You know you can’t rely on that friend who always cancels plans at the last minute. You also know you’re probably better off filling your gas tank before it’s on “E” instead of trusting the accuracy of your gas gauge. In fact, after a lifetime of trial and error, all of us have learned that it’s sometimes safer to be less trusting.
Still, it’s not good to always be looking for problems. Research has linked certain personality traits—including distrust—to a higher risk of heart problems. The key, then, lies in knowing what to trust…or figuring out a way to work around things you know you can’t. Here’s some help doing just that.
Don’t trust: The numbers on your scale
You step on your scale after getting home from the doctor’s office, and the readout doesn’t match what the nurse wrote on your chart. The scale at your gym gives you another reading. And the one at your weight-loss group offers yet another.
Trust this: To test your scale at home, take a dumbbell that’s 10 pounds or heavier, and center it on the scale. Figure out how much the scale is “off” so you can calculate your actual weight. Or don’t worry about the exact number—just use the number as a guide. Weigh yourself once every morning, and see if it’s the same as yesterday. If the number goes up by more than 2 pounds, adjust your diet and exercise program to get back on track.
Don’t trust: Calorie-burn readouts on exercise machines
The number of calories you burn during an activity depends upon factors you can’t input into an exercise machine’s computer, such as what percent of your body weight is muscle. One study found that these machines may overestimate calories burned by 10 to 30%.
Trust this: Focus on the machine’s time and distance readouts. Both are usually fairly accurate, since one is just a measure of time and the other is calculated based upon how many times the treadmill or bike wheels cycle around. Write down your workout minutes and mileage each day. Try to go a little farther in the same number of minutes each week—or exercise for a few more minutes at the same pace. Either way, you’ll know you’re improving.
Don’t trust: E-mails from coworkers
Two recent studies looked at how honest people are when they e-mail, compared with when they write a letter using pen and paper. The findings: E-mail makes it easier for people to lie. In fact, in one study, e-mailers lied over 92% of the time, while those using the pen were untruthful less than half of the time.
Trust this: Face-to-face talks about important issues may be more reliable, since you can pick up on nonverbal cues. Also, you’ll be less likely to misinterpret what someone is saying—a definite problem for people who e-mail. If getting together isn’t possible, ask your coworker to send you a handwritten note through the mail. Experts say that people may feel that statements written in ink carry more legal weight than those typed on a computer.
Don’t trust: Feeling a forehead to check for fever
In a recent study, when moms felt their child’s forehead, abdomen, and neck to check for a fever, they didn’t usually “miss” a fever—but they sometimes thought the child had one when he didn’t. (Doctors who used the touch-test had the same problem.)
Trust this: You can feel the forehead first, but follow up with a thermometer. If your child is age 4 or older, use a digital thermometer held under the tongue. (Ear thermometers can give inaccurate readings if they’re not positioned right or if there’s earwax in the way.) If your child just ate or drank something hot or cold, wait 15 minutes before taking his temperature by mouth. For instructions on taking a younger child’s temperature, talk with your pediatrician. Also ask how high the temperature should be before you call their office for help.
Don’t trust: When someone who’s ill says, “I’ll be fine!”
You’re at a get-together and someone complains of shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats. They say they just need to sit down. Don’t trust it: These are just a few of the sneaky symptoms of a heart attack.
Trust this: Not all heart attacks look like the ones in the movies. Most heart attacks begin with mild pain or discomfort—often in the center of the chest—and worsen slowly. But some heart attacks cause discomfort or pain in one or both arms and/or the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. Women are more likely than men to experience these less “classic” symptoms.
When in doubt, call 9-1-1 within 5 minutes. If a heart attack is occurring, the person can receive help up to an hour before they would if they were driven to the hospital by car. To learn the warning signs of stroke and cardiac arrest, too, visit the American Heart Association Web site at americanheart.org.