Get the facts you need to know to avoid illness, recognize symptoms, and treat common conditions with our medical mythbusters.
Myth: You “know” when you have high blood pressure
When we think of high blood pressure, we picture someone sweating and nervous with a flushed face. However, on its webpage of Blood Pressure Symptoms, The American Heart Association cheekily says: “If you are looking for a list of symptoms and signs of high blood pressure, you won’t find them here.
This is because most of the time, there are none.” According to Dr. Ragvendra Baliga, a cardiologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, high blood pressure (hypertension) is called the “silent killer” because it usually doesn’t cause symptoms until there’s major damage to vital organs. “Uncontrolled hypertension can ultimately lead to serious damage such as stroke, heart failure, and kidney failure, so it is important to detect high blood pressure before it causes damage,” he says. Even if you feel fine, it’s important to see your doctor regularly to get your blood pressure checked.
Myth: No pain is no gain during exercise
Another workout myth is that you have to be feeling pain to see any results—the opposite of the previous myth. But again, this can put you at risk for injury. Pushing yourself is one thing, but “if you feel pain during exercise, you should stop,” Palinski-Wade says. “Some muscle soreness or fatigue can be expected during exercise, but actual pain is a sign that you may be injuring yourself.”
The American College of Sports Medicine says that pain needn’t be present to achieve fitness gains, and if pain occurs, the exercise should be halted before injury occurs. “Working through pain could make an injury far worse and cause you to be sidelined from exercise for a longer period of time,” Palinski-Wade says.
Myth: You should tilt your head back when you get a nosebleed
It’s almost a reflex to tilt your head back or recline to prevent blood from pouring out when you get a nosebleed—but doing so could actually be dangerous. “Do not lie down or tilt the head back, as this will increase risk of choking and swallowing blood,” says Erin Farrell, Nurse Manager, Emergency Services at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Swallowing blood during a nosebleed can also irritate the stomach and cause nausea, according to research. Instead, Farrell advices to blow your nose when bleeding starts, which may increase the flow initially but will clear the nasal passage. Then, “stand or sit while bending forward at the waist, and pinch the soft part of the nose, below the bony portion, on both sides for 10 minutes while leaning forward,” she says. Although most nosebleeds don’t require medical attention, seek care if you have other symptoms like dizziness or headache, or if you can’t breathe, it won’t stop gushing, or you’re on blood thinners.
Myth: You don’t need to take the full course of antibiotics if you’re feeling better
It’s not always pleasant or convenient to take medicine, so once you start feeling better it’s tempting not to finish the full course of treatment. But not doing so could actually lead to you getting sick all over again. “Oftentimes we will begin to feel better before we have completely cleared a bacterial infection,” says James Dewar, MD, vice chairman of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Stopping the antibiotics too soon can allow the infection to rebound, as well as encourage the growth of bacteria that can better resist the antibiotic that was used.” The World Health Organization says research has been done on how long each antibiotic course should be to determine the shortest length possible, so you should follow your doctor’s prescription.