The human body is one of the most complex and advanced things devised by evolution, and yet, we think that we know everything about it. Thanks to misconceptions in the media and old scientific beliefs, many of us still believe a number of ‘facts’ about our own bodies that have little to no basis in science.
While it’s perfectly fine to not know everything about everything, these myths about the human body cause real problems. As an example, a lot of drowning casualties occur because we think drowning involves struggling and splashing around. In reality, drowning victims usually lose consciousness, making it almost impossible for rescue teams to know when someone is drowning in crowded swimming areas. Here are 10 more misconceptions about our bodies and what happens to them…
10. Restarting A Flat-Lined Heart
The belief that the heart can just be shocked back to life after flat-lining on the heart monitor makes for some great cliffhangers. It has been used as a convenient plot device by TV and movie writers for a long time, as it’s an easy way to create suspense in an otherwise boring hospital scene. Thanks to them, quite a few of us still believe that it’s entirely possible to bring a dead heart back to life by shocking it.
While shocking is a real medical technique used to stimulate cardiac activity, the heart should still have some pulse for it to work. Once it’s completely dead – or flat-lined – there’s no way to bring it back to life.
9. Heart Attacks Are Loud
Like drowning, heart attacks are portrayed in movies and TV shows as loud and overt. They’re also usually serious, almost always resulting in a visit to the hospital if not outright death.
Most heart attacks in real life, however, are nothing like that. Any doctor would tell you that it’s fairly common to feel absolutely nothing during a heart attack, as around 45% of all heart attacks are silent. Because of this widespread, inaccurate notion of what someone going through one looks like, many people don’t realize they’re actually having a heart attack and require urgent medical care. It’s another one of those widespread misconceptions about our own bodies that cause problems in real life.
Thankfully, heart attacks aren’t as deadly as the movies make them out to be, either, as about 90% of all victims end up surviving.
8. Sitting Too Close To The TV Can Hurt Your Eyes
We’re often told while growing up that sitting too close to a TV – or any big screen, really – can be detrimental to the long-term health of the eyes in some way. It’s another one of those beliefs passed down the generations – at least since the advent of the television – that we never bothered to confirm.
Scientifically speaking, there’s no evidence to suggest that sitting close to the television can damage the eyes in any way. It may give you a severe headache and eyestrain if you do it for a long time, though there are never serious, long-term problems. Kids that repeatedly sit next to the TV to watch it may need glasses, though, as it could be a sign of near-sightedness.
7. The ‘Sugar Rush’
It’s a widely-held belief that eating a lot of sugar makes kids hyperactive. It’s not uncommon for parents to restrict their child’s sugar intake to avoid that, or even closely monitor their behavior after a heavy round of dessert in case they get too jumpy. Sugar is generally considered to be something that can, if taken in large amounts, make you more hyper and alert – a phenomenon colloquially known as the ‘sugar rush’.
If we look at the science behind it, though, there’s no evidence to suggest a relationship between sugar and hyperactivity among children – or anyone else, for that matter. We’re not saying that eating a lot of sugar has no harmful effects, by any means; just that according to science, hyperactivity is not one of them.
6. Tilt Your Head Back To Stop A Nosebleed
Nosebleeds are fairly common and aren’t usually a sign of something serious. (Usually.) Despite how often they occur, though, most of us have a completely inaccurate idea of what to do to stop them.
You’d often see people tilting their head back in case of a nosebleed, possibly working on the assumption that if you send the blood back where it came from, it may just stay there.
In reality, tilting your head back doesn’t just not do anything to stop a bleeding nose, it may cause the blood to enter the throat and result in choking, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The best way to stop a nosebleed is to just sit straight and gently pinch the nostrils for about 5-10 minutes.
5. Chewing Gum Stays In The System For Seven Years
Almost everyone has grown up thinking that chewing gum is essentially indigestible, and if you swallow a piece, it can stay in the system for seven years. While it definitely helps keep the kids away from doing so – as swallowing it could be harmful in many other ways – there’s no evidence to suggest that it can stay in the system for even seven days, let alone seven years.
The digestive system is capable of digesting almost all of the ingredients found in gum within one day, except the chewy base. At its worst, that may take a few more days to digest, though that’s nowhere as long as seven years.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that swallowing gum is completely harmless, as it could still cause intestinal blockages in large amounts – especially among children.
4. Drink Eight Glasses Of Water Per Day
Quite a few of you may have heard of the 8×8 rule – drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water everyday to stay healthy. We know that drinking water is good, and eight glasses does sound like the correct number of glasses of water per day. It may even be a great goal to set for yourself in case you’re not drinking enough water.
According to scientists, however, there’s no reason to believe that there’s a certain amount of water you need to drink every day. In fact, you don’t need to drink water unless your body’s inbuilt trigger demands it, as it’s pretty good at calculating the most optimum time to get hydrated. Studies have shown that drinking water exactly when the body demands it can even maximize endurance performance.
Moreover, all the food we eat throughout the day – including beverages other than water – have a fair amount of water, too. The best advice, really, is to drink water whenever you’re thirsty.
3. The Tongue Is Divided Into Different Taste Zones
You may have heard different versions of it depending on where you grew up, though almost everyone learned that the tongue has different taste zones in school. You may even remember the color-coded diagram, with the tongue divided into the various taste zones with neat, straight lines.
That’s despite the fact that there’s no scientific reason to believe it’s true. It’s actually one of those myths that could be easily disproved – just eat some salt and see if any part of the tongue is unable to taste it.
The origins of this myth may be traced back to a dissertation written by a German scientist, David Pauli Hänig, in 1901. His study suggested that the taste buds of the tongue vary in sensitivity in its different regions, and it’s possible that some regions may be better at tasting specific flavors than others. His diagrams, however, were widely misunderstood to mean that the tongue can only taste certain flavors in certain places.
2. The Brain Can Be Trained
The belief that you can improve the brain’s abilities by training isn’t new. Crossword puzzles, as one example, are traditionally thought to be a great exercise for improving memory. Today, games that claim to sharpen your brain make up a multi-billion dollar industry, often claiming long-term benefits, scientific backing and quick results in their ads.
Is it possible to train the brain like muscles, though? While it sounds intuitive that spending time on a game that, say, challenges your cognitive abilities would improve your overall cognitive strength, there’s no scientific evidence to back it up. On the contrary, multiple studies done on online brain games prove that they do nothing to improve the brain in any way. The whole idea that you can ‘exercise’ the brain by repeatedly doing certain tasks is a relic of ancient times, when we didn’t understand it well enough to know that it’s totally different from other parts of the body that can truly be exercised.
1. Make Up For Lost Sleep Over The Weekend
It’s a common belief that it’s perfectly fine to eat into your sleeping hours during the work week, as long as you sleep in and make up for them over the weekend. It works on the intuitive assumption that sleep is something you can just add or subtract from its overall reserve. According to science, though, that’s not how it works at all.
While it’s true that you can make up for lost sleep, it only works to an extent. Sure, if you didn’t sleep for two hours, a two-hour nap at work would make up for it, though it doesn’t work for longer hours. Moreover, consistently under-sleeping for multiple days causes health issues like distorted metabolism and weight gain, and no amount of sleeping in over the weekend could make up for that.