DR MICHAEL MOSLEY: Don’t let your voice age you, practice singing in the shower!

DR MICHAEL MOSLEY: Don't let your voice age you, practice singing in the shower!

Have you noticed that your voice has changed as you get older? While the most obvious differences are seen in teenage boys as we pass through puberty, our voices also change as we reach middle age and then again as we move into old age.

It changes not only the pitch, but also the force. A number of aging rock stars have performed live this summer and some, such as Bruce Springsteen, have been reported to have impressively strong voices, while others such as Blondie and Elton John – of course, still brilliant performers – are probably past their prime.

So what is Bruce Springsteen’s secret and how can you keep your voice in good shape?

While we’re all very aware of gray hair, expanding waistlines and hearing loss as we age, the subtle changes that occur in our voices over time may be less obvious to us.

In fact, it’s not just age for women: when a woman is pregnant – and after she gives birth – her voice becomes ‘deeper and more monotonous’.

Have you noticed that your voice has changed as you get older?

According to Dr Kasia Pisanski, a researcher in the Mammal Vocal Communication and Cognition Research Group at the University of Sussex, based on an analysis of the voices of 20 mothers recorded before and after conception and after their birth.

He was inspired to do the research by singer Adele, who revealed a few years ago that her voice became ‘a lot lower’ when she was pregnant, making it easier for her to belt out some songs, including the Skyfall theme song. A James Bond movie that needs less notes.

Dr. Pisansky suggests that this may be due to hormonal changes that affect the vocal cords, or that women, after giving birth, unconsciously make their voices sound more authentic.

She explained: ‘Research has shown that people with lower-pitched voices are generally perceived as more competent, mature and dominant, so it may be that women are modulating their own voices to sound more authoritative, facing new challenges parenting.’

My top tip for a trim waistline

Is it important to have a higher BMI (Body Mass Index)? Well, a recent US study found that people classified as ‘overweight’ based on their BMI, lived the longest.

It’s not clear why, but one problem with BMI is that it doesn’t tell you how much body fat you weigh and where this fat is distributed.

My BMI, 24.6, is within the healthy range, 18.5 to 24.9. But for people of some black, Asian or other ethnic groups, the healthy BMI cut-off may be 23, as they tend to accumulate fat around the abdomen, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

When I gain weight it moves to my stomach and around my neck — my trousers start to bag, I snore loudly and my blood sugar and blood pressure rise. So personally I don’t pay much attention to my BMI, but rather to my waistline (ideally it should be less than 37in/94cm for men; 31.5in/80cm for women).

Wearing a tight belt is my top health tip because it’s a reminder when it’s time to go easy on snacks!

Whatever the explanation, this effect is temporary. As we enter our 50s and 60s, major, long-term changes to our voices occur when, according to the British Voice Association, women’s voices tend to become deeper, while men’s become higher. Our voice produces sound by forcing air over the larynx (or voice box) in our throat. It vibrates the vocal cords, creating sound — the higher the vibration, the higher the pitch. Pitch is affected by the length and tightness of the vocal cords – the sound produced then resonates in your throat, nose and mouth to create your voice.

In women, the drop in sex hormone levels after menopause means vocal cord changes that make the voice low, hoarse and breathy.

But men are more likely to develop an age-related condition called presbylarynx, in which the vocal cords thin and harden. It makes the voice sound more hoarse, weak and high pitched. As far as I can tell, this hasn’t happened to me yet.

Presbylarynx can be treated with voice therapy or even a voice lift, which involves injecting the vocal folds with a filler, such as hyaluronic acid (the same stuff used to plump up lips).

However, the best thing to do is to try to protect your voice as much as possible from the ravages of age.

For starters, you can take singing in the shower; Singing is a great way to keep your vocal muscles in shape and the steam will rehydrate your throat.

Studies have shown that trained singers manage to keep their voices lower for longer periods of time, and on top of that you get other benefits from singing, including improved mood, reduced anxiety and even relief from chronic pain.

Other ways to prevent your voice from fading include keeping your vocal cords well lubricated by drinking plenty of water (try drinking a large glass of water with each meal). Reading aloud, humming through a straw, or blowing into a straw while submerged in liquid (the kind you did when you started blowing bubbles in your milk as a child) is also thought to be good for your vocal cords. Working muscles that help your voice resonate.

Professional singers take care of their voices by not smoking and avoiding too many loud, boozy late-night parties.

In a recent interview Bruce Springsteen said: ‘When I’m on the road, I’m pretty much a hermit. I do the show, go back to the hotel.’

He added: ‘It sounds like people have burnt their voices talking in a nightclub, not on a stage. I could always see if I’d burnt my voice, because I’d wake up after three to four hours of noise.’

So if you want to sound like a boss in your 70s, don’t smoke and don’t try to ‘shout out loud in nightclubs’.

Those who work in noisy environments may want to take their chats outside.

And work on your posture, because it can make a big difference in how powerfully you project.

Keeping your spine straight, shoulders back and head up will expand your lung space and allow your vocal cords to stretch, both of which will make you look years younger than your years.

Why I prefer full fat milk over the watery version

When I was young, almost everyone drank full fat milk.

Then in the 1970s we were warned that dairy saturated fat would clog our arteries and make us fat. So we changed from butter to margarine and from full-fat milk to watered-down, skimmed milk.

Partly as a result, we Brits now drink a third less cow’s milk than we did 30 years ago, and much of what we eat is skimmed or semi-skimmed.

I have, however, returned to eating butter, full-fat milk, and full-fat Greek yogurt—partly because I like the taste, but also because there is growing evidence that giving up full-fat dairy is unlikely to make you healthier. Take, for example, the results of a massive study published earlier this month in the European Heart Journal, involving 147,000 people.

I’m back to eating butter, full-fat milk, and full-fat Greek yogurt—partly because I love the taste, but also because there’s growing evidence that giving up full-fat dairy is unlikely to make you healthier. [File image]

It showed that to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke, your best bet is to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish — and full-fat milk.

The same research team previously found that those who consumed at least two servings of full-fat dairy a day had a 24 percent lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome (a combination of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity) than those who did not. No swallowing. Why could that be? It turns out that saturated fat from full-fat dairy doesn’t seem to be bad for you.

A 2021 study in the journal PLOS Medicine found that people with higher levels of dairy fat markers in their blood had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

And because it contains more fat, which helps fill you up, there’s evidence that full-fat milk can help you stay slim.

A 2019 review based on 28 studies found that children who drank whole milk were 40 percent less likely to be underweight or obese than those who drank full-fat milk.

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