One thing I love about editing the Ask Well column is the camaraderie of it. Every week we answer a health question: Why am I so congested all the time? (I’ve wondered that too!) Why does my sleep get worse as I age? (I’m right there with you.) Is my coffee habit in need of an intervention? (Pour me another while we figure it out.)
When I survey our inbox, I’m amazed at what comes in — questions that cover the joys, agonies, confusions and vulnerabilities of being a person. And luckily for us all, we get to seek out 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 your hair texture, how oily it is, whether it’s color-treated and more.
“While it may seem that getting the scalp squeaky clean and without any oils is optimal,” said Dr. Murad Alam, a dermatologist at Northwestern University, “keep in mind that the scalp is a living part of your body, and not a dinner plate in your dishwasher.”
2. Is arthritis avoidable?
Pain, stiffness and swelling of the joints are common complaints for older adults — and they can be the first sign of a dreaded diagnosis: arthritis. This umbrella term describes more than 100 conditions that cause inflammation in the joints. 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 of sleep?
Maybe you stayed up too late doomscrolling, or you whipped your sheets into a tornado replaying an uncomfortable conversation. Either way, you’re wondering: Will a midday nap make up for those precious hours of lost shut-eye? The answer is complicated, we found. Here’s what naps can — and can’t — do for your health.
5. Why am I so congested all the time?
So you wake up every morning all stuffed up and you want to know what’s going on. Is it that cold you (and everyone else) seems to have? The anatomy of your nose? Allergies? Chronic congestion is tricky to treat, experts say, because any number of things could be causing it. But there are some ways to find relief.
6. What should I eat or drink when I have a cold?
If that stuffiness is indeed caused by a cold, turn to foods and drinks that are hydrating, nourishing and comforting (hello, chicken noodle soup!). Here’s a look at how nutrition can help fight your infection, along with what foods and drinks to avoid.
7. Why does it become harder to sleep as I age?
As a flagrant tosser and turner, I’ve noticed that the older I get, the less likely I am to wake up refreshed. It turns out there are medical reasons for that: An aging brain, certain health conditions, hormones and lifestyle changes could all be the cause. 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 eating or sleeping schedule risks backing you up. Dehydration, immobility, changing time zones and an altered diet are typically to blame. Here’s how to get things running a little more smoothly when you’re out and about.
9. Do I really need all those skin care products?
If you spend any time on the personal-care side of social media, you’ll see video after video of influencers dousing themselves in an entire medicine cabinet’s worth 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 raised 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’s also a major source of caffeine, which in excess can cause issues like jitteriness, anxiousness, nausea and trouble sleeping. While experts say that dangerous side effects from coffee-drinking are rare, it’s still possible to overdo it. Here’s how to know if you’ve poured yourself too much.
Have more questions for our health journalists? Ask Well.