One thing I love about editing the Ask Well column is the camaraderie that comes with it. Every week we answer a health question: Why am I always so congested? (I’ve wondered that too!) Why does my sleep get worse as I age? (I’m right there with you.) Does my coffee habit need an intervention? (Pour me another while we find a solution.)
When I scan our inbox, I’m amazed by what comes in: questions that cover the joys, agonies, confusions, and vulnerabilities of being a person. And fortunately for all of us, we can search for the answers.
Here are 10 of the most popular health questions of 2023.
1. Is it bad to wash your hair every day?
The answer depends on the texture of your hair, how oily it is, whether it is dyed, and more.
“While it may seem like cleaning your scalp squeaky clean and oil-free is the optimal solution,” said Dr. Murad Alam, a dermatologist at Northwestern University, “keep in mind that your scalp is a living part of your body, and not a dinner plate in the dishwasher.”
2. Is arthritis avoidable?
Joint pain, stiffness and swelling are common ailments among older adults and can be the first sign of a dreaded diagnosis: arthritis. This umbrella term describes more than 100 conditions that cause joint inflammation. But it doesn’t have to be an inevitable result of aging. Here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk.
4. Can a nap make up for a bad night’s sleep?
Maybe you stayed up too late reading the fortune teller, or turned your sheets into a tornado by replaying an uncomfortable conversation. In any case, you may be wondering: will an afternoon nap make up for those precious lost hours of sleep? The answer is complicated, we discovered. Here’s what naps can and can’t do for your health.
5. Why am I always so congested?
So you wake up every morning all full and want to know what’s going on. Is it that cold that you (and everyone else) seems to get? The anatomy of your nose? Allergies? Chronic congestion is difficult to treat, experts say, because a number of factors could be the cause. But there are some ways to find relief.
6. What should I eat or drink when I have a cold?
If that stuffy feeling is actually caused by a cold, turn to foods and drinks that are hydrating, nutritious and comforting (hello, chicken noodle soup!). Here’s a look at how nutrition can help fight the infection, along with which foods and drinks to avoid.
7. Why does it become harder to sleep as we age?
Being a flagrant pitcher and turner, I’ve noticed that the older I get, the less likely I am to wake up rested. It turns out there are medical reasons for this: an aging brain, certain health conditions, hormones, and lifestyle changes could be to blame. The good news is that sleepless nights are not a fate you have to live with.
8. Why do I get constipated when I travel?
Any activity that interrupts your regular schedule of eating or sleeping is likely to sustain you. Dehydration, immobility, time zone changes and an altered diet are usually to blame. Here’s how to make things run a little more smoothly when you’re on the go.
9. Do I really need all those skincare products?
If you spend any time on the personal care side of social media, you’ll see video after video of influencers drenching themselves in an entire medicine cabinet of products. But simpler is often better when it comes to taking care of your face. Here’s what dermatologists say you actually need.
10. How much coffee is too much coffee?
Raise your hand if you’re drinking coffee while reading this. Keep it up if you’re on your second (or third or fourth) cup of the day. Coffee contains thousands of chemical compounds that may be linked to good health. But it is also an important source of caffeine, which in excess can cause problems such as nervousness, anxiety, nausea and sleep disturbances. Although experts say that dangerous side effects from drinking coffee are rare, it is still possible to overdo it. Here’s how to know if you’ve poured too much.
Have more questions for our health journalists? Ask carefully.