2012 Top 10 Health Lists

December 5, 2012 at 9:34 am , by

Don’t you just love those end-of-year top 10 lists? Time magazine’s “Top 10 Everything of 2012” is a must-read—even if just to disagree with the editors. (Their #4 pick on the movie list was my fave.) Don’t miss the health-related lists. The Top Medical Breakthroughs are fascinating, while the Top 10 Ridiculously Obvious Study Findings provide a fun “duh” moment.

Our friends at Yahoo! just released their Year in Review, too—covering everything from the serious (Libya, the election) to the sublime (Mars Rover, the U.S. women’s gymnastic team) to the ridiculous (Gangnam style, Honey Boo Boo). The trends based on the daily search habits of millions of people include health, too, of course. Among the top 10 searched health symptoms of 2012 on Yahoo!, four were stories we covered in a major way in the pages of Ladies’ Home Journal. Here’s something surprising we learned about each:

1. Diabetes
No surprise this was number 1, as the numbers are skyrocketing. Nearly 26 million people in the United States have diabetes now, according to the CDC, while another 80 million may have prediabetes. And women are more at risk of dying from it, we learned in the story that ran in our September issue. You’ve probably heard that the major warning signs are being really thirsty and having to pee all the time. But those symptoms usually show up only after damage has already been done. “Early on, especially in the prediabetes phase, most people have no symptoms at all,” says Gerald Bernstein, M.D., director of the diabetes management program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. That’s why it’s so important to get a glucose test, especially if you’re overweight.

2. Lung cancer
Lung cancer kills more women than breast, ovarian and uterine cancers combined, yet it gets the fewest research dollars of any cancer. That’s one of the things we learned in our touching story by Wesley Fay, “Just Breathe,” in our November issue. Each breast cancer death correlates with $19,419 in federal research funding. For lung cancer, that plummets to $1,888. This gap has real consequences: Since the early 1970s, breast cancer’s five-year survival rate climbed from 75 to 90 percent, while lung cancer’s barely budged from 12 percent to 16 percent. Blaming the victim won’t help: 20 percent of women with lung cancer never smoked, and experts say those numbers are climbing.

4. Colon cancer
Doctors are seeing colon cancer in younger people more than ever, we learned in our October story on colon health. “For women, getting a colonoscopy at 50 or sometimes even sooner is crucial, especially since I’ve been seeing women as young as their 30s being diagnosed—and with no family history,” says Robynne Chutkan, M.D., medical director of the Digestive Center for Women in Washington, D.C., and a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board. Don’t ignore symptoms such as blood in the stool, unusual abdominal pain, a change in how often you go to the bathroom, anemia or unexplained weight loss. For more information, read our candid interview with Dr. Chutkan.

6. Heart attack
When Rosie O’Donnell had a heart attack in August at age 50, she scared the crap out of a lot of women. (I’m one of them!) She researched online and knew her symptoms could be a heart attack. She even took an aspirin. But she didn’t call 911. That happens way too often, says cardiologist Holly Andersen, M.D., a member of the LHJ Medical Advisory Board. In our blog that week, we learned that “40 percent of women having a heart attack never feel chest pain,” says Dr. Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital. For lots more information on women and heart disease, see our February story, “Heart of the Matter.”

Photo copyright Ocskay Bence,

What Were the Juiciest Health Stories this Month?

October 6, 2011 at 11:41 am , by

Every month our friends at Yahoo! send us a snapshot of the month’s top health searches. I used to expect not to be surprised by what makes the list. After all, I spend a fair amount of time reading health news. The nerd in me likes to try to predict what people were most interested in. Usually I get some right (always on the list: bedbugs), but every month I find a few things that make me think, “What is that about?” Here are the most interesting terms from September’s batch, all of which fell in the top three when Yahoo! looked at what women were digging for.

3. Babesiosis
I definitely never would have guessed this one because I’ve never heard of it. But I’m betting that’s exactly why it was near the top—no one had heard of it, until a recent study in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases found that it’s on the rise, made some headlines and sent everyone to their search bars to learn more.

So what is it? Unfortunately it is not a mutant bacterium that will turn you into a total babe, as I was hoping. It’s a parasite that attacks your red blood cells. Like Lyme disease, babesiosis is spread by deer ticks, and it can cause similar symptoms including high fever, headache and muscle aches. But it’s much harder to diagnose because there’s no telltale rash, and many people who are infected have no symptoms at all. While it is treated with antibiotics, it can be fatal in people with compromised immune systems, like if you have cancer or you’ve had your spleen removed. Treatment isn’t necessary if you’re not experiencing symptoms, but what’s startling is babesiosis’ potential to spread through donated blood. There isn’t a screening test yet, so people could be passing the parasite along unknowingly at local blood drives. And because blood is donated most often to people in a compromised state, this could be really dangerous.

Read more

Top Head-Scratcher Health Searches on Yahoo!

July 20, 2011 at 4:00 pm , by

SEARCH-1-1Raise your hand if you’ve ever sleuthed out funky symptoms on the web or searched a term your doctor used that you didn’t understand. I’m willing to bet everyone reading this has done both of these things. Your search bar is a useful tool when you’re looking for answers about your personal health, but when you look at what we’re all searching you see some surprising trends.

What health topics are people really wondering about? And what do our searches say about us? Our friends at Yahoo! have some answers. Every month they cull their data from their more than 3 billion monthly searches, and send us a snapshot of what people are digging for. Here are three intriguing topics from the top 20 searches in July.

12. Dengue Fever
What the heck is Dengue fever and why was it number 12 this month? Well, it’s a flu-like virus spread by mosquitoes, and it can be fatal. Although this illness is mainly a concern in Asian countries, cases around the globe have grown dramatically in recent years, according to the World Health Organization. If you read the rest of the list, you’ll find many bug-related searches; it’s just that time of year. But recent reports about “vicious,” hard-to-kill Asian tiger mosquitoes infiltrating urban areas all over the country may have added to our fears about bug-borne diseases. The same type of mosquito was responsible for a Dengue fever outbreak in Hawaii a few years ago. Shudder.

6. Lobotomy
Another huh? Lobotomies, which haven’t exactly been standard practice for decades, were once used to treat schizophrenia, depression and other mental health problems by severing the connections between the frontal lobes and the rest of the brain. Even Yahoo! experts were stumped on this one, but said most searches were for “define lobotomy” rather than “I need a lobotomy.” Whew. Maybe they’d all been watching One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?

1. Chronic Pain
This one took the top spot this month—but why? Probably because a new Institute of Medicine report found that at least 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, meaning it continues for more than six months, many times even after the original cause of the pain has been resolved. The report concluded that treatment is often “delayed, inaccessible and inadequate,” and called for an entirely new way of treating pain. With such a frustrating disorder finally getting some much-needed attention, it seems pain patients took to the web in droves to let out a collective “I told you so!”

Read more for the full list. Read more

Top 10 Health Searches for 2010

December 8, 2010 at 2:09 pm , by

I can’t remember what life was like before search engines—I turn to the Internet for answers about everything, even my health. Like most people with a computer, at the first sign of symptoms, I’m usually hunting down my own diagnosis before I’ve even thought about calling the doctor.
“People turn to the web for quick answers,” says Robert Glatter, M.D., a New York-based emergency room physician. “A lot of times when people come see me they already have an idea of what’s wrong with them.”

So what health woes were on our minds this year? As part of their Year in Review coverage, the folks at Yahoo! parsed data from billions of searches for the top 10 health-related terms for 2010, and the results might surprise you.

The list:

1. Pregnancy, 2. Diabetes, 3. Herpes, 4. Shingles, 5. Lupus, 6. Depression, 7. Breast cancer, 8. Gall bladder, 9. HIV, 10. Fibromyalgia

pregnancyPregnancy is consistently at the top, says Vera Chan, a Yahoo! web trend analyst, but it’s not just moms-to-be doing the digging. “Early symptoms of pregnancy” and “pregnancy tests” were among the top search phrases, which are likely from women concerned that they might be pregnant.

“Pregnancy also figures in reality shows these days—16 and Pregnant, I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant—and celebrity pregnancies spur their own round of queries,” Chan says.

While diabetes and pregnancy aren’t all that surprising, how did herpes get into the top three? According to the latest numbers from the CDC, prevalence of the herpes simplex virus remains high at about 16 percent. Plus, many people are uncomfortable discussing their sexual health with family, friends and even their doctors, so they turn to the web, Dr. Glatter says. The same goes for HIV coming in at number nine.

“I think there’s also an increased sense of the need for testing, so that may be why people are searching for it,” he adds.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, between 75% and 80% of all Internet users have looked online for health information.  But Chan says that women conduct health searches more often than men, which may be why diseases more common in women, like lupus and fibromyalgia, found their way into the top 10.

Dr. Glatter was stunned that autism didn’t make it onto the list this year. What do you think—anything else missing?

Photos by rcv3 and Mahalie