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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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