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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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boy-eating-burgerAmericans love their junk food—from drive-thru double cheeseburgers and super-sized fries to the millions of sugary processed “food” items lining our grocery store shelves. But just how is that obsession affecting our health? And what can we do about it? Two new studies offer insight (and a little hope) into our love affair with unhealthy food.

Too Much Fast Food Causing Kids to Suffer in School
Researchers from Ohio State University recently looked at fast food consumption in fifth through eighth graders to determine whether or not an unhealthy diet affects academic achievement. After analyzing the records of nearly 12,000 school-age kids, they found that those who ate the most fast food (at least one meal daily) saw slower academic growth in key areas such as math, reading and science when compared with students who did not eat fast food.

Study authors speculate that children who eat fast food on a regular basis may not be getting the proper nutrients necessary for optimal cognitive development. They caution parents that obesity is not the only health issue we need to worry about when it comes to poor diet, and point out that previous studies have linked poor diet to impaired memory and learning skills.

Good News: Consumers Eating Fewer Processed Foods
On a more positive note, a new study out of the University of North Carolina shows U.S. consumers are buying fewer pre-packaged baked goods than ever before. After analyzing buying trends over a 7-year period ending in 2012, they found that sales of food items including cookies, cakes, doughnuts, pastries and other items high in sugar and unhealthy fats decreased by 24 percent. This is a significant drop, according to lead author Dr. Kevin Mathias, and a positive indication that American consumers may be paying more attention to the nutritional value of their food and its impact on their overall health.

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