03/21/2014 07:03 am ET Updated Mar 21, 2014

5 Health Myths Boomers Can Ignore

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We hear so much noise nowadays on health issues, it can be difficult to tune out the hype and tune into the good stuff. From the perils of plucking out those telltale gray hairs, to how much water we should drink, to the new fad diet which really works, we've heard it all.

Here's the scoop on those health myths we've heard to much about:

  • Exercise will worsen joint pain
    When you've got aches and pains, the last thing you're probably inclined to do is to gear up and hit the gym. But as the saying goes, a body in motion really does stay in motion. Avoid the gym and you could experience increased joint pain and stiffness. Exercise can actually help maintain muscle function and ease the aches and fatigue that accompany arthritis. A 2011 study found no detrimental health affects in people with rheumatoid arthritis from their specially-designed exercise plan. In fact, the study recommended all arthritis sufferers should engage in some combination of cardio and strength training for maximum benefits. The Centers for Disease Control actually recommends muscle-building and strengthening activities for people with arthritis pain. Exercise won't only ease the pain, it will also help keep you mobile and independent. You don't necessarily have to be doing vigorous activity to reap the benefits. Try using resistance bands, and focus on exercise that helps with your balance and flexibility.
  • You need much less sleep as you get older.
    Early to bed and early to rise may be a good thing, but not getting enough sleep is utterly bad for you. Unfortunately, as you age, you don't fall asleep or stay asleep as easily as you used to. According to the National Institutes of Health, older adults need just as much sleep as younger adults -- seven to nine hours. The problem is older adults don't get as much REM sleep, the deeply restorative sleep, as younger people. Anyone who has tried to wake up a sleeping teenager knows what this is. In addition, increased aches and pains or getting up to use the bathroom during the night can mean more interruptions and less sleep overall. But that doesn't mean you need much less. The NIH estimates you might need just 30-60 minutes less than younger people. But some experts say you need just as much. Sleep and memory researcher Sean Drummond told The Telegraph that the notion that older people need less sleep is purely a myth. Drummond said that not getting enough sleep due to disturbances could mean an increased chance of cognitive decline among older adults. "People think that they can survive on less sleep but cognitive tests say otherwise. Seven to eight hours seems to be the optimal for longevity... getting older adults to get back to the sleep they had when they were younger could be very useful in reducing cognitive decline," he said.
  • Forgetfulness + old age = Alzheimer's
    It's not that simple. Forgetting an errand or where you parked your car doesn't necessarily mean the worst. According to the NIH, some forgetfulness can be attributed to getting older. It's normal to take a little longer to learn new things or occasionally misplace things. The difference between normal forgetfulness and signs of dementia is that natural age-related forgetfulness doesn't progressively worsen or seriously impede your life. It's when forgetfulness causes you to repeatedly ask the same question, become disoriented in a familiar place, or neglect your safety and well-being, that you should begin considering if you or a loved one needs to see a doctor. If you're noticing any of these symptoms, don't wait to see a doctor. Since there's no cure for Alzheimer's, early diagnosis is key in extending your independence and getting maximum benefits from treatments.
  • Cracking your knuckles causes arthritis
    Whether it's something you do when you're stressed or just too darn fun to pass up, cracking your knuckles is a common habit. Medical experts say, generally speaking, there's no strong evidence to suggest that popping or cracking your knuckles actually leads to arthritis. What happens when you crack your knuckles is you pull gas into your joints. It takes about 30 minutes for the gas to dissipate. Doctors say the action shouldn't cause arthritis, because it doesn't create serious cartilage damage. It could, however, cause joint instability and create problems like loss of strength or grip function in the hands.
  • The older you get, the less sex you should be having
    Sex is not only for the young. If you're wondering what's considered "normal" for sexual activity after a certain age, you might be surprised. While studies suggest older people might be having a little less sex because of medical problems or even losing their significant other, it doesn't mean they desire it any less. In fact, it can be just as important to your well-being and happiness. A 2011 study found that older married couples who regularly had sex were more likely to report satisfaction with their marriages, but with their lives in general. Another study found that seniors are sexing it up more often than you might think. nearly 75 percent of people between ages 57 to 64 reported being sexually active and more than half of those between ages 64 to 75 reported being active. What's more is that many who reported being active said they were having sex two to three times a month or more. Hormonal changes can affect both men's and women's libidos, but there are many ways you can boost your desire. Exercise not only helps with your physical agility but also will help with self confidence, which can often impede your sex life later in life. There are also libido-boosting foods, little blue pills, and most importantly, improving communication with your partner.


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