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Being Overweight May Age Your Brain By 10 Years, Study Finds

Being Overweight May Age Your Brain By 10 Years, Study Finds

You already know being overweight isn’t healthy. It can cause tons of problems, especially later in life. But did you know a study done by the journal Neurobiology of Aging actually took brain scans of overweight and slim people, compared them, and found the overweight people’s brains showed signs of being 10 years older?

Let’s back up. Science proved a long time ago that the white matter in our brain shrinks as we age. This white matter contains connecting branches called axons. These connect neurons together, which is referred to as the “cerebral highway” because there are so many pathways going across your brain where electrical impulses travel as the different parts of your brain communicate.

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The Study

Researchers recruited 527 volunteers aged 20 to 87. Each one was classified as either “lean” or “overweight” depending on their body mass. After scanning the brains of all participants, the study authors found that from middle-age onwards, the brains of overweight people tended to shrink more than those in the lean group.

Most of the overweight participants’ brains showed as much shrinkage as lean participants’ brains which were 10 years older. The study’s co-author, Lisa Ronan, explained in a statement that “it isn’t clear why people who are overweight have a greater reduction in the amount of white matter,” adding that “we can only speculate on whether obesity might in some way cause these changes or whether obesity is a consequence of brain changes.”

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What Science Shows

Unfortunately, the researchers aren’t sure exactly what causes this effect. They think it may have to do with inflammation. As we get older, we experience higher levels of oxidative stress, which is the production of certain molecules that cause damage to body tissues. Previous studies have shown that this often leads to inflammation, which in turn causes the loss of white matter.

The buildup of fatty tissue causes inflammatory compounds called cytokines to release alongside inflammatory hormones like leptin. Researchers believe this may partially explain the reason behind obesity causing such extreme signs of aging.

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Thankfully, despite the loss of white matter, overweight people didn’t appear to have lost any cognitive capabilities — meaning they had no problem thinking like everyone else. They also performed just as well as lean people of the same age on IQ tests.

So if you’re overweight, you may want to start thinking about changing your diet and getting proper exercise. Even without shrinkage of your white matter, there are many other consequences of remaining at a high weight. If you need some help getting started, Lifehack has a great goal-setting program to help motivate you to stick to your goals.

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Bill Widmer

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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