Double Chins: A Tell-Tale Sign of Ageing and Neglect

It’s easy to conceal a middle aged spread, by wearing a body belt or voluminous skirt. But how do you hide a double chin? Make-up can be used to beautify a woman’s face, but there are no cosmetics to hide creased and sagging jowls. That was the complaint of the late Nora Ephron, who is probably best known as an award winning screenwriter of movies like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. She was also a consummate journalist, and astute witness of the foibles and flaws of everyday life. In one of her essays, entitled ‘I Feel Bad About My Neck’, she wrote: ‘Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth. You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t have to if it had a neck.’ That’s a shrewd observation, for the wrinkles on our neck reveal our age as surely as the annual growth rings of a tree. They also say a lot about our physical life style, for we only put on layers of blubber when the calories we consume exceed the energy we expend. Some of that fat is stored in the body’s subcutaneous tissues, and that’s most clearly seen when it’s stored in puckered rolls around the neck.

Those fat deposits can’t be removed by massage or any other form of non-surgical spot reduction. If the neck muscles are flabby, they can be strengthened by exercises, but that doesn’t diminish the Michelin man rolls of fat around the jowls, which are emphasised whenever the head is lowered or the chin dropped. Some fitness buffs believe that the neck muscles can be strengthened be enunciating the vowel sounds – a,e,i,o,u – in an exaggerated manner several times a day. This may improve your singing, but won’t have any other positive effect, apart from frightening the horses and annoying your neighbours. It certainly won’t remove the rolls of flab in your neck, and these, if left in situ, pose a serious health risk.

This danger was highlighted by Dr Daniel Slaughter, an American otolaryngologist who is one of the world’s leading snoring experts. As he explains: ‘If you gain weight around your neck it squeezes the internal diameter of the throat, making it more likely to collapse during sleep, triggering snoring.’ Three-quarters of these nocturnal snorters go on

to develop sleep apnoea, which

means that they have periods during the night when their breathing stops. This deprives their brain of oxygen, which makes them prone the next day to bouts of lethargy, moodiness, memory loss and reduced mental acuity. Surveys also show that sufferers from sleep apnoea have a high risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease and stroke, a hazard which arises when the diameter of the neck exceeds 16 inches in a woman, and 17 inches in a man. The only long-term solution is to adopt a life style which will enable you to maintain a healthy weight without the need for crash dieting and calorie counting. A double chin can be concealed by wearing a roll-neck sweater. That may improve your appearance, but will do nothing to improve your health.


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