Top 10 Googled Health Questions (With Proper Answers)

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December 30, 2019

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According to the top health-related questions asked on Google, people in 2019 were most curious about lowering blood pressure, learning about the keto diet, and getting rid of the hiccups.

That’s just a few of the millions of searches that Internet users asked “Dr. Google” — the name given the dominant search engine as more Americans seek answers to questions they should be asking their doctor. About 1 percent of all searches on Google — representing tens of millions of inquiries a day — are symptom-related.

“Most of the information online is not complete, and relying too much on this information is what drives cyberchondria,” said David Mishkin, M.D., medical director for Baptist Health’s Care On Demand, a platform that provides patients with immediate online access to a Board-certified doctor via an app.  

Cyberchondria is a hybrid term that combines “cyberspace” with hypochondria, which refers to people who are abnormally anxious about their health.

“That is why I always encourage patients to consult with a physician first before making an incorrect self-diagnosis that can only lead to unwarranted anxiety and stress,” adds Dr. Mishkin.

Here are the top health-related questions submitted to Google over the past year (with the proper answers):

1. How to lower blood pressure?

Obviously, your primary care physician should discuss with you the ways you can lower your blood pressure, including possible medication and lifestyle modifications that cover healthier eating and regular exercise. The result of lifestyle modifications can lead to fewer or no medications for those with hypertension (high blood pressure) or those who have elevated blood pressure readings and are “pre-hypertensive.” The category of high blood pressure, which was updated in 2017, is now 130/80, down from 140/90. This stricter standard, the first major change in blood pressure guidelines in 14 years, means that nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure. The biggest culprit in the American diet when it comes to high blood pressure is sodium, the most common form of which is table salt. Learn more.

2. What is Keto?

Keto refers to ketogenic or ketosis, a metabolic state in which stored fat is broken down to produce energy. Studies have shown that keto diets can produce short-term weight loss. However, a true ketogenic diet, which is high in fatty foods, should be medically supervised and comes with potentially serious risks for some people, including those with high cholesterol, diabetes or pre-diabetes or other underlying conditions. If you’re looking to lose weight and keep it off, Keto is just another fad diet about which there hasn’t been much long-term research. For adults, U.S. dietary guidelines call for keeping saturated fat consumption to less than 10 percent of calories per day. In general, foods that are higher in dietary cholesterol, such as fatty meats and high-fat dairy products, are also higher in saturated fats. Learn more.

3. How to get rid of hiccups?

At one time or another, everyone gets hiccups, which is when your diaphragm begins to spasm involuntarily. The diaphragm is a large muscle that helps with breathing in and out. When the spasms occur, a person inhales suddenly and their vocal cords snap shut, which leads to the distinctive “hiccup” sound. Common causes: eating too much or too quickly, carbonated drinks, and being stressed or emotionally excited. Holding one’s breath is the best known way of getting rid of the hiccups. Just inhale a large gulp of air and hold it for about 10 to 20 seconds, then breathe out slowly. Repeat as necessary. Slow and measured breathing for a couple of minutes can also do the trick. If hiccups persist for hours, either continuously or sporadically, seek medical attention. Hiccups are normally harmless and last for a few seconds or minutes.

4. How long does the flu last?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults typically develop flu symptoms one to four days after becoming infected with the influenza virus. Most people get better after about three to seven days, though some symptoms like coughing and fatigue can persist for two weeks or more. Overall, the recovery-time range for most people is a few days to less than two weeks.

5. What causes hiccups?

The precise cause of hiccups is often not known. However, there are some known triggers that can cause them, including spicy foods, hot liquids, any disease or illness that irritates the nerves that control the diaphragm. Other possible causes: eating too quickly, certain medications, breathing noxious fumes, and eating or drinking too much. Sometimes, serious underlying health conditions can trigger hiccups, including strokes, brain lesions, tumors, intestinal diseases, and liver or kidney disorders. Seek medical attention if you have persistent or chronic hiccups.

6. What causes kidney stones?

When there isn’t enough water to dilute the uric acid, a component of urine, the urine becomes more acidic. And this can lead to the formation of kidney stones. A leading cause of kidney stones, regardless of type, is dehydration. Anyone who is prone to kidney stones should pay attention to good hydration. The American Urological Association guideline for medical management of kidney stones recommends that patients who form kidney stones should aim to drink more than 2.5 liters of fluid per day.

7. What is HPV?

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common virus that can lead to several types of cancers later in life. You can protect your child from ever developing these cancers with the HPV vaccine at ages 11-12, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An estimated 80 million people — about one in four — are currently infected in the United States with HPV. Young adults up to age 26 can be vaccinated as well; three doses are recommended for people 15 and older, according to the CDC. Overall, HPV cancers include cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. HPV infection can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils. HPV is spread through sexual contact with someone who carries the virus.

8. How to lower cholesterol?

Cholesterol circulates in the blood and can mix with other substances to form a thick, hard deposit on the inside of the arteries. This can narrow the arteries, causing a condition known as atherosclerosis. Nearly one of every three U.S. adults have high levels of “low-density lipoprotein cholesterol” (LDL-C), which is considered the bad cholesterol because it contributes to fatty plaque buildups and narrowing of the arteries. To lower your cholesterol, eat a heart-healthy diet and get a minimum of 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. You should also take any prescribed medication exactly as your doctor has instructed.

9. How many calories should I eat a day?

Generally, U.S. dietary guidelines say adult women need 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day, and adult men about 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day. However, the total number of calories a person needs each day varies depending on a number of factors, including the person’s age, sex, height, weight, and level of physical activity. Consult with a physician if you are overweight to determine a course of action, which would likely include modifications to daily nutritional habits and a regular exercise program. However, there may be underlying health conditions that may need additional treatment, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar. Within each age and sex category, the low end of the range is for sedentary individuals, while the high end of the range applies to active individuals.

10. How long does alcohol stay in your system?

Alcohol is metabolized at a standard rate, but not everyone feel the same effects from alcohol and the amount of time alcohol stays in the system can vary by body type, age, gender and other factors. That’s mostly because blood alcohol concentrations can vary among people and situations. Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) refers to the amount of alcohol in your blood in relation to the amount of water in your blood. Several factors can affect BAC and how you react to alcohol, including: your age and weight; drinking alcohol on an empty stomach, medications being taken; and if you have chronic liver disease. Also, drinking several drinks in a short period of time, which is also known as binge drinking, can have serious health implications. The CDC says that excessive alcohol use, including underage drinking and binge drinking (drinking 5 or more drinks on an occasion for men or 4 or more drinks on an occasion for women), can lead to increased risk of health problems such as injuries, violence, liver diseases, and cancer.