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lady-yoga-poseDoes your 2015 health regimen include taking better care of your heart? According to a new Harvard University study, you may want to consider adding a yoga class or two to your weekly health regimen.

After analyzing the results of nearly 40 different clinical trials, researchers found that practicing yoga proved just as beneficial for heart health as regular aerobic activity (such as brisk walking or running) and believe it may be a viable alternative for older adults or those with health issues that prevent them from participating in more vigorous physical activity.

Among the more than 2,700 study participants, those who included yoga in their weekly health regimen saw noticeable improvements with regard to common cardiac risk factors including blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate. An average weight loss of just over five pounds was also noted.

Yoga is a centuries-old mind and body practice that involves meditation, controlled breathing and body movement to cultivate self-awareness as well as alleviate stress and improve strength and balance. Previous studies have linked yoga to better flexibility and muscle tone, increased energy, healthy metabolism, and weight loss.

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coffee-handsYour heart does a lot for you. Why not make it your goal to return the favor in 2015? According to a recent joint study conducted by researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute and Harvard University, you may want to start by cutting back on sugary sodas to reduce the risk of stroke. The good news? You can still enjoy your morning cup of joe.

After analyzing data from two long-term studies involving more than 43,000 men and 84,000 women, scientists discovered that while regular intake of sugary soft drinks—as well as low-calorie sodas made with artificial sweetener—was associated with a higher risk of stroke, drinking coffee (either regular or decaf) had the opposite effect: just a cup a day was linked to a 10% lower risk of stroke.

While overconsumption of sugary beverages has been linked previously to obesity and chronic disease, this may be among the first studies to look at its effects on stroke risk. Study author Dr. Adam Bernstein points out that soda is the largest source of added sugar for most Americans, and over time all that sugar can trigger changes in the body (including inflammation) that can ultimately increase your chance of having a stroke. In contrast, a cup of black coffee contains beneficial antioxidant compounds shown to reduce stroke risk and support heart health.

As you tackle your 2015 resolutions for a healthier you, remember to swap those sugary sodas (and diet soft drinks) for a healthier option such as carbonated water with a spritz of lemon, and opt for black coffee with no added sweetener or creamer. If you need a little something in your java, try adding a splash of unsweetened almond milk for flavor.

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