If you've been struggling with the problem of finding meaning in your life, a new study may provide you with the motivation you need to figure it out. According to research reported in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association, people with a strong sense of meaning and purpose in their lives are less likely than others to develop dangerous blood flow blockages in the brain, leading to improved health and longer life.

The researchers looked specifically at the influence of life purpose on the creation of damaged tissue as a result of blocked blood vessels in the brain, called infarcts. Macroscopic infarcts can be observed with the naked eye, while microscopic infarcts require a microscope. Infarcts are known to contribute to movement problems, dementia and even death.

Using autopsy results from 453 people who had singed up for the Rush Memory and Aging Project before death, researchers found that people who reported having a strong sense of purpose in their lives were 44 percent less likely to develop macroscopic infarcts, although life purpose had no effect on microscopic infarcts. Even when controlling for vascular disease risk factors like high blood pressure and low physical activity level, the relationship between purpose in life and developing fewer infarcts remained. 

However, the researchers stressed that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to add meaning to one's life.

"Purpose in life differs for everyone and it is important to be thoughtful about what motivates you, (such as volunteering, learning new things, or being part of the community) so you can engage in rewarding behaviors," wrote lead author Lei Yu, Ph.D., of the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center.

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