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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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breaking-cigDid you know tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States?i Even still, more than 42 million American adults are smokers—and every day nearly 4,000 kids under 18 try their first cigarette.ii If kicking the habit is on your list of better health resolutions in 2015, here’s a quick tip: make sure you eat plenty of fiber.

Researchers from the University of Auckland School of Medicine in New Zealand recently determined that a diet high in fiber may play an important role in supporting lung health. Specifically, dietary fiber helps reduce the inflammation that cause progressive damage and ultimately lead to diseases such as emphysema, COPD and lung cancer, which can shorten the lives of smokers by up to 20 years.

According to lead author Professor Robert Young, results of the study support the theory that the benefits of a high-fiber diet are obtained through the increased absorption of naturally occurring anti-inflammatory chemicals produced by healthy gut bacteria, which are nourished by dietary fiber.

While they agree quitting smoking is the best way to ensure optimal lung function and overall health, the research team recommends increasing dietary fiber intake as smokers take steps toward tobacco-free living. Keep your fiber intake high by eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits, and let’s make 2015 the year you finally kick the habit!

i U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. August 2014.
ii American Lung Association. About Smoking Facts and Figures. February 2010.

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