We know that high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and smoking aren’t good for the heart. Well, it turns out loud noise is another risk factor your doctor may not want to keep quiet about.
That noisy little headline comes from researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital. They studied 499 people with an average age of 56.
At the beginning of the study period, all of them were free of cardiovascular disease. Over time, they tracked how many of the test subjects got heart attacks and strokes. The researchers used the home addresses of study participants to estimate the level of ambient noise where they resided.
Compared to people who lived with lower levels of noise, those with the highest levels of chronic noise exposure were three times more likely to have a heart attack, a stroke or other major cardiovascular event.
The study’s authors said typical sources of heavy chronic noise exposure include close proximity to a highway, a major airport or a busy traffic zone.
Commercial aircraft on takeoff produce noise levels above 120 decibels. A telephone ring produces about 80 decibels and a jackhammer about 100. Highway traffic noise ranges from 70 to 80 decibels at a distance of 15 metres from the highway.
The researchers found that people with the highest levels of noise exposure had higher levels of brain activity inside the amygdala.
The test subjects with higher activity inside the amygdala also had greater amounts of inflammation in their arteries inside the heart and the brain. Doctors know from other studies that inflammation of the arteries is necessary for the development of heart disease and strokes.
In the current study, the researchers found that high levels of activity inside the amygdala actually increased the level of inflammation inside the coronary arteries.
Air pollution, smoking and diabetes are other known factors that cause inflammation of the arteries.
In this study, when the researchers took those factors into account, noise still turned out to be a major contributor to inflammation and therefore to the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Rising rates of noise are happening everywhere. Anyone who lives in a city anywhere on the planet should be concerned about the health impact of exposure to excessive noise.
Until now, we’ve chalked up rising levels of noise from busy highways, traffic zones and airports to progress and prosperity. Now, we see that there’s a hidden danger to our health.
And it’s something your body won’t let you escape. You may be able to tune the noise out of your conscious mind, but your brain and your heart do not develop tolerance to noise. If anything, your arteries may become even more prone over time to damage caused by noise.
A – Alone. This does not mean that babies should be put to bed in a room separate from parents. It does, however, mean that infants should not sleep in the same bed. The reason for this is that parents may move during sleep in ways that interfere with babies’ breathing or even crush them. Inadvertently dozing off while breastfeeding or cuddling an infant is just as hazardous as intentionally co-sleeping
Learn what’s happening to your body
When it comes to panic attacks, knowledge is power. Although it won’t stop them from occurring, being aware of exactly what is happening to you physiologically and why can prevent your panic from escalating – plus it means you will be less likely to mistake it for a more serious health problem, such as a heart attack or a stroke.
Like much advice given to people with anxiety, this may sound irritatingly obvious – but learning an effective breathing technique can be a gamechanger if you tend to experience attacks in public. During an attack you will often automatically take shallow, rapid breaths. Simple breathing exercises can help you to be conscious of filling your lungs, slowing your heart rate. The NHS outlines calming techniques on its website – practice at home in calmer times so that you will feel empowered to try it during an attack.
Focus on relaxing your muscles
Telling someone who suffers panic attacks to relax can suggest you need a week by the beach. But Progressive muscle relaxation is a practical method that teaches you to connect to sources of acute physical tension, so that when you are mid-attack you will be conscious of where you need to focus on relaxing.
When you feel an attack coming on, it is a good idea to limit the stimuli you are experiencing as much as you can. Try to find a dark, quiet space where you can practise your breathing and relaxation techniques. It may be harder to find a peaceful space in an office but try outside, or in the loos. When it is not possible – for example, when you are out – a good way to achieve the effect is to focus on a single thing or thought, such as a tangible object, like a ring, or a mantra you repeat to yourself while you ride out the attack.
Keep a notebook
A notebook can be a valuable tool for dealing with the onset of a panic attack. Research has shown that treating intrusive thoughts as material objects that you can get rid of is an effective coping mechanism. When you begin catastrophising in the lead-up to an attack, write down the thoughts that are worrying you, then throw the page away.
Avoid caffeine at danger times, such as before a commute
Nobody likes to be told to give up their morning coffee, but caffeine can be a major trigger for anxiety. If crowds and tight spaces are a trigger for you, it’s a good idea to try cutting out coffee, or at least waiting until you are in the office to have your first of the day. Drink water on your trip instead, which will prevent dehydration – another possible trigger.
Use audio apps
Studies show that commuters in general suffer heightened levels of anxiety, but rush-hour journeys can be especially difficult if you get panic attacks. Combat external stressors by making the most of audio apps. This might mean a guided meditation, if that’s your thing, or an audio book – anything to ground you mentally and hold your focus.
Do you find yourself often wondering about why you’re packing on the pounds even though you’re working out and eating healthy? It might be because you’re not having enough of what you really need. The simple secret to weight managementcan be increasing the amount of fibreconsumed. High fibre food fills you up with fewer calories because they are naturally bulky and cleanse the gut while they’re at it, but that’s not all they do. Here’s why you need to load up on them to reach your optimum fitness goal.
How does fibre work?
To know how fibre helps the body stay healthy, let’s first understand fibre. In simple terms, dietary fibre is a plant-based carbohydrate that the body can’t break down or absorb. So unlike sugars and starch, this component can be digested in the small intestine. Because this roughage can’t be digested, our bodies don’t use it as an energy source. Depending on whether the fibre dissolves during digestion, they are classified as soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre, found in whole grains such as oats, ragi and barley, as well as in beans, apples, citrus fruits and seeds like flaxseeds, can dissolve in water to form a gel-like substance that slows down digestion. This can help stabilise blood sugar levels and curb hunger, which in turn helps to maintain healthy weight.
“Soluble fibre contain b-glucan, which has [been] found to have an effect on blood cholesterol levels, thus reducing the LDL and triglycerides and increasing HDL,” explains Harpreet Pasricha, a nutritionist and diet consultant in Goa. “Soluble fibre also helps those with diabetes to manage their blood glucose levels, as ingestion of these foods have [been] found to slow down digestion and absorption and hence lead to slow rise in blood glucose levels.” Insoluble fibre, such as whole wheat, leafy vegetables and nuts, is the one that the body doesn’t break down at all. “Adding fibre to your diet, particularly insoluble fibre, can aid in normalising bowel movements by bulking up the stool, making it easier to pass through the digestive tract. In addition, the right amount of fibre in the diet can also help reduce risk of digestive health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome. So it moves through your digestive track, helping everything move along with it,” she explains. Through a high-fibre diet, you are ensuring that your body is naturally and regularly mopping up digestive and cellular debris, environmental toxins and surplus hormones, which reduces the load on the gut.
What is fibre’s role in clear, glowing skin?
“Fibre or roughage helps [the] body get rid of toxic substances and play a catalyst role in detoxifying the body. It protects the body from inflammation, acne, clogged pores and dull and dry skin,” states Dr Chiranjiv Chhabra, director and consultant dermatologist at Skin Alive. Fibre-rich foods have plentiful benefits like preventing constipation, heart diseases, diabetes and strengthening bones, but they also work to bring out an inner skin glow and improve skin clarity. “Fruits such as apple, avocado, papaya and guava are very rich in fibre and have antioxidant properties that protect the skin from sun damage, and restore collagen, which helps improve the texture of the skin. Walnut is another fibre-rich food that helps prevent skin inflammation, and gives a boost to the complexion. Vegetables like legumes, broccoli, and tomatoes increase skin’s hydration levels as well, leading to a glowing complexion.”
The inside story: Gut feels
The gut plays a major role in the in the health and well-being of the entire body. Dr Lisa Ganjhu, clinical assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, explains that she often refers to the brain as a part of the gastrointestinal system, because the brain and gut are in constant communication. Both these organs play key roles in managing our stress level, and our mood or state of mind. Our gut is filled with nerve cells that receive and provide information to the brain (the basis of mind-body alignment), and also produces more than 90 per cent of the serotonin produced by the body—a hormone that helps regulate our mood or emotions. So a clogged gut affects the way our body communicates with our brains, further clouding our judgments and decision-making skills. That queasy feeling in the tummy that comes with nervousness is due to an imbalance in the gut. A clear gut is like a passport to stress-free living as your mind and body are always in sync. On the external side, if your gut is clear, your body will feel lighter and your skin will glow; the genesis of what we call ‘beautiful inside out’.
How should you load up on fibre?
Adding bulk to your diet may seem challenging than it actually is. The USDA recommends that women under 50 get at least 25gms of fibre a day, whereas the figure for men rises up to 38. But the truth is, not all of us have the skill to measure fibre to the last gram. “If you are having 250-300 grams of veggies and fruits combined, that is about seven to eight cups, you are doing just fine,” says Dr Siddhant Bhargav, nutritionist and keto expert. Begin your day with a high-fibre cereal, often a great weight loss strategy. “Eat more greens, beans and legumes, and choose whole grains over refined as often as possible. The refining process removes the bran from the grain just as peeling fruits and vegetables sheds most fibre. Drink plenty of water, as fibre works best when it absorbs water.” For a savoury Indian flavour, trade the milk and oats porridge for a veggie loaded version, and find ways to include seeds like flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and melon seeds in your diet. You can roast and keep a mix handy to snack on, or sprinkle some on salads or soups too.
But as always, it is imperative to keep the regular functioning of your own body in mind before changing your diet. Pasricha cautions that “those who have a history of gut inflammation and acidity should only consume soluble fibre and be aware of the quantities of fibre [they’re ingesting], as excess can irritate the stomach lining.”
Thomas Falkiner answers some FAQs about Volvo’s boutique SUV, the XC40 D4 R-Design
Wow, that’s one fine-looking machine you got there!
Isn’t it just? The Volvo design team dug deep on this one and in turn fashioned a boutique SUV to take on the likes of the Range Rover Evoque, Audi Q2, Mini Countryman and BMW X2. And I’ve got to say when it comes to exterior styling the XC40 has them all beat.
It is a fine piece of automotive sculpture: a steely blend of aggression and sophistication that speaks to both sexes, which is quite a rare feat in the car world. I had mine for a week and the compliments didn’t stop flooding in.
If you’re a dedicated follower of fashion, always hip to the next big thing, then the XC40 is the vehicle for you. Particularly this R-Design model that gives you chunky 19-inch alloys and (fake) dual exhaust pipes.
Good to know. Let’s talk engines – what’s behind that handsome visage?
In the XC40 D4 you get a 2.0-litre turbodiesel and it is, if I’m being honest, not one of the best motors I’ve ever experienced in my 10-year career. The problem is that it feels lazy – particularly at low revs where the turbocharger seems to take an unusually long time to come on song.