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Mastering New Year’s Resolutions: A Science-Backed Guide to Sustainable Change

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Almost everyone comes up with a New Year’s resolution. Almost no one keeps them. Why is this? Presumably, everyone starts with the willpower and good intentions necessary to make their “New Year, New Me” resolutions happen. And yet, by January 8th, almost everyone has tapped out and is back to their old ways.

The good news is that you can beat the statistics. Like a lot of other things in the world of fitness, the key is to understand the science behind what you’re trying to do. None of what we’re about to present you is a magic bullet that you can use to automatically accomplish your goals without discipline, willpower, and a lot of effort. However, if you put our advice to work alongside all of that, you can be part of the small percentage of people who make their New Year’s resolutions a reality. 

The Psychology of Resolutions

It’s necessary to understand the psychology working behind New Year’s resolutions if we want ours to be successful. To understand this, we need to talk about the psychology behind goal-setting. 

The best way to understand this is by understanding the Zeigarnik Effect. This is a psychological phenomenon named after psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik. It reveals that our minds love to fixate on unfinished tasks. This fixation acts as a sort of “mental itch,” which in turn propels us to complete what we’ve started. Understanding this concept is crucial in establishing resolutions that align with our intrinsic motivation, ensuring we are more likely to follow through.

To make the most of the Zeigarnik Effect we should understand SMART goals. SMART goals are five things: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. These criteria provide a structured framework for effective goal-setting. So rather than just aiming at something vague, SMART goals allow us to make our goals more tangible, which in turn makes them more like unfinished tasks than simply “something we hope happens one day.”

Conclusive research suggests individuals who set SMART goals (as opposed to vague ones) are more likely to succeed in achieving them. By defining your resolutions with specificity, measuring progress, ensuring attainability, and relevance, and setting a realistic timeline, you create a roadmap that guides you toward success.

The Power of One: Simplifying Resolutions

A common pitfall with New Year’s resolutions is the temptation to tackle a long list of goals at the same time. However, research suggests focusing on a single goal at a time dramatically increases our likelihood of success. 

On the other hand, when we spread our efforts across a number of goals, our cognitive resources become diluted, making it difficult to sustain meaningful progress toward any single one of them. So prioritize your resolutions, starting with the most important ones, and gradually move on to others as your habits solidify.

Because what we’re really trying to do is cultivate new habits in place of old ones. Habits are the building blocks of long-term change. Establish new routines, and associate meaningful rewards to reinforce the new positive behaviors in your life. This works a lot better than simply punishing yourself for perceived transgressions. 

Coping with Setbacks and Building Resilience

Willpower, often considered the bedrock of self-control, is a finite resource. We only have so much of it to give until we break. The good news is that once we understand this, we can start finding new ways to persevere in pursuit of our goals. Set realistic expectations for yourself and avoid overloading your capacity for self-control, which is setting yourself up for failure.

The brain’s reward system is fueled by the neurotransmitter dopamine. This also plays a critical role in the formation of new habits. Celebrating small victories along your journey releases dopamine, which in turn reinforces positive associations with your resolutions. Positive reinforcement helps to strengthen our neural pathways, making it far more likely that our behavior becomes ingrained in new routines.

So this New Year’s, align your aspirations with established behavioral science to increase your likelihood of success. Understanding the science behind effective goal-setting empowers you to navigate challenges and emerge victorious in your pursuit of a better self.

What’s your track record like with New Year’s Resolutions? Are you going to do one this year? What is it? Share your experiences in the comments below. 

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Health

Weight Loss Drugs Reduce Risk of Kidney Disease

Recent research reveals that weekly injections of semaglutide medications, such as Ozempic, significantly lower the risk of severe kidney outcomes, major cardiovascular events, and death among individuals with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease.

Diabetes is a major risk factor for kidney disease, a leading cause of death globally. Approximately one in three people with diabetes also suffers from chronic kidney disease. The new study demonstrates that weekly injections of semaglutide can reduce the risk of severe outcomes from diabetic kidney disease by about 24%. These outcomes include significant loss of kidney function, kidney failure, and death from kidney or cardiovascular causes.

The study, conducted on about 3,500 participants across 28 countries, compared those receiving weekly 1-milligram injections of semaglutide with those receiving a placebo. The participants were followed for an average of about three and a half years. Findings showed that severe outcomes occurred 331 times among those treated with semaglutide, compared to 410 events among those given the placebo. This translates to 5.8 events per 100 years of follow-up for semaglutide users, versus 7.5 events per 100 years for the placebo group.

The study also found broader benefits of semaglutide treatment. Kidney function declined more slowly, the risk of major cardiovascular events such as heart attack was 18% lower, and the risk of death from any cause was 20% lower among those treated with semaglutide compared to the placebo group. These benefits suggest that semaglutide not only helps manage blood sugar levels but also offers significant protection against other complications associated with diabetes and kidney disease.

Implications for Treatment

This study highlights the transformative potential of semaglutide for people with diabetes and kidney disease. The effectiveness of semaglutide was found to be particularly significant in those at the highest risk of severe outcomes, including kidney failure and cardiovascular events. Researchers noted that a combination of therapies might be crucial for comprehensive management, as many participants were also receiving other diabetes treatments.

While other drug treatments exist for diabetic kidney disease, semaglutide showed additional benefits beyond current standards of care. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the European Renal Association Congress. The trial’s promising results led to its early conclusion based on the recommendation of an independent monitoring committee.

There are significant disparities in the prevalence of diabetes and kidney disease in the United States, particularly among Black, Hispanic, and American Indian adults. Despite these disparities, most participants in the semaglutide trial were White, limiting the assessment of its effectiveness across diverse populations. Ensuring that effective treatments like semaglutide reach all high-risk groups is essential for reducing health disparities and improving outcomes for all patients.

Semaglutide presents a highly effective therapy for reducing severe kidney and cardiovascular outcomes in people with type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease. It addresses a broad spectrum of risks associated with diabetes, including weight loss, blood pressure reduction, and direct effects on kidney health. Moving forward, the challenge lies in ensuring that these benefits reach all patients, particularly those at the highest risk who may have less access to advanced treatments. The transition from research to practical implementation is crucial to maximizing the positive impact of this therapy on public health.

Are you taking weight loss drugs? Are you glad to hear of the positive side effects? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

 

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Is Weekly Insulin the Way Forward for Diabetes Treatment?

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Insulin therapy, crucial for many people with diabetes, typically involves daily injections to manage blood sugar levels. However, a new development could change this routine. Novo Nordisk, the maker of a once-weekly insulin injection called insulin icodec, is seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Despite potential benefits, the FDA’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee is divided on whether the advantages outweigh the risks.

The advisory committee recently evaluated the safety and efficacy of insulin icodec, focusing on its use in people with type 1 diabetes. Members considered whether the benefits of this weekly insulin outweigh its risks for improving glycemic control. Out of the 11 members, four voted in favor, while seven opposed. The committee’s recommendations will be considered by the FDA, though the agency is not obligated to follow them when making its final decision.

Clinical Trial Findings on Weekly Insulin Treatment

Phase 3 clinical trials indicate that insulin icodec is more effective at reducing high blood glucose levels compared to the daily therapy insulin degludec. However, insulin icodec also has a higher incidence of hypoglycemia, a condition characterized by low blood glucose levels, which can lead to severe health issues such as loss of consciousness or seizures. The data showed that insulin icodec was associated with 50 to 80% more clinically significant or severe hypoglycemia compared to insulin degludec after 52 weeks.

Some panel members, like Dr. Barbara Onumah, believe that insulin icodec could be a valuable addition to diabetes management, even though it may not be suitable for everyone. She emphasized the need for clear guidelines on mitigating and treating the risk of hypoglycemia if the product is approved.

Conversely, other members, such as Dr. Matthew Drake, expressed concerns over the safety profile of insulin icodec compared to insulin degludec, which he considers the current gold standard. Erica Brittain, a biostatistician, acknowledged the theoretical benefits of fewer injections but noted that the trial data did not show a significant improvement in glycemic control, which complicates the decision.

Potential Benefits of Weekly Insulin

A weekly insulin injection could simplify treatment regimens, making it easier for patients to adhere to their prescribed schedules. Currently, about 53% of adults with type 1 diabetes stick to their insulin therapy schedules, with approximately 22% missing at least one basal insulin dose over any 14-day period. Nonadherence to insulin therapy can lead to serious complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis.

Novo Nordisk is not alone in developing a weekly insulin therapy. Eli Lilly recently announced that its once-weekly insulin, efsitora alfa, was found to be equally safe and effective in Phase 3 trials involving adults with type 2 diabetes. However, Eli Lilly has not yet sought FDA approval for this product.

The potential approval of insulin icodec as the first weekly insulin injection in the United States represents a significant advancement in diabetes care. While the convenience of fewer injections is appealing, the higher risk of hypoglycemia is a critical concern. As the FDA deliberates, the insights from the advisory committee and further evaluations will be crucial in determining whether this new treatment will become available to patients.

What do you think of weekly insulin treatments? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Health

A New Weapon in the Fight Against Dementia: Olive Oil

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Good news for Italian food fans: A new study suggests that olive oil can reduce your risk of dementia-related mortality. The study, published in JAMA Network Open, utilized data from two large U.S. prospective cohorts: the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Researchers found that individuals consuming more than 7 grams of olive oil daily had significantly lower dementia-related mortality rates compared to those with lower intake.

The study included 92,383 participants, with a participant pool comprising 65% women and an average age of 56 years. The follow-up period spanned 28 years, during which there were 37,649 total deaths, including 4,751 dementia-related deaths. At the beginning of the study, the average olive oil consumption was 1.3 grams per day.

Participants consuming more than 7 grams of olive oil daily, approximately half a tablespoon, demonstrated a range of positive lifestyle attributes. These included higher caloric intake without a higher BMI, better diet quality, higher alcohol consumption, increased physical activity, and a lower likelihood of smoking. Overall, the study found that consuming at least 7 grams of olive oil daily was associated with a 28% lower risk of dementia-related death.

Olive Oil’s Role in Reducing Dementia Risk

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The researchers explored the substitution of olive oil for other fats in the diet. Replacing 5 grams per day of margarine or mayonnaise with olive oil was linked to an 8% to 14% lower risk of dementia-related deaths. However, substituting other vegetable oils or butter did not significantly reduce the risk. The study concluded that higher olive oil intake was associated with a lower risk of dementia-related mortality, irrespective of diet quality.

Broader Implications for Health

Beyond its implications for dementia, the study’s findings support current dietary recommendations to choose olive oil and other vegetable oils for cognitive health. Olive oil’s rich content of vitamin E and polyphenols, which are antioxidants that protect cells and blood vessels in the brain, as well as its anti-inflammatory properties, contribute to its health benefits. Inflammation, often an underlying cause of dementia and cognitive decline, can be mitigated by these properties.

For those looking to increase their olive oil intake, it can be easily incorporated into daily meals. Substituting other cooking oils with olive oil, making salad dressings, or using it as a marinade for proteins are practical ways to boost consumption. Both butter and olive oil can have unique health benefits, but it’s generally recommended to opt for unsaturated fats like olive oil most of the time and use butter occasionally.

Other Health Benefits of Olive Oil

Olive oil offers a range of health benefits beyond reducing dementia risk. Previous studies using similar cohort data have shown that higher olive oil intake is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and respiratory disease mortality. Additionally, a 2022 meta-analysis linked higher olive oil consumption to a lower risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality.

While olive oil supplements are available, experts suggest that consuming olive oil in food form is more beneficial. Supplements may not provide the same health benefits if added to an unhealthy diet. Incorporating olive oil into a balanced diet is preferable for achieving the maximum benefits.

The study reinforces the health benefits of olive oil, particularly in reducing the risk of dementia-related mortality. By making olive oil a regular part of a healthy diet, individuals can potentially enhance their cognitive health and overall well-being. As research continues to uncover the wide-ranging benefits of olive oil, it remains a valuable addition to daily nutrition for people of all ages.

Do you consume enough olive oil? Will you be upping your intake with food or supplements? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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