Science

WHO: Up to 50% of Cancer Cases Preventable with Lifestyle Change

National Breast Cancer awareness month kicked off this week, so we thought it an appropriate time to discuss how lifestyle, nutrition and exercise can reduce your risk of developing different types of cancers.

Cancer in general is caused by genetic changes or mutations leading to uncontrolled cell growth and tumor formation. This is part of the reason that it is so difficult to treat and study, because the causal factors are not quite as black-and-white as bacterial or viral diseases.

The good news however, is that according to the World Health Organization between 30-50% of cancer cases are preventable, and most often with simply a lifestyle change! Even in high-risk women, lifestyle change has been shown to decrease risk of breast cancer as well as other cancers. Let’s talk about what you need to be aware of and what steps can be taken to potentially reduce your risk of developing cancer.

1. More More, Sit Less!

For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week. That boils down to 30 minutes of activity daily! Activity also increases your immune defenses!

Limit screen time. Consider investing in a fitness tracker to see what an average day for you looks like for movement.

2. Eat Healthy!

The Mediterranean diet for instance has shown to be one good guide for nutrition since it focuses on mostly on plant-based foods – such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.

Limit sugars, processed food, and red meat. Oh and…EAT MORE VEGETABLES.

3. Don’t Smoke; Limit Alcohol

Worldwide, tobacco exposure (chewing, smoking and second-hand) is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality and kills
millions of people each year, from cancer and other diseases.

Tobacco smoke has more than 7000 chemicals, at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer. Interestingly, Tobacco PLUS alcohol substantially increases the risk. Also, according to the CDC more than 100 studies have found an increased risk of breast cancer with increasing alcohol intake.

4. Strive for a Healthy Weight!

According to Wikipedia, in the United States excess body weight is associated with 14-20% of all cancer deaths. Although there are much better ways to figure out what weight is the right weight for your body type, a quick reference guide is the Body Mass Index. Although we know that weight is not a perfect indicator of health (because it doesn’t measure overall fat or lean tissue content) it is a good starting point in figuring your potential risks and determining health goals.

You can certainly get a more in-depth look by measuring body composition via Bioelectrical Impedance, Skin Folds, Hydrostatic Weighing or other methods. Do your research and seek out a certified professional!

5. Get Your Routine Check Ups!

When it comes to your health and prevention of cancers and other diseases, healthy food, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight play a big role in prevention. Even the healthiest of us however, should still see a doctor regularly to be proactive and ensure everything seems up to par. Prevention costs infinitely less than the cost (financially, physically, and emotionally) of treating disease.

Why You Gorge on Junk Food and Not Broccoli

Why is it so easy to cruise through a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream, but when you get to pile of broccoli, cucumbers, or chicken, it’s hard to eat more than a cup or so? Well the truth is, it’s a little more complicated than not having self-control or even because chips or ice cream “taste so good!”

The food industry is one of the most competitive markets and there are tons of companies all clamoring for your business. Go into the center area of any grocery store and you are inundated with boxes and bags of processed food screaming for you to buy them with bright colors and million-dollar logos! Each one touting low-carb, fat-free, vegan, organic, etc all claiming to be just what you need and want. But are they?

Let’s talk about the lures of “junk food” and why it’s so easy to overeat.

Whole foods are harder to overeat because they contain more filling fiber. Whole foods usually also require more physical chewing than their processed counterparts, and this is huge! Chewing actually sends signals to your brain which help you feel more satisfied and full. Perform your own experiment! See how many chews it takes to eat a piece of carrot, chicken, or broccoli and compare that to your favorite processed food.

Beware! According to Precision Nutrition, there’s a major restaurant chain that injects chicken with sauce to flavor and tenderize it so it requires less chewing…allowing you to eat more than you need!

Money – most everyone likes to save a buck. You can walk into most fast food restaurants and pick a numbered combo meal that delivers a pile of food to munch on. To get the same volume of food in a vegetable and protein meal (like a salad or buddha bowl) you will likely pay twice as much! Even at restaurants the most healthy options on the menu are often the most expensive. But the trick is, you probably don’t need the same amount of food as that double burger with fries and soda!

Pro Tip: Creating healthy meals with veggies and lean protein at home is extremely inexpensive! In-season produce can often be picked up for fifty cents a pound, and 4 servings of organic chicken breast is likely to cost you less than $10, so get in the habit of preparing! Don’t get caught without a plan and forced to meander through the nearest fast food drive-thru.

When it comes to processed foods (something that doesn’t grow from the ground, walk, swim, or fly) a clear majority of health claims do little more for us than the traditional “junk food” brands. When grabbing that processed food with the halo, compare the label to the equivalent “not so healthy” box. Understand what you are buying. Evaluate your pantry and stick with whole foods that don’t need labels. Organic Macaroni and Cheese is not so different from the blue box brand…

Trigger Warning! Find your trigger foods, slow down your eating, and be kind to yourself! Jumping on the latest “crash diet” is not a good long-term plan. Try being honest with yourself, with how you perceive yourself, and then find a supportive environment. Look for triggers to your food choices. Are you stressed, tired, or anxious when you turn to food? When you feel the urge to overeat, from stress or otherwise, try going for a walk, spending time with a friend or pet, exercising, reading, listening to music, or anything else that will positively distract you.

Have you ever noticed it’s easier to overeat at a buffet? When “trying a little of everything” you expose yourself to more flavors and textures that your body will be more inclined to consume more. This same phenomenon applies to mix snack packages with things like pretzels, cheese crackers, etc all mixed together.

Stick with fewer food choices on your plate if you want to keep your waistline in check. A rule of thumb is to stop when you feel 80% full, because it takes time for your brain to get the signals that you have had enough to eat.

Get even more info like this from our friends at Precision Nutrition, and as always remember to…

Free Radicals, Your Health and How to Manage!

Free Radicals

Straight from Miriam Webster: an especially reactive atom or group of atoms that has one or more unpaired electrons; especially : one that is produced in the body by natural biological processes or introduced from an outside source (such as tobacco smoke, toxins, or pollutants) and that can damage cells, proteins, and DNA by altering their chemical structure.

BORING…

But the important words are ESPECIALLY REACTIVE. Free radicals are desperately seeking out an electron pair – and the WILL get it one way or another. So how do we handle free radicals in our body, and where do they come from?

Free radicals are the main reason behind the recommendations for increasing foods rich in antioxidants such as blackberries, blueberries, goji, etc. in your daily diet. These foods essentially pick up high numbers of free radicals from your body when being digested, but that’s not the only way!

To quote Dr. Carol Davis (Professor Emerita – University of Miami Miller School of Medicine): “Over time, free radicals build up in our bodies. In order for them to become stable, the radicals must find an electron to “connect” themselves to. Where are these electrons then? Beyond the sources found in certain foods, vitamins, etc, we have an abundant source of electrons right beneath us in the earth. If we fail to connect ourselves with these sources, free radicals attack our healthy tissue to rob the cells of their electrons. The result? A high potential for infection and inflammation, among other ailments.”

Earthing?

From a scientific perspective, the idea is that the earth has a mild negative charge to it. Over time, especially in modern life, our bodies build up a positive charge. Direct contact with the earth can even out this positive charge and return the body to a neutral state.

Many people don’t have this contact with the earth anymore, and some experts wonder if this is a contributor to the many rising health problems we face today. As a population, we wear rubber shoes and live indoors. In theory, many of us could go years without directly touching the earth at all, or even being in direct sunlight!

Antioxidants

Vitamin E and Vitamin C are great antioxidant sources, and can be found in high quantities in foods like nuts, seeds, fish oils (vitamin E), citrus, kale, strawberries, green peppers, etc (vitamin C).

Antioxidants are the polar opposite of free radicals and are especially adept at neutralizing these otherwise harmful byproducts.

Where do they come from?

While not much is known for sure about free radicals’ effects on the body, scientists have theorized that they may contribute to everything from wrinkles/aging signs to atherosclerosis to Alzheimer’s Disease!

While free radicals do occur due to natural body processes, high levels of free radicals are generally associated with people living in highly polluted areas, people who eat fried foods and/or trans fats, people who smoke cigarettes, or people exposed to pesticides.

Interesting Fact: “Weekend Warriors” (as opposed to people who exercise consistently) generate far more free radicals during endurance exercise. Consider a more consistent approach to conditioning which allows your body to manage the stress and not become overwhelmed by the unusual strain.