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.