Google search: medical scares answered by health experts

Google is revealing which conditions people were most curious about in 2024.

The search engine giant has released its annual “Year in Search,” which breaks down the top queries for everything from news and entertainment to health and medical maladies.

Here are the top 10 health-related questions of 2023 — along with experts’ responses to each, Fox Newsreports.

1. ‘How long is strep contagious?’

Cases of strep throat, an infection in the throat and tonsils caused by the bacteria group A Streptococcus, spiked in 2023.

In February of this year, the number of cases was 30% higher than the same time in 2017, according to CDC data.

The length of time that strep is contagious depends on whether the person is taking antibiotics, noted Dr Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor.

“If you are taking them, you will likely no longer be contagious in one to two days,” he told Fox News Digital.

“If you are not taking antibiotics (or if the diagnosis is missed), then you can be contagious for weeks,” he said.

2. ‘How contagious is strep throat?’

Strep throat is “very contagious,” Dr Siegel noted — especially at the beginning of the infection.

“It is spread easily by secretions and droplets,” he said.

“It can also spread through the air with sneezing or coughing.”

The bacteria can be spread via respiratory droplets while talking, coughing or sneezing, according to the CDC website.

People can also contract the bacteria by sharing drinking glasses or food with an infected person.

Infected sores on the skin are another potential source of spread, per the CDC.

3. ‘How can I lower cholesterol?’

Nearly two out of every five adults in the U.S. have high cholesterol, which is 200 md/dL (milligrams per deciliter) or greater.

When cholesterol builds up in the walls of the arteries, the risk of heart disease and stroke is elevated.

While genetics has some impact on cholesterol levels, poor dietary choices coupled with a sedentary lifestyle can cause a spike, warned Dr. Brett Osborn, a Florida-based neurologist and longevity expert.

To reduce cholesterol, he suggested eating a low glycemic index, anti-inflammatory diet, plus exercising four to five times per week.

“I recommend a regimen consisting of anti-inflammatory fats such as olive oil, flax seed oil, avocado and nuts, leafy vegetables and beans, and protein from chicken, turkey, fish and eggs (limit of four whole eggs daily),” Dr Osborn told Fox News Digital.

For exercise, he said he recommends strength training three days per week. At least two days a week, he recommends doing cardio at 70% of your calculated maximum heart rate (estimated as 220 – age).

“The upshot? A leaner, more muscular body with lower cholesterol and an overall better blood work,” Dr Osborn said.

“That’s where health lies — in your biochemistry.”

4. ‘What helps with bloating?’

Bloating is commonly viewed as a “minor and tolerable gastrointestinal issue,” noted Melanie Avalon, an Atlanta-based health influencer, entrepreneur and host of The Intermittent Fasting Podcast and The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast.

In some cases, however, addressing the source of the bloating can also enhance overall health.

“Foods rich in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAPs) can be hard to digest for some, and adopting a low FODMAP diet often helps alleviate bloating,” Ms Avalon told Fox News Digital.

Examples of high FODMAP foods are beans, lentils, wheat, and various fruits and vegetables.

Supplementing with digestive enzymes, such as betaine HCl, can also help reduce bloating, according to Ms Avalon.

An imbalance in gut bacteria can also lead to bloating, as the microbiome produces gaseous by-products like hydrogen and methane, she said.

In addition to what people eat, the way they eat can also contribute to bloating, she noted.

“Eating too fast, not chewing thoroughly, having large meals and drinking carbonated drinks can result in swallowing excess air, leading to bloating,” Ms Avalon said.

Instead, she said that “taking the time to enjoy meals, avoiding multi-tasking and starting with a moment of prayer or gratitude can help set a peaceful tone, aiding digestion.”

Bloating might also indicate food intolerances or allergies, such as lactose intolerance or coeliac disease, as well as stress or hormonal fluctuations, she indicated.

“Tackling bloating usually requires a comprehensive approach, encompassing dietary adjustments, potential probiotic supplementation, stress management and medical treatment for underlying conditions if needed,” said Ms Avalon.

“By actively addressing what may seem like a minor issue of bloating, many individuals can significantly improve their overall health.”

5. ‘What causes low blood pressure?’

Someone with low blood pressure has a reading lower than 90 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) for the top number (systolic) or 60mm Hg for the bottom number (diastolic), according to Mayo Clinic.

Low blood pressure can cause dizziness and increase the risk of falls, Dr Osborn warned.

“Outside of a primary cardiac issue, the most common reasons for low blood pressure are dehydration coupled with overmedication,” the doctor told Fox News Digital.

To prevent this, he said it’s essential to stay well-hydrated with electrolyte-laden beverages.

For those who are on medication to control hypertension, Dr Osborn recommended checking blood pressure several times during the week to ensure that the levels aren’t too low.

“If your blood pressure is

Endurance athletes or lifelong trainees may normally have low blood pressure, Dr Osborn added.

“If you are not dizzy, lightheaded, diaphoretic (sweaty) or tachycardic (pulse > 100), it is likely that your system has long accommodated to the lower pressures, and there is no cause for concern,” he said.

“Acute changes in blood pressure — with the above symptoms — are potentially problematic and should be discussed with your physician,” he also said.

6. ‘What causes warts?’

Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which leads to an overgrowth of keratin in the skin’s top layer, Ms Avalon said.

“This results in various types of warts, including common warts on the hands and fingers, plantar warts on the feet, flat warts on the arms or face, and genital warts,” she told Fox News Digital.

Warts are transmitted through contact, especially on broken or damaged skin.

It can take weeks or months for the warts to appear after initial exposure.

“Although most warts are harmless, an individual’s immune system can influence their severity,” said Ms Avalon.

Treatments for warts range from topical salicylic acid and cryotherapy to laser treatment and immune system support, among other methods.

7. ‘Why do I feel nauseous?’

Nausea is the result of interactions among the central nervous system, the gastrointestinal system and the vestibular apparatus in the inner ear, according to Ms Avalon.

“Disturbances in any of these systems can result in nausea, underscoring its importance as a marker of bodily imbalances or disorders,” she told Fox News Digital.

Some of the most common causes of nausea include alcohol consumption, pregnancy, motion sickness or gastrointestinal distress, but Ms Avalon pointed out that there could be many different underlying triggers.

“Nausea can appear suddenly, triggered by factors such as eating or environmental shifts,” she said.

“Chronic nausea, on the other hand, may point to deeper health issues, like hormonal imbalances, gastrointestinal disorders or ongoing stress.”

Nausea can also be caused by neurological issues or emotional distress, the expert added.

“Regardless of the circumstances, nausea indicates that something is amiss in the body, serving as a valuable signal pointing to deeper physical or mental health issues that need addressing for optimal health and well-being,” said Ms Avalon.

8. ‘What causes pre-eclampsia?’

Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication marked by high blood pressure and elevated protein in urine, which can be a warning sign of kidney damage, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

Swelling of the face and hands is another common indicator.

Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, reduced blood platelets, severe headaches, increased liver enzymes, vision disturbances, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

The primary cause of pre-eclampsia stems from the placenta, Mayo Clinic states.

In a normal, healthy pregnancy, blood vessels are created to provide the nutrients and oxygen the placenta needs.

When those blood vessels don’t develop or function correctly, it can impair the flow of blood to the placenta — which can cause blood pressure to rise.

9. ‘How do I stop snoring?’

An estimated 45% of adults snore occasionally, while a quarter of adults do so on a regular basis, according to Johns Hopkins.

At a minimum, snoring can disrupt sleep or annoy partners — but for some people, it can signal a serious health issue.

This common issue can affect sleep quality and lead to frequent sleep disruptions — but in some cases, it can be a sign of a serious health issue.

If snoring is accompanied by pauses in breathing, gasping for air or choking sounds, it could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnoea, warned Dr. Shelby Harris, a New York-based clinical psychologist and director of sleep health at Sleepopolis.

“Risks associated with OSA can include an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attack,” the doctor told Fox News Digital earlier this year.

In that case, she recommended seeing a sleep specialist.

For snoring that is not caused by an underlying condition, such actions as sleeping on your side, elevating your head, avoiding alcohol before bed, maintaining a healthy weight and using a humidifier in your bedroom can help reduce snoring, according to Dr Harris.

10. ‘How long does food poisoning last?’

Food poisoning is a sickness caused by the consumption of certain germs, such as Salmonella or E. coli, according to the CDC.

Common symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach pain or cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. The effects can range from mild to serious.

Symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, the CDC stated. People should seek medical attention if any of the symptoms become severe — especially bloody diarrhoea, diarrhoea that lasts more than three days, inability to keep fluids down, fever over 102°F (38 celcius) and signs of dehydration.

This article originally appeared in Fox News and was reproduced with permission

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