I’ve been running from cancer for a while now. It’s because I keep thinking about all that research showing that five vigorous hours of exercise per week can cut my chance of recurrence by something close to 50%. I just can’t ignore such a compelling statistic, so I try my best to keep pounding the pavement. Sometimes, the task is easy. Sometimes, it’s a chore. Today, I was feeling it, and so I ran, and ran, and ran. The end result? See below.
Thanks to Louise Baker for offering to write a guest post, and for doing such a good job of pulling together some of the best tips for preventing breast cancer through healthy living. Check out what she has to say, then get busy taking her advice!
Pay mind to your diet
More and more, oncologists are realizing that a healthy diet may be one of the best protective measures you can take to prevent cancer, including breast cancer.
Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
As a general rule, the more natural the food, the better it is to eat. Fruits and vegetables have antioxidant qualities, which fight cancer. Berries are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods. Choose a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to get an array of vitamins and minerals. Farmers markets sell fresh fruits and vegetables that are not laden with pesticides the way they are at grocery stores. Whole grains refer to foods with minimal processing and almost always have more fiber than refined carbohydrates.
Avoid refined carbohydrates!
Refined carbohydrates tend to cause much steeper surges of insulin than whole grains. Insulin has a drastic effect on the release of other hormones in the body, such as the insulin-like growth factor and possibly even estrogen. These two hormones have been strongly linked to cases of breast cancer.
Be conscious of the different types of fat
Not all fat is created equal. Omega-3 fatty acids may have a role in preventing breast cancer when eaten in a 1:2 ratio with omega-6 fatty acids. While getting the proper ratio may seem like a simple feat, it is not. Fast food and other commonly eaten American foods have a much higher amount of omega-6 (anything made with vegetable oil is packed with omega-6 fatty acids).
Exercise, exercise, exercise!
Exercise can reduce the risk of breast cancer in several ways. A study done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle gathered that women who exercise have a 22% reduced rate of breast cancer.
Lower stress levels
The mind-body connection concerning illnesses has long been researched. Findings consistently support that stress causes lowered immunity and is linked to a vast quantity of ailments, including cancer. Exercise is key to stress reduction and mental health.
Maintain a healthy weight
While changes in diet may be the best method for weight loss, exercise is the most important part of weight maintenance. According to a study performed by the National Cancer Institute, gaining weight (especially after menopause) increases the risk of breast cancer.
Avoid Certain Drugs
The following drugs have been extensively linked to breast cancer:
- Estrogen: This refers to pharmaceutical estrogen, such as the estrogen found in birth control pills.
- Alcohol: Numerous studies show that more than one drink per day can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. The risk increases with each additional drink.
- Tobacco: Carcinogens in cigarettes are well-noted for their cancer causing properties.
Extra-virgin olive oil could suppress a breast-cancer promoting gene if used as your primary kitchen oil, says the team at Family Circle magazine (October 1, 2009).
That’s not the only do-it-yourself tip FC offers. Apparently, apples can help too (phenolics in the fruit may combat malignant tumors) and vitamin D can aid in the prevention of cell division and the activation of a tumor-suppressing protein.
And the one I love the most: Reducing calorie intake and exercising regularly can slow tumor growth and lower the amount of leptin (a fat-released protein linked to the disease) in the bloodstream.
Got any DIY tips for keeping cancer away?
I admit it, I’m concerned about my weight. Not worried about it, just concerned about in a way that makes me work at keeping it right where it is. But I don’t exercise and eat right (yesterday doesn’t count) for weight reasons alone. I also do it for my overall health, which really is a bigger concern for me than the numbers that stare up at me from my scale each day.
A healthy lifestyle as it relates to cancer prevention gets a lot of press. It’s pretty much a fact nowadays that by eating certain foods, ditching all the junk and working up a good sweat most days of the week, we can ward off all sorts of disease. Simple stuff. Also pretty high pressure.
Now that I’ve had cancer, I know that the way I live my life can quite possibly keep me from getting it again. So I do my best. But when I cheat and eat that plate of chicken nachos or skip a day (or week or month) on the workout circuit, I feel guilty, as if I’m rejecting the medicine that can keep me well. It’s a weird mix of motivation and burden. Knowing I have the key to a long, healthy life makes me want to eat veggies for all of time. But knowing I have the key to a long, healthy life makes me feel like I’m doing myself a major disservice when I steal fries of my kids’ dinner plates.
I know, I’m human, and I can’t be perfect all that time. Still, it weighs on my mind. Which is why today, I walked for 3.5 miles, and tomorrow, I plan to lift a few weights. A fruit salad is on the menu for breakfast this morning, and I’m recommitting to a ban on most packaged foods. It’s the least I can do to ensure I’m here for the long haul.