiding too much added sugar, especially in sugary drinks, can help you stay healthy and reduce your risk of several chronic diseases, including diabetes.

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Not Every Blemish or Spot Is Skin Cancer

How do you know if a spot on your skin is harmless or a sign of skin cancer? The answer can be tricky because not all skin cancer looks the same. Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of cells on the skin, typically caused by damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Protecting yourself from UV rays by wearing sunscreen year-round reduces skin cancer risk. Moles, bumps, and dark or dry skin patches are often just normal skin features or symptoms of other conditions like psoriasis.

Regular skin tests will help you become familiar with your skin, making spotting any sudden or unusual changes easier. The tell-tell marks of melanoma, the most common and serious type of skin cancer, are A-B-C-D-E. Moles or spots with the following traits are more likely to be cancerous and should be checked by a doctor:

  • Asymmetry: an asymmetric, nonuniform shape
  • Border: an irregular or poorly-defined border
  • Color: more than one color
  • Diameter: larger than a pencil eraser (about 6 mm or 1/4 in)
  • Evolution: has recently changed size, shape, or color

You Won’t Catch Pneumonia Just Because It’s Cold Out

Did your parents tell you to come inside out of the cold or rain because you might catch a cold? If they did, they’re not alone. The belief that cold or wet weather can make you sick is a common old wives’ tale that has some basis in reality. Simply put, you can’t catch a cold or pneumonia from cold weather. Colds and the flu are caused by dozens of different viruses, and pneumonia occurs when a viral infection, like a cold, spreads to the lungs. However, the viruses that cause these infections are most comfortable in cooler temperatures.

That is why people tend to get sick more frequently in winter than in summer. Several studies have found that colder temperatures and humidity increase the risk of contracting a rhinovirus, which causes up to 40 percent of colds. Similarly, the flu viruses spread best in cold, dry weather. But avoiding the cold won’t do much to keep you from getting sick this winter. The best way to avoid these infections is to get a flu shot, wash your hands regularly, limit contact with people who are sick, and avoid touching your face with unclean hands.

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Cracking Your Joint Isn’t How You Get Arthritis

Cracking knuckles is a satisfying, if annoying, habit. But some people also worry that it could cause arthritis. The good news is that’s not the case. Arthritis is caused by inflammation in the joints. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis caused by the wearing away of the cartilage in the joints. No amount of cracking your knuckles or other joints will lead to arthritis. When you crack your knuckles, you create space between the joints. The “cracking” sound comes from gas bubbles popping in the fluid that lubricates the joints.

So, while it might drive people around you crazy, all evidence suggests that knuckle-cracking is harmless. If you hope to avoid arthritis, you should avoid activities that increase your risk of joint overuse and injury. People with joint injuries are at a much higher risk of developing arthritis later in life. Staying active, strengthening the muscles around your joints, and maintaining a healthy weight will also reduce your osteoarthritis risk.


Most Breast Changes Are Not Breast Cancer

Don’t panic at the first sign of changes to your breast. Most minor breast changes are normal and not a sign of cancer. Small changes in breast size are often due to hormones during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause. Small bumps around the areola, the ring of slightly darker skin around the nipple, are glands that lubricate the skin. Even most lumps on the breast are typically not cancerous. In fact, as many as 80 percent of breast lumps are benign. They could be cysts, fat or fluid deposits, or other benign growths.

Still, it’s a good idea always to get lumps checked by a doctor. Everyone’s breasts are different. Becoming familiar with what your healthy breast tissue feels like is the best way to catch potentially worrisome changes early. Performing a self-exam once a month the week before starting your period. You should consult a doctor if you notice a new lump, a change in the size or the appearance of an existing lump, or changes in the nipple size or discharge.


Vaginal Discharge is a Normal and Usually Not Sign of Illness

Discharge is just a normal part of having a healthy vagina. The fluid inside the vagina and cervix clears out dead cells, bacteria, and other stuff you don’t want lingering up there. Vaginal discharge can vary in appearance from person to person. Here’s what different types of vaginal discharge mean:

  • Clear or white discharge: Healthy discharge is typically clear or white. Depending on hormones, discharge can vary in consistency from watery to glue-like.
  • Pink, red, or brown discharge: Discharge in these colors contains blood. Pink discharge is common right before your period or right after sex. Red or brown discharge is common during your period. See a doctor if you’re bleeding between periods, during pregnancy, or after menopause.
  • Yellow or green discharge: Although light yellow discharge can be normal, darker yellow or green discharge may be a sign of an infection. Thick or lumpy consistency and strong odor are other infection symptoms.
  • Grey discharge: A bacterial infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV) is characterized by grey discharge, itching, irritation, and odor.

You can prevent infections and abnormal discharge by practicing good hygiene, avoiding vaginal cleaners or perfumes, and wearing clean, breathable underwear.

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Chocolate Doesn’t Make You Break Out

Acne is caused by a build-up of sebum, an oil your skin naturally produces. Many things may increase your chance of developing acne, including genetics, hormones, stress, skin products with high oil content, high-fat foods, particularly dairy and meat, and certain medicines. Fortunately, chocolate is nowhere on that list. It’s unclear where the myth that eating chocolate causes acne originated, but the claim isn’t backed by science.

Several studies have found no link between chocolate consumption and acne. That’s true for milk chocolate, milk chocolate, and other cocoa products. But there is a catch. There is some evidence that diets that people who eat diets high in refined sugar are more likely to develop acne or experience worsening acne. Of course, that doesn’t mean that sugar definitely causes breakouts. But if you’re trying to avoid a breakout, it’s probably a good idea to cut down on milk and white chocolate, and other sweets with higher sugar content.


Full Fat Food Won’t Make You Fat

The belief that low-fat food products are the key to weight loss may be one of the most enduring diet misconceptions. The truth is that there isn’t evidence that low-fat products will help you lose. In fact, the opposite may be true. It might seem counter-intuitive, but low-fat foods are often not actually healthier than full-fat foods. Full-fat dairy is packed with vital nutrients that may be missing in its low-fat counterparts.

Low-fat products also tend to include added sugar, salt, and other additives needed to make up for the flavor that fat would typically provide. Low-fat and non-fat products can have as much as three times the sugar of regular products. That means that by cutting fat, you may actually be adding more sugar to your diet and losing out on other important nutrients. Additionally, diets that include full-fat dairy products are not associated with weight gain or increased risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.


Radiation From Routine Tests Doesn’t Give You Cancer

Getting any medical test can be scary. Some worry that X-rays, mammograms, and other routine diagnostic tests that use radiation may increase their cancer risk. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells caused by changes or mutations to DNA. Exposure to high doses of radiation results in cancer-causing DNA mutations. However, the amount of radiation required to cause cancer is much, much higher than the tiny amount from a medical test.

Most of the data we have about cancer caused by radiation comes from survivors of massive radiation exposure, like the atomic bombing of Japan or nuclear disasters. It would take dozens of X-rays to increase your cancer risk by even a tiny fraction of a percent. Additionally, the danger of not diagnosing the serious illnesses that these screens look for is much greater than any risks of the tests. If you are concerned about radiation exposure from medical tests, you can ask your doctor about alternatives and keep track of exposures.


You Won’t Catch the Flu From a Flu Shot

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t get the flu from the flu shot. Influenza viruses cause the flu. And the flu shot is made with an influenza virus that has been killed or inactivated so that it can’t possibly cause the disease. Some people think they have the flu after getting the shot because they feel under the weather for a few days. They are experiencing side effects of the vaccine, like a headache or low fever that disappear after a day or two.

By comparison, the flu will make you absolutely miserable for days or weeks. While the flu might not seem like a big deal, it kills around 400,000 people each year and hospitalizes millions. Vaccination reduces your risk of getting the flu and the severity of your illness if you do get sick. Even if you’re not at high risk of getting seriously ill from the flu, chances are that someone you care about is. The flu shot protects you and young children and people who are elderly, pregnant, or immunocompromised people.


Late-Night Snacks Aren’t (Necessarily) Bad For You

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably been told not to eat after 7 or 8 pm. Conventional wisdom says that your metabolism slows at night when you sleep. That means your body won’t be able to burn the calories you eat later at night, causing you to gain weight. The reality is that your body doesn’t process food differently at night than at any other time of day. One monkey study found that eating most of their calories at night had no more effect on their weight than eating earlier in the day.

Studies in humans show that as long as you’re maintaining a healthy diet, a late-night snack is no different than an afternoon snack. It turns out that what you eat is much more important than when you eat. One thing to keep in mind is that people who eat later tend to do so because they are stressed or craving specific food. That can lead to unhealthy snacking. Keeping snacks like fruit, nuts, and air-popped popcorn on hand can help you satisfy your late-night cravings in a healthier way.

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Your Body Doesn’t Need a Detox to Be Healthy

Since the Master Clense diet in the 1940s, people have been trying to detox their way to health. So, I’ll let you in on a secret: your kidney and liver are the only detox system you need. A detox is supposed to remove toxins from your diet and environment from your body, often through methods like fasting, supplements, or “cleanses.” Your kidney’s main purpose is to filter waste and toxins out of your blood and remove it from your body in the form of urine.

Similarly, the liver is your body’s detox organ, breakdown and removing harmful substances from the body, which is then excreted as urine or poop. There is no evidence that additional detoxes do much to remove impurities from the body. Plus, some detoxes that involve extreme diet restriction, unsupervised use of supplements, or bowel cleansing are dangerous and can cause serious side effects.


Weird Poop Doesn’t Mean You Have a Bowel Disease

Your poop can tell you a lot about your overall health. While changes in bowel movements may be cause for concern, healthy poop doesn’t look the same for everyone. So, before you start worrying that your pooping habits may be a sign of bowel diseases, you should know what is and isn’t healthy. Generally, healthy poop will be medium to dark brown in color and relatively firm in texture.

Most people will have at least one bowel movement a day. If you notice a sudden change in the appearance, smell, or frequency of your poop, that may be a sign of a health issue. Most changes in poop are signs of poor diet or temporary gastrointestinal conditions, like food poisoning or a stomach bug. However, you should look out for blood in poop, pale or oily poop, or changes in poop that don’t resolve in a week or two. Diarrhea on its own is not a sign of bowel disease.

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You Won’t Get Sick More Often If You Skip Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a vital nutrient that supports overall health. But vitamin C is not a cure for the common cold. Each year, during cold and flu season, many people load up on vitamin C supplements in the hopes that they will keep them from catching colds. But vitamin C’s track record in preventing or treating colds is less impressive than you might think. One study found that taking vitamin C after catching a cold had no effect whatsoever.

Daily supplements didn’t reduce the risk of getting sick or the number of colds people caught. It only slightly shortened the length of the cold. Basically, if you take 200 mg of vitamin C every day, you might be sick with a cold for about one fewer day each year. So, skipping vitamin C supplements will not leave you vulnerable to illness. If you want to avoid colds, wash your hands with soap and water regularly, keep your distance around people who are sick, and avoid touching your face.


A Fast Heartbeat Doesn’t Always Mean Heart Issues

Anything that affects the health of your heart is going to ring alarm bells. So, a change in heart rate might make you think you’re experiencing a serious heart issue. But the heart is an amazingly adaptive organ that adjusts to our activity, and that’s reflected in our heart rate. Minor physical activity and mild dehydration can make your heart beat faster. Likewise, stress or anxiety can raise your heart rate, as can sleep deprivation. Other things that can get your heart pounding are high temperatures and certain medications.

In these situations, you do not need to worry about a higher heartbeat. However, you should seek medical help if you notice a sudden or unexplained change in your heart rate that doesn’t resolve when you rest or drink water. Additionally, if you have a personal or family history of heart health issues, you might need to monitor changes in your heart rate more closely.


You’re Not Going to Get Breast Cancer from Your Deodorant or Bra

A rumor that pops up occasionally in social media posts is the claim that antiperspirant deodorant and underwire bras increase breast cancer risk. One myth claims that the chemicals in antiperspirant deodorant prevent sweating and also prevent your body from releasing toxins. Over time, these toxins build up in your breast tissue, causing breast cancer. Some variations of the myth claim that shaving before putting on deodorant increases the cancer risk. Scientific studies have found no link between antiperspirants and breast cancer.

Similarly, several large studies have not found a connection between wearing underwire bras and developing breast cancer. The rumor seems to have originated in the 1995 book Dressed to Kill, which leading cancer organizations disputed. The best predictors of breast cancer are age and family history. The best way to prevent breast cancer is to have annual breast cancer screenings and reduce risk factors that you can control, like heavy drinking.


You Won’t Get Ulcers From Stress or Spicy Food

Peptic ulcers are painful sores on the lining of the stomach or small intestines. These ulcers are typically caused by a bacterial infection or certain medications that damage the stomach lining. Despite popular misconceptions, ulcers are not caused by stress or spicy food. Stress can cause or worsen digestive issues but won’t lead to ulcers. Similarly, spicy food may upset your stomach and cause pain, but it won’t burn a hole in your stomach.

Both stress and spicy food can aggravate existing ulcers, which may be where the myth originates. The best way to prevent ulcers is to avoid habits that damage the stomach lining, including the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin. Switching to non-NSAID painkillers may reduce your risk of developing ulcers. Avoiding alcohol and tobacco also lowers ulcer risk.


Where Do We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

The Healthy – 25 Things You Think Cause Cancer But Don’t

Cancer – Disproven or Controversial Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Med Express – 40 Health Myths You Hear Every Day

CNET – 18 health myths that are outdated and wrong

Self – 4 Myths About Detoxing That Are Totally False

Time Magazine – The Truth About Common Digestive Health Fears

Medicine Net – Nine Digestive Disease Myths