When 56-year-old Tim Dahl, a luxury real estate broker in Santa Barbara, Calif., had a heart attack last week, Facebook friends were quick to send him well wishes. But a few also sent him something else as well -- seriously bad Internet advice.
Dahl, who was discharged with a "ton of meds" and had two stents put in, is a tech-savvy guy. He understood that spreading the word over social media about his totally unexpected heart attack was a great way to let his many friends know what was going on. Plus, since he was doing his own posting -- from the ICU no less -- there was a certain unspoken reassurance of "I'm going to be OK."
But chances are he might not have been OK had he listened to some of the advice friends gave him -- well-meaning, of course, but culled from things circulating online. Here's the reality that everyone knows but sometimes forgets: Not everything you read online is correct and you can't measure accuracy by the number of shares or likes it gets. That's been proven over and over again.
In Dahl's case, the message that caught our eye was this one (excerpted here), which was sent to him at least twice and had more than 33,000 shares at the point we saw it:
HEART ATTACKS AND WATER !
How many folks do you know who say they don't want to drink anything before going to bed because they'll have to get up during the night.
. . . .
Very Important. From A Cardiac Specialist!
Drinking water at a certain time maximizes its effectiveness on the body
2 glasses of water after waking up - helps activate internal organs
1 glass of water 30 minutes before a meal - helps digestion
1 glass of water before taking a bath - helps lower blood pressure
1 glass of water before going to bed - avoids stroke or heart attack
Dr. Virend Somers is a cardiologist from the Mayo Clinic, who is lead author of the report in the July 29, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Most heart attacks occur in the day, generally between 6 a.m. and noon. Having one during the night, when the heart should be most at rest, means that something unusual happened. Somers and his colleagues have been working for a decade to show that sleep apnea is to blame.
1. If you take an aspirin or a baby aspirin once a day, take it at night.
The reason: Aspirin has a 24-hour "half-life;" therefore, if most heart attacks happen in the wee hours of the morning, the aspirin would be strongest in your system.
2. FYI, aspirin lasts a really long time in your medicine chest, for years, (when it gets old, it smells like vinegar).
. . .
The Mayo Clinic, on behalf of Dr. Somers, debunked the circulating email in 2010 -- yet obviously it persists and enjoys a strong afterlife. The Mayo Clinic wrote: "Neither Dr. Somers nor Mayo Clinic contributed to this email, which contains some information that is inaccurate and potentially harmful. We recommend that you speak with your physician if you have specific questions."
As for Dahl, he reports that he is feeling better now that he is home. He says the heart attack caught him by surprise because "I thought I was in pretty good shape." He rides his bike four times a week, going 5 to 9 miles three of those days and 17 miles on the fourth.
He was in his Las Vegas home on Monday when he awoke with chest pain. He called his wife at work and told her about it. "She called 911 and stayed on the phone with me until the paramedics arrived," he said. The first responders arrived quickly and the hospital readied the operating room. "Little did I realize that at that moment [he arrived at the hospital] I had less than 2 minutes to survive," he told The Huffington Post in a FB message.
He considers it amazing that his wife actually answered the phone when he called and doesn't like to think what might have happened if she hadn't. The other amazing thing was the outpouring of love and support he got on Facebook. "I received messages from people literally around the world," he said. "I haven't met many of them, but [have] gotten to know them from FB comments."
He adds, "I know it sounds crazy, but [getting all the FB comments] was very nice and made the recovery so much easier. I'm so grateful for that love and support."
And how does he feel about the misinformation that well-wishers inadvertently spread? "I'll leave that for you to comment on," Dahl said.