How loud noises can affect your heart

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.


Does obesity increase risk of childhood asthma?

Rates of asthma are on the rise in children, and doctors have struggled to figure out why.

The researchers found that the chance that a child was diagnosed with asthma was significantly greater if the child was obese. They found that 23 to 27 per cent of new cases of asthma in the children were directly attributable to obesity.

They also found a link between being overweight and having asthma. However, the link between overweight and asthma was not as strong as was the link to asthma in kids with obesity.

The connection is not well understood, but there are some theories. One is that carrying extra weight around the chest might predispose children to asthma by narrowing the airways or restricting the chest to shallow breaths. Studies have shown that obesity reduces the volume of air that can be inspired into the lungs.

Another hypothesis is that adipose or fatty tissue releases chemicals called adipokines that increase inflammation inside the body. The “excess” inflammation caused by adipokines makes the airways more sensitive to environmental triggers like cat and dog dander that can set off asthma attacks.

Another theory is that obesity triggers a third condition such as acid reflux and obstructive sleep apnea that in turn trigger asthma. None of these have been proven.

Some researchers believe the connection between obesity and asthma is just a coincidence of two common conditions. Some believe asthma is the result of obesity rather than the cause.

Currently, there are few known prevention factors that can be used to reduce childhood asthma. Reducing obesity would be good for children. It would also reduce significantly the burden of asthma and obesity on the health-care system.

The obvious recommendation is weight loss. Studies have shown that overweight and obese adults with asthma who lose weight have significant improvements in asthma control.

How to tackle dry skin in winter

Wrap up against the cold

Colder, drier air during the winter months means the water in your skin evaporates faster. Scientists have estimated that your skin loses more than 25% of its ability to hold moisture in winter, making it feel drier and tighter. You can reduce this by shielding your skin with protective clothing such as gloves and scarves while outdoors.

Use a humidifier

Spending more time indoors with the heating on also dries out your skin. Running a humidifier in the most commonly used living areas in your home can help replenish moisture in the air that has been sucked out by the dry indoor heat. Setting a humidifier to around 60% is thought to be sufficient to help replenish the skin’s oily surface layers.

Avoid overly hot showers

Piping hot showers may be tempting, but the higher temperatures dry out skin by stripping away its surface oils: keeping the water lukewarm is actually much healthier. Try to limit showers to no more than 10 minutes and avoid using bath sponges or scrubbing brushes that can damage and irritate the skin. When towelling dry, pat the skin rather than rubbing vigorously.


Regular moisturising is the most effective way of tackling dry skin, but some products are better than others. Look for moisturising creams containing lactic acid or ammonium lactate as these ingredients help seal moisture within your skin. The best moment to apply moisturiser is within three to five minutes of showering, while your skin is still damp.

Swap your soap

One of the most common causes of dry skin is harsh soaps, particularly those that promise lots of exfoliation. Soap is an emulsifier, meaning it strips away the moisture within your skin. Definitely avoid deodorant or perfumed soaps or soaps that contain alcohol – instead, try soap-free cleansing products such as Cetaphil or Aquanil, which contain added moisturiser.

Avoid woollen clothing

Scratchy fibres such as wool can aggravate dry, sensitive skin, causing it to become itchy. If you are prone to dry skin, you may be better off sticking to softer, smoother fabrics that allow your skin to breathe, such as cotton.

Stay hydrated

We tend not to be as thirsty during the winter, compared with the hot summer months, but your body actually loses water through the skin all year round, especially when you spend most of the day in a warm indoor environment. This makes it easy to become dehydrated without realising, which can contribute to dry skin. Drink regularly even if you don’t feel thirsty, and avoid caffeinated drinks, which will dehydrate you even more.

3 Ways to Lower Your Odds of Diabetes

The nutritionist says … eat one plant protein and one serving of veggies at every meal.

As often as possible, get your protein from low-carb plant foodslike soy and nuts. Beans are also good protein sources, but they’re high in carbs, so be cautious if that’s something you’re monitoring. Studies show that filling your plate with veggies and nuts helps improve chronic inflammation and insulin sensitivity.

And a plant-based diet can also help you lose weight, lower your blood glucose and blood pressure, and ward off heart disease — because you’re getting more fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and healthy fats, and less saturated fat and cholesterol.

The researcher says … sign up for a prevention program.

Most doctors will tell you to eat better and move more, but how exactly do you start putting the advice into practice? That’s why it’s crucial to find a group that helps inspire you to create healthy, lasting habits. Research shows that when you engage in a yearlong lifestyle change program that includes diet, exercise, and support, you’ll cut your risk of diabetes by over half, and by 70% if you’re over 60, you’ll also help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

The doctor says … pop a Vitamin D pill.

While other supplements may claim to help manage or prevent diabetes, vitamin D is the only one with actual evidence to support it. In fact, one study of over 2,000 people with prediabetes found that the higher the level of vitamin D in the subject’s blood, the lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Your body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, but because people aren’t going outdoors as much, it’s very common to be deficient in this vitamin. And it’s hard to reach the right levels just by eating.

There’s more to the Volvo XC40 D4 R-Design than just serious good looks

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.

What type of investor are you?

Risk and reward are opposite sides of the same coin, and it is almost certain there will be a trade-off between the two to achieve your long-term investment goals.

Investment guru Warren Buffett is quoted as saying that “risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing”. Take this billionaire’s advice and understand the risk of the various types of investments before leaping in – and, importantly, know your own risk profile and whether you are risk friendly or risk averse regarding your investments.

For the average person, risk means the temporary or permanent loss or decrease of your investment value. But without taking on calculated risks, your rewards from investing make be inadequate, so make risk your friend.

A good financial adviser can help establish the optimal level of investment risk that will let you achieve your investment goals, taking into account your risk profile. Legislation requires that an adviser obtain all the necessary information to establish your needs and objectives and to recommend products in accordance with those needs and your risk profile.

Determining your risk profile is usually done via a questionnaire. There is debate in the industry about the appropriateness of some of these questionnaires, but as long as your adviser assesses your risk profile holistically and takes into account your financial goals, investment time horizon, existing investments and other relevant factors – and you stick to the strategy designed for you – you should be able to meet your goals.

Those goals can be as simple at buying a new car in four years’ time, paying for the education of a child in 18 years’ time, or being financially secure when you retire.

There are three aspects to risk. All three should be taken into account when deciding how to allocate your investments between cash, bonds, property and shares, or to a combination of these.

  • The required risk is associated with the return you need to reach your investment goals.
  • Risk tolerance is your emotional capacity to withstand losses from your investment. It speaks to whether you stick to your strategy without panicking and ditching the plan.
  • Risk capacity is your ability to financially absorb any investment losses.

Risk tolerance

Advisers may assume you are comfortable with a high level of risk because you enjoy activities such as parachuting and bungee jumping, but that is not necessarily true for the way you feel about taking large bets with your investments.

Your risk tolerance should be determined through the use of questions that are valid, relevant, reliable and not too technical. An example of a good indicator of your risk tolerance is whether you would accept a decline in your investment value of, say, 10% over any 12 months to achieve a return of inflation plus 3% a year over three to four years. That quantifies the risk objectively over a certain period, is not too technical and is relevant to the investment at hand.

Furthermore, a financial adviser should work out the possibilities and probabilities of an investment and advise you on the potential for a decline in the value of an investment under consideration or one that is recommended for you.

Having your risk tolerance assessed is important, otherwise you could be left unable to make informed decisions, or it could lead to inappropriate advice. You may, for instance, panic when the market drops sharply and then sell your investment, which could have a significant impact on your financial wellbeing in the long run.

It is important to understand that risk tolerance is only one part of the assessment of your risk profile. You may well sleep soundly if your strategy relies on conservative investments, but it may be woefully inadequate to help you achieve your long-term financial goals. This is where the assessment of the next type of risk comes into the equation.

Risk required to achieve your goals

You need to differentiate between risk tolerance – how much risk you feel comfortable taking on – and the risk you need to take to achieve your long-term investment goals.

This measure of risk will take into account the amount you need to save, your time horizon and the returns of the various asset classes such as cash, bonds, property and shares. Generally, shares are regarded as the most risky and cash (money in the bank) as the least risky.

The higher percentage of shares of a fund or investment, the riskier the investment is likely to be over the short term.

Understanding the difference between volatility and risk is important. If an investment is volatile, it’s not necessarily risky.

Keeping your money in cash over the long term is considered risky because you will not be able to outperform inflation and your money will lose its real value over time.

If you want your capital to beat inflation, you will have to embrace an investment that contains growth assets such as shares, irrespective of their volatility. Such an investment will give you the best chance of outperforming inflation over the long term, as long as you are patient.

5 Thing’s top CEOs do daily

With the same 24-hour days as everyone else, successful CEOs seem to have a universal ability to do it all.

While they run the show at some of the biggest companies around the world, we can’t help but wonder how they would run their own day?

In their work with high performing CEO’s of fast-growth companies, Edward Sullivan and John Baird of the Velocity Group noticed one thing: Building a highly-successful company is the result of some fairly predictable executive habits.

Although there’s no one-size-fits-all routine for success, there’s a number of similarities in the habits of C-suites across the board.

Here are 5 things top CEOs do daily:

#1 They start their day right
Whether it’s by exercising before work, meditating for a few minutes while their coffee is brewing or reading the headlines while chewing their toast, many go-getting CEO’s have a morning routine that sets them up for a good day.

Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, told The New York Times, “I get up at 4:30 every morning. I like the quiet time. It’s a time I can recharge my batteries a bit. I exercise and I clear my head and I catch up on the world.”

Billionaire John Paul DeJoria, the co-founder of Patrón tequila and Paul Mitchell hair products, starts every morning with five minutes of quiet reflection. “The very second I wake up, I stay in bed for about five minutes and just be.”

#2 They read…a lot!
Warren Buffet, billionaire and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, spends 80% of his day reading. In his documentary, Becoming Warren Buffet, he recommends that people try to read at least 500 pages a day. “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest,” the 88-year-old magnate says.

Even the younger generation of CEOs, like Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, have acknowledged the value of reading and even publicly taken up the challenge of making it a habit.

#3 They work with plan
One of the 7 habits of highly effective people, which author Stephen M.R. Covey identifies, is that they have the ability to put the first things first. There are often so many priorities in massive organisations that it is difficult for people to determine what the major focus should be. Which is why CEO’s should be able to prioritise and compartmentalise daily tasks.

Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, has a memo system for example that helps him keep up with all his responsibilities without getting sidetracked throughout the day.

#4 They “keep thinking” and stay creative
In a recent Fast Company poll, 60% of those surveyed said that creativity will be the most important leadership quality over the next five years. And perhaps no one exhibits the power of creativity better than the tech titans from Silicon Valley.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, says that creativity is about people who “keep thinking” until they get it right. For Cook and other giants like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Oracle’s Larry Ellison, creativity is essential to lead their employees to innovate new products and come up with solutions to problems that may not even exist yet.

Jeff Bezos says he tries to get all these high-IQ meetings in before lunch to make sure he’s fully present.

#5 They end their days well
“The best decision I ever made was committing to getting eight hours of sleep a night,” Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post, said.

In her book, The Sleep Revolution, Arianna writes that once she started giving sleep the respect it deserves, her life improved in pretty much every way. This came after she fainted from sleep deprivation and broke her cheekbone in 2007. “Now, instead of waking up to the sense that I have to trudge through activities, I wake up feeling joyful about the day’s possibilities.”