Ease arthritis

Practicing mindfulness-based meditation might help reduce inflammation in people with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, finds a study published in January in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

Stress is a key component in these diseases. Mindfulness meditation is a stress-relieving technique that induces relaxation by focusing awareness on breathing, thoughts, and body sensations. The study included 49 people, most of them women, who took part in either mindfulness meditation or a general wellness program for eight weeks.

The researchers then placed the participants in a stress-inducing situation. When the researchers measured markers of inflammation and stress, people in the meditation group had less of an inflammatory response than those in the wellness program group.

Mindfulness meditation is not a cure for stress-related inflammation, but it may offer an addition to standard treatments, and it's easy for people to practice.

Sugary drinks take a toll

In case you haven't heard, imbibing too many sugary soft drinks is bad for you. Now we know just how bad. Sweetened sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks may be the cause of 25,000 deaths per year in the United States.

Harvard scientists presented the finding at a meeting held by the American Heart Association in New Orleans. The death toll resulting from sugary drinks was attributed to additional cases of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The research does not directly implicate sugary drinks as the cause of the deaths. Instead, it establishes a statistical link.

It means people who drink the most sugar-sweetened beverages also tend to have higher rates of chronic diseases - especially type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body has trouble processing sugar in the bloodstream.

Chronically high blood sugar contributes to cardiovascular disease and cancer. It also directly damages the body, including the heart, blood vessels, and brain.

Fighting heart disease

If Americans continue unhealthy eating and exercise habits, heart health may only improve by six percent by 2020, significantly below the American Heart Association's goal of 20 percent, according to the AHA's 2013 statistical report on heart disease and stroke.

Although the death rate from cardiovascular disease dropped 33 percent between 1999 and 2009 - to a current rate of one death every 40 seconds - the most recent data says projected increases in obesity and diabetes are the biggest barriers to success.