The Most Googled Health Questions of 2015

Woman using desktop computerMany of us search the Internet when we need a quick answer to a health question, and each year Google analyzes the most common health queries, both in this country and globally.

Our top burning health questions in the U.S. this year, according to Google, showed Americans were worried about catching bronchitis and pneumonia, as well as wondering how many glasses of water they should drink and how many calories they should eat each day, Health reported.

Globally, people were most concerned with eating a healthy diet. “How to eat healthy” was the most popular search, while searches about whether a specific food, like hummus or popcorn, was healthy was third most common, Mashable reported.

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Google also created an interactive map showing which countries had the most and fewest health searches.  Out of 210 countries and territories, those with the most tended to be smaller and more isolated, such as the Cook Islands and Swaziland, which were number one and two for most searches.

Interestingly, the country with the fewest health searches was Italy — maybe because they know they already eat a healthy Mediterranean diet. The U.S. ranked 48th worldwide.

Here are some of the most popular health searches among Americans in 2015:

Is bronchitis contagious? Bronchitis occurs when a chest cold worsens, causing inflammation and congestion in the bronchial tubes. It’s generally not contagious, but the cold that led to it can be, David Katz, M.D., director of Yale University Prevention Research Center, told Health. The main symptom of bronchitis is a persistent cough, which can last 10 to 20 days, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Is pneumonia contagious? It depends on whether it’s viral or bacterial pneumonia. Viral pneumonia, a particular risk for those 65 and over, is contagious. This is the type of pneumonia that can develop from a bad bout of the flu and require hospitalization. Bacterial pneumonia is less contagious, according to Katz. To protect against pneumonia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend that those age 65 and older get two pneumonia vaccines.

How much water should I drink? Eight glasses has been the standard advice, but the science behind this has been sketchy, CBS News reports. Water helps flush bacteria and prevent dehydration, but a recent Harvard Health Letter suggests that four to six glasses daily is sufficient — with more if the weather is hot or you’re exercising a lot.

How many calories should I eat? That’s a tough question. It depends on age, gender, health and activity level. Both too many and too few calories can have serious health consequences. In general, senior health experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that a woman over age 50 should consume 1,600 to 2,000 calories daily depending on whether she has a low activity level or is very active (walking more than 3 miles a day). For a man age 50-plus, daily calories should range from 2,000 to 2,200 calories for a low activity level, to 2,400 to 2,800 if he’s very active.  For a more personal profile, the NIH recently launched a new calorie calculator, that gives you a personalized calorie and exercise regimen.

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What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. About 1 percent of Americans have an auto-immune condition called celiac disease and must avoid gluten or risk serious intestinal damage. But lately gluten has been blamed for a wide range of other health problems, from joint pain to mental conditions to weight gain. As a result, interest in gluten-free products and diets remains high, says Consumer Reports, although gluten-free diets are not necessarily healthier. There is also some evidence that celiac disease or gluten intolerance can develop later in life, perhaps due to changes in intestinal bacteria.

How long does the flu last? When you have it and you’re feeling miserable, it seems like it’s lasting forever, but typically the flu lasts one to two weeks, with the most severe symptoms in the first two to three days. Taking a prescription antiviral drug in the first 48 hours when symptoms start can help shorten the flu’s duration. How can you tell if you have the flu or a cold? In general, cold symptoms strike from the neck up, while the flu is felt throughout your body. For older adults, who are at highest risk for flu complications, the best protection is still the flu vaccine.

Photo: tetmc/iStock

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