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Turn down the volume: WHO takes aim at harmful smartphone use, saying over 1 billion people at risk

AFP-JIJI


An attendee uses a smartphone to record a video of U.S. President Donald Trump speaking during a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday. | BLOOMBERG

GENEVA – More than 1 billion young people risk damaging their hearing through excessive use of smartphones and other audio devices, the U.N. warned Tuesday, proposing new safety standards for safe volume levels.

In a bid to safeguard hearing, the World Health Organization and International Telecommunications Union issued a non-binding international standard for the manufacture and use of audio devices.

Young people are particularly prone to risky listening habits.

Around half of those between the ages of 12 and 35, or 1.1 billion people, are at risk due to “prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music they listen to through personal audio devices,” the UN health agency said.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out that the world already has “the technological know-how to prevent hearing loss.”

“It should not be the case that so many young people continue to damage their hearing while listening to music,” he said in the statement.

Young people, he said, “must understand that once they lose their hearing, it won’t come back.”

Currently, about 5 percent of the global population, or some 466 million people, including 34 million children, suffer from disabling hearing loss.

WHO said it remained unclear how many of them had damaged their hearing through dangerous use of audio devices.

It insisted though that the new standard developed with ITU would go a long way to “safeguard these young consumers as they go about doing something they enjoy.”

WHO considers a volume above 85 decibels for eight hours or 100 decibels for 15 minutes as unsafe.

The Safe listening devices and systems standard calls for a “sound allowance” software to be included in all audio devices, to track the volume level and duration of a user’s exposure to sound, and to evaluate the risk posed to their hearing.

This system could alert a user if they have dangerous listening habits.

WHO is also calling for parental as well as automatic volume controls on audio devices to prevent dangerous use.

While some smartphones and other audio devices already offer some of these features, the U.N. would like to see a uniform standard used to help protect against disabling hearing loss.

“Think of it like driving on a highway, but without a speedometer in your car or a speed limit,” Shelly Chadha of the WHO told reporters in Geneva.

“What we’ve proposed is that your smartphones come fitted with a speedometer, with a measurement system which tells you how much sound you’re getting and tells you if you are going over the limit.”

Source: Turn down the volume: WHO takes aim at harmful smartphone use, saying over 1 billion people at risk

Properly Managing Your Blood Pressure May Protect Your Memory

Taking a blood pressure check with an image of a brain in the background

Study underscores importance of managing BP

It’s not just your heart health you’ll improve when you manage your blood pressure. A national study found that optimizing blood pressure targets could help your memory too.

While people’s blood pressure (BP) fluctuates all the time, the ideal BP target is 120 over 80. The first number (systolic BP) indicates the pressure against your artery walls when the heart beats. The second number (diastolic BP) indicates the pressure against your artery walls when your heart is resting between beats.

Over the years, medical guidelines have suggested managing systolic pressure to different targets, from under 140 to under 130, with recent guidelines suggesting management to under 130.

Doctors typically give more attention to the first number because it’s the major risk for cardiovascular disease — especially as we age.

What the study examined

SPRINT (the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial), a study of the heart health of more than 9,000 people ages 50+ sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, recently did a subanalysis called the SPRINT MIND trial. It looked at the brain health of a smaller group of almost 700 patients whose blood pressure was managed to 120 (or less) versus a group managed to 140.

These patients received brain scans at the beginning of the trial and again four years later. Researchers found that those who managed their BP to 120 lowered their chances of developing white matter in the brain by a third. (Less white matter means less chance of developing cognitive impairment.)

The SPRINT MIND trial’s take-aways: “We regularly see patients with memory problems and grapple with mysteries that continue to surround the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of age-related cognitive impairment,” says geriatrician Ronan Factora, MD. “So we’re naturally excited to see large, randomized trials like the SPRINT study where the findings can have a dramatic impact on patients’ health. These results give older patients who have high blood pressure, but are otherwise healthy, a strong incentive to work toward the less than 120 blood pressure target.”

But the SPRINT MIND findings are far from a one-size-fits-all prescription, Dr. Factora cautions.

But the study excluded patients who had diabeteskidney disease and a number of other conditions. That means that it didn’t take into account many real-life scenarios related to managing high blood pressure.

He notes that there’s also the other end of the spectrum, when blood pressure is managed so closely that it becomes too low, which can lead to light-headedness or dizziness when standing up.

“Especially for older patients, we have to be careful that their blood pressure isn’t so low that it leads to a fall and a broken bone,” Dr. Factora says. We must make sure the SPRINT MIND guidelines are appropriate for each patient we see, taking into account that person’s medical conditions, medications and ultimate medical goals.

That said, if hypertension is the only significant medical problem you’re dealing with, Dr. Factora recommends working with the help of your physician toward the less than 120 blood pressure target.

Source: Properly Managing Your Blood Pressure May Protect Your Memory
Cleveland Clinic

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