When it comes to health, good advice abounds. But there are also lots of misconceptions, silly old wives' tales, and even dangerous ideas about everything from UV exposure to treating a common cold. Which suggestions should you follow, and which ones should you kick to the curb? Follow our guide to discover the best and worst health tips of all time.

5 Best Health Tips

These classic pieces of advice can reduce your disease risk, boost your health, and even increase your life span.

  1. Eat your breakfast. A 2005 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who ate breakfast every day were less likely to become overweight or obese than those who skipped it. What's more, the women who ate breakfast had significantly lower total and LDL cholesterol levels, as well as better insulin response to eating, which suggests a lower diabetes risk.
  2. Just do it. Physical activity offers a host of benefits, from maintaining an optimal weight to preventing heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. In addition, fitness can boost your mental health: A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine demonstrated that as little as 20 minutes of exercise a week can make a big difference.
  3. Make friends. According to an Australian study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, elderly people who have a strong network of friends and acquaintances are likely to live longer than those who have fewer friends. The researchers believe that friendships encourage people to look after their health and help to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
  4. Read a book. Some research suggests that Alzheimer's disease is less common in college graduates, and scientists believe it's because higher education encourages people to read. As they explain, activities like reading and solving crossword puzzles stimulate the regeneration of nerve endings in the brain.
  5. Look on the bright side. According to a 2002 study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, optimistic people are 50 percent less likely to experience early death than pessimists. According to the researchers, those with a positive outlook are generally less stressed, are better equipped to deal with adversity, and have lower blood pressure.

5 Worst Health Tips

At best, these common suggestions are ineffective; in some cases, they may even be dangerous.

  1. Get a healthy tan. We've all heard the expression "healthy tan," but according to dermatologists, UV exposure is anything but healthy. In fact, any amount of suntanning represents skin damage on the cellular level and, over time, could result in premature aging or even cancerous tumors. Instead, experts recommend avoiding UV exposure completely during high-intensity hours, wearing protective clothing, and if you must expose your skin to the sun, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
  2. Put butter on a burn. Not only does butter hold heat in (exactly the opposite of what you want to achieve when you have a burn); it could cause infection by exposing your body to foreign proteins. If you've suffered a burn and your skin is numb, blistering, or white, you may have the second- or third-degree type, in which case it's important to seek medical attention immediately. If your skin is red but still feels normal, chances are, you have a first-degree burn; in this case, run cold water on the affected area for about 10 minutes, then apply an over-the-counter antibiotic.
  3. Don't read in the dark. It might not be the easiest way to read and could cause your eyes to feel tired, but there's no scientific evidence that reading in dim light can damage your vision. The same rule applies to other vision-related myths, such as sitting too close to the TV and looking at the computer for too long. As experts explain, there are very few ways in which overuse can hurt your eyesight. One notable exception is staring at the sun, which can cause serious damage to your cornea, lens, and retina.
  4. Stop pulling out gray hairs. Contrary to popular belief, pulling out one gray hair won't cause two more to grow in its place. Instead, the original strand will simply be replaced by a single gray hair, so pulling them out won't speed (or slow) the process. Along these lines, a shocking event can't cause you to go gray overnight-or any more quickly than you naturally would.
  5. Feed a cold, starve a fever. According to experts, this old adage doesn't hold much scientific weight. Although it's always important to get your nutrients, feeding yourself won't make a virus run its course faster, and starving yourself is never a good idea, especially when you're sick. If you have a cold or a fever, the best plan of action is to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and if your symptoms don't improve, seek medical attention.