Our Top 10 Stories of 2023

Our Top 10 Stories of 2023

Were celebrating the new year by taking a look back at our 10 most-read stories of 2023. These stories covered a range of topics — from ADHD to the health benefits of trees. Many came from our Fall/Winter 2023 issue: Where Health and Environment Meet. But our no. 1 story of the year returns us to summer, when smoke from the Canadian wildfires enveloped Chicago, launching us to the top of the list of the most polluted cities in the world.

We look forward to bringing you even more trusted, Chicago-focused health and medical news in the year to come. Thanks for reading, and a happy and healthy 2024!


10. Painting a Pandemic

October 2023

What did people do with their quarantine time during the Covid-19 pandemic? How did we process the mass trauma — disconnection, anxiety, grief — happening around us? How would we make sense of something we never saw coming and that we continue to grapple with years later? The paintings of Justin Fiala, MD, offer one answer to those questions, from someone who saw Covid-19 up close, at its ugliest. And even as people vilified healthcare workers, Fiala — a pulmonary and critical care specialist in Northwestern Medicines medical ICU — kept showing up for the sickest of the sick. Then he transferred that experience to his canvases — a lesson in vulnerability and grief that will live on long after Covid-19 releases us.


A young woman by the window annoyed by the building works outside. Noise concept. 9. Nuisance Noise

December 2023

The World Health Organization considers noise pollution an underrated health threat, with both short-term and long-term consequences affecting everything from hearing to heart health. Writer Rita Colorito breaks down noise levels and talks with local experts about how people can avoid too much noise.


ADHD in adult women is now being diagnosed with more frequency. Image of a women in front of a laptop with scrambled images behind her symbolizing an inability to focus 8. Attention Dysregulation

September 2023

More women than ever are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). In this story, writer Katie Colt looks at what’s driving the increase and the unique ways women specifically experience this condition.


exercise outside 7. Natural High

September 2023

Did you know that people who spent just 15 minutes outdoors reported feeling more grateful and more optimistic afterwards, according to a recent study? Other research has found that people who exercise outside enjoy it more and are able to push themselves further than when they work out indoors. Writer Kelly K. James takes a closer look at why the great outdoors is also great for overall health.


A little girl with black hair, a strawberry dress, and red pants stands in front of a native front yard on a Chicago street. 6. Healthy Yards, Healthy People

August 2023

Only .01% of the Prairie States prairies remain. This piece looks at how people can reclaim some of that prairie land — and the insects and wildlife that rely on it — in their yard. Hear from Mary Fortmann, landscape ecologist with non-profit conservation organization Openlands, and honey bee veterinarian Elizabeth Hilborn, DVM, a researcher with the Environmental Protection Agency.


Trees 5. Oh, Naturale!

September 2023

Trees impact human health in ways beyond releasing more oxygen into the air. From heat reduction to flood prevention, writer Kathleen Aharoni digs into how Chicago is enhancing its tree canopy — especially in neighborhoods where trees are sparse.


How to Keep a Symptom Diary for the Most Accurate Diagnosis 4. Symptom Diary

March 2023

A symptom diary offers a useful way to track your health experience. But what exactly should you include — especially if you arent already working with a doctor whose specialty relates to your symptoms? Writer Jennifer Billock makes the case for symptom diaries.


A curly haired man sits in a pink rocking chair alongside a series of open windows. He's wearing a button up flowered shirt, pouring maple syrup from a glass pitcher into a white coffee mug. 3. Keep the Sweet

September 2023

Controversy bubbled up this year when the World Health Organization classified aspartame as possibly carcinogenic to humans.Yet, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disagrees, deeming the evidence insufficient to link aspartame with cancer risk. Here, writer and nutritionist Victoria Shanta Retelny offers three ways to add natural sweetness to your diet.


Young child runs down a path in Portage Park, on Chicago's Northwest side. 2. Healthiest Counties

July 2023

Researchers at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute every year study and rank the healthiest counties in the U.S. For 2023s rankings, they used data from 2014 to 2022, analyzing mental health days, alcohol-impaired driving incidents, teen births, air pollution, children in poverty, commute times, civic engagement, and more.

Looking north from the I-94 expressway toward Chicago, the skyline barely visible in a haze of wildfire smoke 1. Air Alert

August 2023

Chicago had many days of extremely poor air quality this past summer; people reported burning eyes, congestion, and headaches. In this story, writer Nancy Maes looks at whos at risk when poor air quality spikes, and how people can protect themselves and the air they breathe.