Can Roller Coasters Give You a Heart Attack? (and other health myths)

Yo! Sara here. We’re going to take out these overblown urban legends of health faster than a cheese plate. Hang on!

1. Do roller coasters get your heart pumping hard enough for a heart attack?

Yes, but

In a recent study, researchers found that it’s entirely possible for a roller coaster to get your heart pumping over 200 beats a minute. In fact, fully half of us experience irregular heart rhythms after hopping on the thrill ride du jour. And the fastest pumps happen in the big climb to the top. Despite these stats, the incidence of actual heart attacks is incredibly low: in 10 years of millions of coaster rides, there were only 29 deaths, and only 7 of these were because of cardiac events. A preexisting heart condition increases your risk, of course. Translation: the roller coaster of love is probably far more brutal on your heart than any new offering from Six Flags.

(Thanks to editor Emily at Slate for the HT!)

2. Does the full moon really affect our moods?

Lunacy, luna, lunar…you know the drill. But despite hundreds of scientific studies and reviews, no conclusive evidence has ever explained werewolves, which is upsetting.

A few studies have managed to find correlations between the moon and our moods, but we all know that’s not the same thing as causation. The foremost moon guy in the world has written 15 papers, conducted a bevy of experiments, and obsessively pored over some 200 studies. His conclusion: the belief that the moon changes your behavior is a great example of cognitive bias. We simply notice irrational or odd behavior more than other days of the month because the full moon myth is such a powerful piece of lore. The moon’s gravitational pull is extremely weak, so it’s unlikely that it would have any impact upon our collective insanity. We seem to manage that all by ourselves – and quite nicely, too. Well played, humanity, well played!

3. Do schools and fast food restaurants serve lower-grade meat?

While I don’t miss the days of school lunches any more than you do, and I’d sooner eat my Stellas than set foot inside McDonald’s, the meat that’s served by beige-walled organizations everywhere is not Grade D, Grade E, Grade Prisoner or even Grade Attorney. While there’s no doubt that much of the meat served by institutions is cheap and less tasty, there’s just no such thing as a meat grading system. Meat is strictly a pass/fail deal. So any meat being sold is automatically fit for human consumption. However, bear in mind that hot dogs, SPAM, and fecal soup chicken are also considered fit for human consumption. Do you know what we call that, friends?

Not standards, that’s for sure.

Further reading:

The Great Pig Conspiracy

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