“What is keto” may not have been the most Googled “what is” question of 2019. No, that honor belonged “what is area 51,” followed by “what is a VSCO girl”, “what is momo”, “what is a boomer”, and “what is quid pro quo.” But “what is keto” did rank number two among all health questions asked of the popular Internet search engine since January 1, 2019.
Looking at what a person searches for on the Internet doesn’t necessarily tell you everything about that person and what he or she does. For example, who knows what I may have Googled before writing stories for Forbes on coffee enemas and boofing? But Google searches can give a sense of what many people may be curious about or have on their minds. For example, the popularity of “what is a boomer” could mean that many people are hearing the phrase, “ok, boomer,” and the popularity of “what is quid pro quo” could mean that many people happen to be learning Latin.
Therefore, taking a peek at the following 10 most Googled health-related questions of 2019 can give us a window into the health questions of interest over this past year. So without further ado, here are each of these questions and some answers:
1. How to lower blood pressure?
Answer: Not measuring your blood pressure or altering the blood pressure machine is not an option here. What you don’t know can kill you. Of course, your blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day. For example, it may go up monetarily if you see Justin Bieber. Or go down, depending on your situation and point of view. However, having elevated blood pressure over longer periods of time puts you at higher risk for all kinds of badness including heart attacks and stroke. Your first option should never be medications, unless it is an emergency situation. Lifestyle modification should come first such as reducing your sodium intake, losing weight, getting more exercise, limiting alcohol intake, reducing stress, meditating, and listening to Michael Bublé. Don’t try to manage your blood pressure on your own. Get help from a physician who really knows what he or she is doing. Be wary of any physician who want to slap you on medications before really getting to know you and trying other non-pharmaceutical options. High blood pressure is quite common, affecting around one in three adults in the U.S. Yet, only 54% have their high blood pressure under control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Here is a Cleveland Clinic video on natural ways to lower blood pressure:
2. What is keto?
Answer: In Greek mythology, Keto was the goddess of sea monsters, whales, and large sharks (sorry, small sharks). It also is short for ketoconazole, an anti-fungal medication. KETO-LP is the name of a radio station in Aurora, Colorado, as well. Then, there is Keto Shimizu, a television writer, producer, and comic book writer known for her work for the SyFy channel’s Being Human and CW’s Arrowverse superhero shows. Is there anything else?
Oh, yes, there’s the “Keto” Diet, which is short for ketogenic because “genic” takes too long to say. The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, higher fat diet with fat consisting of as much as 90% of the caloric intake. Yes, you heard that correctly, after years of people recommending low fat diets, a high-fat diet is now being pushed. Holy bacon, Batman, what’s the theory behind this? Well, depriving your body of carbohydrates is supposed to switch your body from relying on sugar from carbs for fuel to relying on ketone bodies that result when your liver burns fat that is stored in your body. Burning fat in theory sounds good. The relative simplicity of this explanation and the observation that people can lose weight in the short term from this diet has led to a business boom, with many pushing keto products like books, seminars, and foods.
But is keto just a fad or is there some meat (and bacon and cheese) to it? Well, the jury is still out on the keto diet as not enough longer-term scientific studies have been done to determine if it is an effective and healthy way of losing weight and maintaining weight loss. The diet certainly has some potential risks such as not getting enough of the nutrients that you would normally get from fruits, vegetables, and grains, overtaxing your liver and kidneys, constipation, and your constantly telling other people that you are on the keto diet. Plus, some may find the diet tough to maintain. Again, this is a case of the science needing to catch up to the hype.
3. How to get rid of hiccups?
Answer: A vocal hiccup is a singing technique used by Buddy Holly and Michael Jackson, which sounds a little like gulping for air or gasping. So the answer to this question could be just stop listening to Thriller. If you are referring to those involuntary contractions of your diaphragm, the muscular structure below your lungs that help you breathe, then the answer is a bit more complicated. There aren’t scientific proven ways to stop hiccups because such studies are a bit hard to do. Typically, you can never expect hiccups to occur. You don’t say, “next Thursday at 3 pm Eastern Time, I will begin hiccuping uncontrollably.” Therefore, it is a bit difficult to run scientific experiments, unless you constantly live in a laboratory. Nonetheless, anecdotal evidence suggests the following possible remedies:
- Altering your breathing cycle, which may calm your diaphragm down. Possibilities include breathing into a paper bag, pulling your knees to your chest and leaning forward, drinking water from the opposite side of a glass while bending over, or holding your breath. If you do hold your breath, make sure that you don’t do this indefinitely.
- Gargling with ice water or sipping cold water. If you do gargle, make sure that you don’t have so much ice in your mouth that you start spreading it around the room like a geyser.
- Pulling on your tongue. But don’t pull so hard that your tongue comes out, which will lead to bigger problems.
- Rubbing the back of your neck. It’s unclear whether adding the words, “there, there,” makes a difference.
- Getting scared. A sudden scare may help, such as someone suddenly jumping in front of you or being told that there is a sequel to the 2016 movie Dirty Grandpa.
- Laughing spontaneously. They say laughter is the best medicine. Maybe someone else hiccuping can get you laughing.
4. How long does the flu last?
Answer: If you are wondering about flu symptoms, then the answer is forever if you die from it (which occurs to tens of thousands of people each year in the U.S. alone) and three to seven days if you don’t have any complications. If you are wondering about how long you are contagious, you actually start becoming contagious one day before you even have symptoms. In fact, one third of people infected with the flu virus don’t ever develop symptoms. But they can still shed flu viruses like some people bedazzle. So that person whom you stood so close to for so long may have given you more than his or her number. This makes it very tough to completely avoid flu viruses. That’s why getting vaccinated is the only way to really protect yourself and others.
5. What causes hiccups?
Answer: Looks like lots of people are getting hiccups or at least laughing at people who are getting the hiccups. This is the second appearance on this 2019 list of the “diaphragm-spasming-causing-your-vocal-cords-to-snap-shut” phenomenon. It’s not completely clear what may cause temporary hiccups. It may be having too much stuff in your stomach such as food, air, or bacon. It may be sudden changes in temperature. It may be stress or excitement such as seeing Justin Bieber. In most cases, you just don’t know what started them. Chronic or frequently repeated episodes of hiccups are a different story, This can be a sign that something like a mass or inflammation is irritating your diaphragm or the nerves that control and extend to your diaphragm. Certain medication or serious medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney failure, and encephalitis can lead to hiccups as well. Therefore, if hiccups continue to be an issue, call you doctor.
6. What causes kidney stones?
Answer: Being told that you have “stones” may be good as long as the stones are metaphorical, meaning guts or a backbone. Being told that you have kidney stones, not so good. Kidney stones, otherwise known as renal lithiasis or nephrolithiasis if you want words harder to pronounce, form when some type of mineral or salt clusters together inside your kidneys. Stones can form when you have too much of certain mineral or salt or if you are not hydrated enough. Calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate stones can form when you get high doses of vitamin D, undergo bypass surgery, or have metabolic issues. Uric acid stones can result when you eat too much protein or have gout. Certain types of urinary tract infection can lead to struvite stones.
Here is a video from the University of California-Irvine Health entitled “Leave No Stone Unturned,” which, of course, is a punny name:
7. What is HPV?
Answer: Well, if you look at the website abbreviations.com, HPV can stand for high production volume, human powered vehicle, high-pressure vent, having purple vomit, high pressure valve, high pitch voice, high point vent, or the Princeville Airport in Kauai, Hawaii. Assuming that 2019 did not see a surge of visitors to Kauai or people eating purple crayons, most searching for HPV probably were interested in “human papilloma virus.” This type of HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. I have already written for Forbes about what this HPV is, after President Donald Trump apparently asked Bill Gates the difference between HPV and HIV, which is a bit like asking the difference between the CIA and a CPA.
This video from the University of Massachusetts Medical School covers details about HPV:
8. How to lower cholesterol?
Answer: If you are asking this for yourself, you may not want to try the keto diet. Cutting your intake of saturated fats and trans-fats is an important step. So is increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Getting more physical activity and losing weight may help. If you are smoking, stop. Also, limit your alcohol consumption. High cholesterol can increase your risk of stroke and various types of cardiovascular diseases.
The American Heart Association put together this video on ways to control your cholesterol level:
9. How many calories should I eat a day?
Answer: The answer is more than one per day on average. You need calories to survive. However, people probably are wondering how many calories they should eat based on whether they want to gain weight, lose weight, or do neither. The frequently cited threshold is 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 calories for men per day to maintain the same body weight. However, this greatly oversimplifies the complexities of your body. The calories that you need depend heavily, no pun intended, on many factors, including your body size, your age, and your activity level.If you are Michael Phelps, for example, you probably can consume a whole lot more calories than the Michael Scott character of the television show The Office. The Mifflin-St. Jeor equation, which has nothing to do with Dunder Mifflin, the company in The Office, does take into account differences in sex, age, weight, height, and activity level and serves as the basis for some for some online calorie recommendation calculators such as one offered by Healthline. But even these are just approximations and do not account for every factor that may affect your weight. Plus, all calories are not equal. Getting 2,000 calories from just eating sticks of butter or drinking soda is very different from getting the same number from a more balanced diet. Highly-processed foods may have different effects on your metabolism compared to natural foods. The best thing to do is to see your doctor or a real registered dietitian, who can then personalize their recommendations for you.
10. How long does alcohol stay in your system?
Answer: This is another tough question that doesn’t have a single set answer for everyone. On average, you are probably able to metabolize about half-a-drink per hour. But the speed at which you break down alcohol depends on a whole lot of things. First of all, how big are you? What is your age? What is your metabolism and general health like? How much food did you have in your stomach to soak up the alcohol so that it didn’t get absorbed into your bloodstream? What kinds of drinks did you have and what was their alcohol content? Did your drinks have little umbrellas in them (not that this matters for alcohol metabolism, but I am curious)?
Keep in mind that even if your body can clear alcohol from your bloodstream at an average rate of 0.015 per hour, a breathalyzer or blood test can still detect alcohol for up to 12 hours, a urine test for up to 3 to 5 days, and a hair test for up to 90 days. If you are going to drive, operate a combine harvester, or do anything that requires good concentration and coordination, the best thing to do is not drink at all. Even if it means, heaven forbid, revealing your real sober personality at a party or on a date, it is not worth the risk to try to time your personal alcohol clearance exactly.
So there you have it, the most Googled health questions of 2019 and some answers. Remember, just because a Google search returns a website doesn’t mean that the website provides trustworthy and science-backed information. The Internet is packed with people with agendas trying the sell things and ideas to you. Google can help find various websites if you know what you are looking for but can at times be misleading. You can’t tell a police officer, “but Google told me that I would be sober by now.” Google cannot replace a doctor or any such real, properly-trained and qualified health professionals. After all, if you were caught in a life-or-death court case, wouldn’t you want a real lawyer and legal team? Would you instead tell the judge, “your honor, in lieu of a lawyer, I have decided to just bring a laptop for legal representation. And oh by the way, could you slowly and clearly spell out everything that you say so that I can Google every term?”