Your top health questions for 2023, answered

One thing I love about editing the Ask Nicely column is its friendliness. Each week we answer a health question: Why am I so overwhelmed all the time? (I’ve wondered this too!) Why does my sleep get worse with age? (I’m with you here.) Does my coffee habit need intervention? (Pour me another until we find out.)

When I go through our inbox, I’m amazed at what comes in—questions that span the joys, agonies, confusions, and vulnerabilities of being a person. And luckily for all of us, we have to look for the answers.

Here are 10 of the most popular health questions of 2023.

The answer depends on the texture of your hair, how oily it is, whether it’s colored, and more.

“While it may seem like a perfectly clean and oil-free scalp is optimal,” said Dr. Murad Alam, a dermatologist at Northwestern University, “keep in mind that the scalp is a living part of your body, not a dinner plate on your dishwasher.

Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling are common complaints for older adults—and they can be the first sign of a dreaded diagnosis: arthritis. This general 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.

Maybe you stayed up too late and turned your sheets into a tornado, replaying an awkward conversation. Either way, you wonder: Will a midday nap make up for those precious hours of lost shut-eye? The answer is complicated, we found. Here’s what napping can—and can’t—do for your health.

So you wake up every morning all stuffed up and want to know what’s going on. Are you (and everyone else) that cold? The anatomy of your nose? allergies? Chronic congestion is difficult to treat, experts say, because many things can cause it. But there are some ways to find relief.

If that stuffiness really is caused by a cold, turn to foods and drinks that are hydrating, nourishing, and soothing (hello, chicken noodle soup!). Here’s how nutrition can help fight your infection, and what foods and drinks to avoid.

Like a screaming slob, I’ve noticed that the older I get, the less likely I am to wake up feeling refreshed. It turns out that there are medical reasons for this: an aging brain, certain health conditions, hormones and lifestyle changes can be to blame. The good news is that sleepless nights are not a fate you have to live with.

Any activity that interrupts your usual eating or sleeping schedule risks supporting you. Dehydration, immobility, changing time zones and a changed diet are usually to blame. Here’s how to make things go a little more smoothly when you’re out and about.

If you spend any time on personal care on social media, you’ll see video after video of influencers pouring over a medicine cabinet of products. But simpler is often better when it comes to taking care of your face. Here’s what dermatologists really need.

Raise your hand if you’re drinking coffee while reading this. Keep it up if you’re having your second (or third, or fourth) glass of the day. Coffee contains thousands of chemical compounds that can be linked to good health. But it is also a major source of caffeine, which in excess can cause problems such as nervousness, anxiety, nausea and sleep problems. Although experts say dangerous side effects from drinking coffee are rare, it is still possible to overdo it. Here’s how to tell if you’ve had too much.

Have more questions for our health journalists? Ask OK.

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