Health Class for Guys Over 50: Here's What's Changed
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What your high school health teacher got completely wrong

American actor and educator John Burstein, in costume as his fictional character, 'Slim Goodbody'
Getty Images

Who can forget high school health class? The comforting sound of the TV cart being wheeled in and the heavy clunk of the “Our Changing Bodies” tape being shoved into the VCR. It was a wild time. Some of the fundamentals we learned still hold up: Practice safe sex, exercise regularly, and say no to most drugs. But a good chunk of the health class curriculum can be tossed out with your parachute pants and wraparound shades. 

It’s time for a skeptical look at the lessons of health class. 

Eat Your Vitamins.

Hulk Hogan told us to eat our vitamins. But he also turned his back on Macho Man Randy Savage, which completely nullifies his advice. That, and research studies have found that too many supplemental vitamins can increase the risk of prostate cancer, do nothing to help heart disease and can result in fatal overdose if taken too liberally. 

Alcohol kills brain cells.    

Thus burped the health teacher with the crumpled up Schlitz cans in the backseat of his Pinto. Science begs to differ. Heavy drinking can absolutely lead to damage in the brain, liver and other important bodily systems. But not because alcohol kills cells, at least according to one study. Other research indicates that too much booze can disrupt or temporarily stunt the connection between neurons, but it won’t vaporize them completely. Even in severe cases, most cognitive damage caused by alcohol can be reversed or improved after about a year on the wagon.

Stress causes high blood pressure.

Sure, a fight with your spouse or a close ball game might cause your blood pressure to spike, but there’s no proof that stress causes long-term high blood pressure.

Our collective blood pressure has dropped since the ’80s, yet chronic stress has continued to increase steadily. As of 2020, stress was declared part of a legitimate national mental health crisis. The real impact of heightened stress isn’t on your heart; it’s on your lifestyle. Stress causes us to adopt unhealthy habits such as poor diet, laziness and alcohol abuse, all of which can contribute to unsafe high blood pressure in the long term.     

Sugar makes you hyperactive. 

The notion that sugar causes hyperactivity was popularized due to a single study done in the ’70s in which sugar was removed from one child’s diet and he became less of a brat. 

Since then, a dozen more studies have been done, all of which have proved there’s no link between sugar and hyperactivity. Some say moderate servings of sugar can actually have a calming effect, thanks to the release of serotonin.

If you can move it, it’s not broken.

If your high school health teacher was also your coach, chances are you got told to rub some dirt on most injuries and quit being a wuss. But if you think of your body’s architecture like that of a house — bones are the beams, and tissues, ligaments, tendons, muscles and even skin are the framing that holds everything together — you’ll understand how it can still function with a few loose nails and splintered boards. It’s best to err on the side of caution considering the potential risks of undiagnosed and properly treated breaks. So get to the ER, wuss.

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