Have you noticed that as you get older your voice has changed? While the most obvious differences occur with adolescents as they go through puberty, our voices also alter as we reach middle age and then again as we move into old age.
It is not just the tone, but the strength that changes. This summer, quite a few aging rock stars have done live shows and while some, like Bruce Springsteen, have had impressively strong voices, others like Blondie and Elton John, of course, still brilliant artists, perhaps past their prime. vocal. .
So what is Bruce Springsteen’s secret and how can you keep your voice in good condition?
Although we’re all very aware of the gray hair, expanding waistline, and hearing loss that occur as we age, those subtle changes that occur in our voices over time may be less obvious to us.
In fact, for women it’s not just age: when a woman is pregnant, and after giving birth, her voice becomes ‘deeper and more monotonous’.
Have you noticed that as you get older your voice has changed?
That’s according to Dr Kasia Pisanski, a researcher at the Mammalian Vocal Communication and Cognition Research group at the University of Sussex, based on analysis of the voices of 20 mothers, recorded before and after pregnancy, and after giving birth. .
To do this study, he was inspired by the singer Adele, who revealed a few years ago that when she was pregnant her voice was “much lower”, which made it easier for her to sing certain songs, including Skyfall, the main theme of the James Bond movie. that demands demanding low notes.
Dr. Pisanski suggests this could be due to hormonal changes affecting the vocal cords, or that women, after giving birth, are unconsciously deepening their voices to sound more authoritative.
As she explained: “Research has shown that people with low-pitched voices generally see themselves as more competent, mature and commanding, so it could be that women are modulating their own voices to sound more authoritative when faced with new parenting challenges.’
My Top Tip for a Trimmed Waist
Does it matter to have a higher BMI (body mass index)? Well, a recent US study found that people classified as “overweight” based on their BMI lived longer.
It’s not clear why, but one of the problems with BMI is that it doesn’t tell you how much of your body weight is fat and where this fat is distributed.
My BMI, 24.6, is in the healthy range, between 18.5 and 24.9. But for people of certain black, Asian, or other ethnic groups, the healthy BMI cutoff may be 23, because they’re more likely to store fat around the stomach, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
When I gain weight, it goes through my stomach and neck; my pants start to tighten, I snore loudly, and my blood sugar and blood pressure skyrocket. So personally, I don’t pay much attention to my BMI, instead I keep an eye on my waist line (ideally, it should be less than 37 inches/94 cm for men; 31.5 inches/80 cm for women).
Wearing a tight belt is my top health tip because it’s a reminder when it’s time not to snack!
Whatever the explanation, this effect is temporary. The main long-term changes in our voices occur as we enter our 50s and 60s when, according to the British Voice Association, women’s voices tend to get deeper, while men’s get higher. The sound of our voice is produced when air passes through our larynx (or larynx). This causes the vocal cords to vibrate and produce sound: the more vibration, the higher the pitch. The pitch is influenced by the length and tension of the vocal cords: the sound produced then resonates in your throat, nose, and mouth to produce your voice.
In women, the drop in sex hormone levels after menopause means changes in the vocal cords that make the voice deeper, rasper, and breathy.
However, men are more likely to develop an age-related condition called presbylarynx, in which the vocal cords become thinner and stiffer. This makes the voice sound hoarser, weaker, and higher-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 cords with a filler, such as hyaluronic acid (the same kind used to make lips look fuller).
The best thing, however, is to try to protect your voice as much as possible from the ravages of age.
For starters, you could start singing in the shower; Singing is a great way to keep your vocal muscles in shape, and the steam will also rehydrate your throat.
Studies have shown that trained singers manage to keep their voices younger for longer, and additionally reap 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 to drink a large glass of water with each meal, at a minimum). Reading aloud, humming through a straw, or blowing into a straw when it’s submerged in liquid (the kind of thing you did when you started blowing bubbles in milk as a kid) are also supposed to be good for your vocal cords, since you work muscles that help give resonance to your voice.
Professional singers take care of their voice by not smoking and by avoiding too many loud and drunken late-night parties.
In a recent interview, Bruce Springsteen said: ‘When I’m on the road, I’m more or less a monk. I do the show, I go back to the hotel.
He added: ‘It seems like people burn their voices, not on stage but speaking in a nightclub. I always found that if I burned my voice, it was because I stayed up after the show for three or four hours.’
So if you want to sound like the boss when you’re 70, don’t smoke and try to keep your ‘loud yelling at nightclubs’ to a minimum.
People who work in noisy environments may want to take their chats outdoors.
And work on your stance, as that can make a big difference in how hard you throw.
Keeping your spine straight, your shoulders back, and your head held high will give your lungs room to expand and allow your vocal cords to stretch, which will keep you sounding younger for years to come.
Why I prefer whole milk to watery versions
When I was growing up, almost everyone drank whole milk.
Then, in the 1970s, we were warned that the saturated fat in dairy would block our arteries and make us fat. So we switched from butter to margarine, and from whole milk to watery skim milk.
Partly as a result, Brits now drink a third less cow’s milk than 30 years ago, and most of it is skim or part-skim.
However, I’ve gone back to eating butter, whole milk, and full-fat Greek yogurt, partly because I prefer the flavor, but also because there’s mounting evidence that giving up full-fat dairy is unlikely to make you healthier. Take, for example, the results of a large study published earlier this month in the European Heart Journal, involving 147,000 people.
I’m back to eating butter, whole milk, and full-fat Greek yogurt, partly because I prefer the taste, but also because there’s growing evidence that giving up full-fat dairy is unlikely to make you healthier. [File image]
He showed that to minimize your risk of heart attack or stroke, the best thing you can do is eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, and whole milk.
The same research team previously found that people who ate at least two servings a day of full-fat dairy had a 24% lower risk of metabolic syndrome (a combination of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity) than those who didn’t. . do not consume any. Why could it be like this? It turns out that the saturated fat in full-fat dairy doesn’t seem like the kind that’s bad for you.
A study in the journal PLOS Medicine in 2021 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 whole milk can help you stay slim.
A 2019 review, based on 28 studies, found that children who drank whole milk were 40% less likely to be overweight or obese compared to those who drank skim milk.