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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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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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