Google Announces the Top 10 Trending Health Questions of 2021—Here Are Our Answers

According to Google's annual Year in Search report, health-related searches like "is pneumonia contagious?" and "what is RSV?" dominated the search engine all year long.

Each year, Google will release its annual Year in Search report, which analyzed search history to determine which queries were trending most in the United States. Topics span everything from skincare to celebrities, and of course, health.

Even though the pandemic was at the forefront of our collective psyche, plenty of other health-related questions sparked our universal interest. Here are the top 10 trending health searches this past year that aren't directly related to COVID-19.

the top 10 trending health-related google searches
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What Is RSV?

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that results in cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, and wheezing. It is spread through respiratory droplets or via direct contact with contaminated surfaces or people.

Once people experience symptoms—typically 4-6 days after contracting the virus—most recover in about a week or two. However, RSV poses a more serious threat to young children and the elderly. It's responsible for up to 500 deaths a year in children under five and 14,000 deaths annually in those over 65.

While RSV isn't anything new, cases lulled in 2020 thanks to COVID-related health protocols like masking and social distancing. However, after an uptick in RSV cases across the South this summer, the CDC issued a health advisory. The advisory warned that because older infants and toddlers had less exposure to the virus the year before, their risk of severe RSV-associated side effects, like bronchitis or pneumonia, had increased.

How Many Calories Should I Eat?

The number of calories a person should consume varies a lot depending on height, weight, age, sex, and physical activity level. However, on average, a moderately active woman between 26 and 50 should eat about 2,000 calories a day according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services. (For a more accurate estimate, check out the USDA's MyPlate Plan.)

The thing is, counting calories all the time is by no means necessary—and may sometimes be harmful. "For people who have a more emotional relationship with their bodies and numbers and feel anxiety around counting, it [counting calories] can actually be overwhelming," Health contributing editor Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, previously told Health.

Why am I always tired?

While the most likely culprit of constant fatigue is sleeping less than 7-9 hours a night, there are other potential explanations. Some reasons for always feeling tired include:

  • Lifestyle habits, like not getting enough exercise or less nutritious food choices
  • Anemia, aka when your red blood cell count is low and therefore doesn't carry enough oxygen to your organs, which is usually due to low iron levels
  • Depression or other mental health conditions, such as anxiety
  • Thyroid problems, because the thyroid produces hormones related to energy
  • Sleep apnea, which causes airways to close during sleep and wakes a person

What causes high blood pressure?

About 47% of American adults have high blood pressure (aka hypertension), which increases their risk of conditions like heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Hypertension usually develops undetected over time, and it's rarely the result of one cause. Instead, the AHA says high blood pressure is due to a variety of risk factors. Some are hereditary and unchangeable such as:

  • Age: the older you are, the greater your risk.
  • Family history, such as having one or more close relatives with a history of the condition.
  • Ethnicity: African-Americans, for example, are at the greatest risk of developing hypertension.

Other risk factors can be modified, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Stress
  • Consuming a high-sodium diet

In a small number of cases, high blood pressure is caused by other pre-existing health conditions like pregnancy, heart issues, or a kidney disorder. This is called secondary hypertension, which usually disappears when the initial health condition is resolved.

How To Lower Blood Pressure?

In 2019, almost half a million deaths in the US were due to hypertension or had hypertension as a contributing factor, per the CDC. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be managed with medications or treated with lifestyle changes.

According to a previous Health article, you can lower your blood pressure by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reducing your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day
  • Quitting cigarettes and other tobacco products
  • Getting enough sleep

What Causes Kidney Stones?

The main role of your kidneys is to remove waste and fluid from your blood. Too much waste build-up can form hard, pebble-like pieces made from minerals and salt called kidney stones.

While some people are predisposed to kidney stones, other factors increase the likelihood they form. These include not drinking enough water or eating a diet high in sodium and animal protein, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDKK).

How To Relieve Constipation?

Constipation is very common, affecting 16 out of every 100 adults in the US. While the best way to treat constipation will depend on what's causing it, in general, you can relieve constipation by:

  • Drinking more water
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol (both are dehydrating)
  • Eating more high-fiber foods like oatmeal, prunes, and popcorn
  • Taking over-the-counter laxatives (but check with your doctor first about these)

How To Get Rid of Hiccups?

There is no foolproof trick to vanquishing hiccups, and most of the time they will go away on their own within several minutes, Jennifer Boozer, DO, family medicine specialist with Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California, previously told Health. However, if you can't stand them for a second longer, you can try home remedies like:

  • Taking deep, slow breaths
  • Drinking water
  • Holding your breath for 5-10 seconds
  • Blowing up a balloon
  • Having someone care for you

The goal of each of these hiccup-busting methods is to disrupt the contraction pattern of your diaphragm—aka the muscle below your lungs that are the cause of these involuntary spasms.

What Causes Hiccups?

Experts haven't yet compiled an exhaustive list of all the reasons you may be having hiccups. However, they do know certain activities—like eating or drinking too fast, sipping carbonated beverages, or being overly excited—can irritate the diaphragm or its surrounding nerves, resulting in hiccups.

Hiccups can even be a side effect of certain medications, such as the anxiety meds benzodiazepines, or of medical conditions like acid reflux.

Is Pneumonia Contagious?

Yes, pneumonia can be contagious, but it all comes down to what type of pneumonia we're talking about. For example, pneumonia caused by bacteria or a virus can be passed from person to person, according to a previous Health piece. However, fungal pneumonia is not contagious. This type of pneumonia commonly occurs after people who are immunocompromised have been exposed to large amounts of certain fungi, typically found in soil or bird droppings.

The good news is, you can lower your risk of contracting a contagious form of pneumonia by washing your hands regularly and avoiding people who are sick. You should also make sure you've received your flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine since pneumonia is a complication of both diseases.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms and care for RSV.

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (OASH). 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.

  3. Benjamin EJ, Muntner P, Alonso A, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2019 update: a report from the American Heart AssociationCirculation. 2019;139(10).

  4. American Heart Association (AHA). Health threats from high blood pressure.

  5. American Heart Association (AHA). Know your risk factors for high blood pressure

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Facts About Hypertension.

  7. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Definition & facts for kidney stones.

  8. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Definition & facts for constipation.

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