We are all guilty of turning to ‘Dr Google’ when we’re feeling under the weather – with the first hint of a rash or a sore throat most of us use the internet for a spot of self-diagnosis. According to Google Trends the most popular health searches in 2017 ranged from beating flu and high blood pressure to curing hiccups and snoring. We’ve rounded up some of the top doctors in the UK to get the answers to your most searched questions.
Why am I so tired?
“Tiredness is a very common complaint that is often put down to the stresses and strains of everyday life and poor sleep,” explains Dr Lisa Anderson of Doctify (doctify.co.uk). However, if a lack of sleep is really affecting you, you need to rule out the following causes:
- Anaemia – caused by issues such as heavy periods, poor diet and chronic diseases
- Underactive thyroid – as well as tiredness, also look out for weight gain and hair loss
- Sleep apnoea – ask your partner if you snore and appear to stop breathing for a few seconds
- Glandular fever – this can be extreme tiredness
- Coeliac disease due to wheat intolerance
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Diabetes – other symptoms include weight loss, thirst and frequent urination
- Depression or anxiety
- Abnormal heart rhythms, both slow beats or an irregular pulse
While we all feel wiped out occasionally, with a few days of healthy and nutritious food, rest and relaxation you should start to see improvements. But if you’re still feeling exhausted after a couple of weeks, Dr Anderson recommends booking in a visit to your GP and having some blood tests to rule out any of the above issues.
How do you lower cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of fat in your blood which is vital for the proper functioning of your body, says Dr Ben Kelly, head of preventative medicine at Nuffield Health (nuffieldhealth.com). However too much of it can also lead to dangerous blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. The main triggers are an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, or having an underlying health condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Your first step should be to address your diet and lifestyle, advises Dr Kelly. He recommends exercising at least five times a week for 30 minutes a day with activities such as walking, jogging, cycling or rowing. Steer clear of red meats and fatty foods and load up on a Mediterranean-style diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish such as salmon and sardines plus olive oil and lots of fibre-rich pulses, nuts, seeds, lentils and beans.
How do you stop snoring?
“Snoring is the snorting and rattling sound made by the vibration of the airway tissue at the back of the mouth, nose and throat during sleep,” explains Dr Guy Meadows of the Sleep School (thesleepschool.org). “It occurs because of a partial blockage in the airways due to the relaxation of the muscles holding them open.”
There are several ways to treat snoring according to NHS Choices. You can wear a device or mask to keep your airways open or the answer could be dropping a few pounds – often losing weight can help to reduce the fatty tissue around your neck that squeezes the airways. Try wearing an anti-snoring ring to bed – it works by adding pressure to two acupressure points on the little finger to give a restful night’s sleep (goodnightsnoring.com).
How long does flu last?
While it feels pretty grim at the time, flu usually clears up by itself in between five to seven days. “If flu lasts more than a week and does not show signs of getting better, you should visit the doctor or a hospital for medical advice,” says top pharmacist and Jakeman’s throat and chest expert, Martin Munzu (jakemans.com). You should also head straight to hospital if you experience any ‘red flag’ symptoms such as coughing up blood, difficulty breathing and chest pain. “It occurs because of a partial blockage in the airways due to the relaxation of the muscles holding them open.”
Preventing flu is all about keeping your immune system in tip-top shape. Make sure your diet is loaded up with lots of healthy fruit and veg and make sure you’re getting enough sleep and exercise. Remember to wash your hands to stop the spread of germs too. “If you do get ill, do not go into work, rest, and allow two to three days to get better to stop the spread of infection,” says Martin.
What is lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune condition where your immune system – whose job it is to fight foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses – mistakenly attacks your healthy tissues instead, explains general practitioner Dr Sam Rodgers, medical director of health screening service Medichecks (medichecks.com). Common symptoms include fatigue, joint and muscle pain and increased sensitivity to sun. Some people will also develop a characteristic butterfly shaped rash over their cheeks and nose.
While there is no cure for lupus, the symptoms can be treated successfully. This can include anti inflammatory and immuno suppressant drugs and corticosteroids. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can also help so make sure you eat a balanced diet, don’t smoke, get plenty of rest and try to exercise every day.
How do you stop hiccups?
You get hiccups when the diaphragm suddenly tightens creating a sound – the hiccup being produced at the top of the windpipe. They should only last a few minutes and it is not usually necessary to see a GP, explains Dr Anderson (doctify.co.uk).
There is no proven cure for hiccups but DIY remedies include sipping ice-cold water, biting on lemon, swallowing granulated sugar or holding your breath for a while. “If the hiccups last longer than 48 hours you should see a GP just in case it could be due to prescribed medication or a medical condition such as acid reflux,” advises Dr Anderson.
What causes high blood pressure?
According to the NHS, your risk of developing high blood pressure increases as you get older. You are also more likely to have if it runs in your family, if you eat a lot of salt and don’t exercise much. Other triggers are being overweight, smoking and not getting enough sleep. It can also be caused by illnesses such as diabetes, obstructive sleep apnoea and thyroid problems and by some medications such as the contraceptive pill, steroids and anti-inflammatories.
While medication is often prescribed, you can get your blood pressure down with a few simple lifestyle tweaks such as cutting down on alcohol, sugar and caffeine. Getting more exercise and eating lots of high-fibre fruit and veg also helps. Try taking up a relaxing hobby like yoga or tai chi to lower your stress levels too.