A few nights ago I was talking to my mom about breast cancer and she interrupted me and started naming the women she knew on nearby streets who were breast cancer survivors. There’s a reason we are hearing so much about this disease and you too many know many women who have had it – breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. But here’s the good news: there are steps each of us can take to decrease our risk.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight increases one’s risk of developing breast cancer and leads to a poorer prognosis if you have breast cancer as well as an increased rate of recurrence, particularly in post-menopausal women.
Make Time for Physical Activity
According to the most comprehensive report on food, nutrition and cancer prevention from the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research, greater than 3 hours of physical activity per week reduces risk of breast cancer. Get your calendar out and schedule periods for exercise. If you are having trouble finding time, get an activity counter (Nike and several other companies make them and there are apps on your phone that you can use as well) and measure your physical activity each day (aiming for at least 10,000 steps per day). Activity counters make you accountable. Being overweight increases one’s risk of developing breast cancer and leads to a poorer prognosis if you have breast cancer as well as an increased rate of recurrence, particularly in post-menopausal women.
Minimize Alcohol Consumption
One or more drinks per day increases your risk of developing breast cancer. And, the more alcohol a woman drinks, the greater her risk of breast cancer.
Eat a Nutrient-Rich Diet
Eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber will help you feel better and keep your weight within normal limits. Also, diets that contain plenty of vitamin C rich foods including citrus fruits (oranges, tomatoes, grapefruit), potatoes and strawberries may help protect against certain types of cancer including lung, breast and colon cancers. And, be sure to consume vitamin D rich foods as well including fortified milk or a milk substitute, fortified yogurt (check the container since only a few have added vitamin D) and fatty fish. And, get your vitamin D levels checked and if you are having trouble maintaining them within normal limits through diet alone, take a supplement. The latest research shows patients with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood had approximately half the death rate from breast cancer as those with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood.
SEE ALSO: Calcium, Vitamin D & Weight? and Can Calcium & Vitamin D Supplements Reduce Breast Cancer Risk?
Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000. Website: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9810
Anticancer Res 2014;34(3):1163-1166.
This has got to be one of the harshest winters on record (again!) – repeated snow storms, drought then flooding rains in other areas and colder temperatures overall in most parts of the country.
Because the winter weather has been more severe, the conditions are ripe for seeing more people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder or winter depression and their symptoms being more severe as well. Generally, the winter doldrums last from around October through April, and your body responds normally to the dwindling daylight hours and cooler weather. Most of us have experienced a day or two of feeling trapped in winters fist.
The severity of your sensitivity to winter’s trials are balanced over many factors:
Geography – where you live matters. If you’re in the northern states, you’re likely to feel the winter blues more acutely.
Genetics – A predisposition to melancholy or depression will certainly matter in how you are affected during the winter months.
Personal Brain Chemistry – Which is alterable by so many different factors – kinds of food you eat, any vitamin deficiencies you may face, any medication you may be on – even winter gets to play its part in altering your brain chemicals – specifically melatonin production increases over winter, in an effort to try and regulate your sleep/wake cycle – and in some cases, your body just can’t get it right.
Illness – As we are already subjected to colder, stormier weather, and less daylight – winter also corresponds with cold and flu season – and there have been some links made between suffering from being sick kicking off a round of melancholy as well.
If you find yourself wondering what you can do to feel better, happier and more energized during the winter months, take a look at these options:
Light, Light and More Light – whether it means bundling up and meeting the brisk but sunny day head-on for a short while each mid-day, or installing a sun-mimicking light in your breakfast nook or at your desk, or perhaps both, do try and get as much daylight exposure as possible. (no, indoor fluorescent lights don’t count – they don’t have the same effect as specialized lamps designed to mimic the positive aspects of sunshine)
Get your Vitamin D and all your other normal levels checked. If you are deficient in Vitamin D, you could be fighting an uphill battle working for a good mood in winter. An adequate vitamin D level is important to mood and mental health. SEE ALSO: Lift Your Mood with Vitamin D This Winter!
If you know you suffer in winter, can plan your vacation in January or February to a sunny climate? Instead of a summer vacation, make it a winter vacation instead!
Though you may think your bones are just a hard and dormant support structure for your body, they are actually dynamic, growing tissue with new bone constantly replacing old bone. How can you keep your bones strong over time? Feed them the right nutrients and engage in regular weight bearing physical activity. Strong bones help protect your organs from injury, allow your body to move and support good posture.
Several vitamins and minerals are important for bone health. However, the top two that provide the most impact are calcium and vitamin D. Calcium, the primary mineral found in bone, contributes to the strength and hardness of bone tissue. Over time, inadequate calcium intake can lead to weak, porous bones.
National survey data shows that many Americans are not getting enough calcium in their diet. In women ages 19-30 and 31-50 only 28% and 33% are getting above the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) set for calcium. The best dietary sources of calcium are dairy foods and fortified nutritional foods such as protein shakes. Green leafy veggies also contain calcium but in very small quantities. For instance, 1 cup of broccoli contains only one-sixteenth of the recommended intake for the average adult aged 19-50! So eat broccoli too, but be aware of the proportion of calcium coming from it versus other foods and take a calcium and vitamin D supplement if your doctor recommends it.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium you consume. Most of us aren’t getting enough vitamin D either, which has set the stage for a vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency epidemic in this country. Few foods contain vitamin D. Most milk is fortified with it and it is also fortified in some brands of orange juice, yogurt and breakfast cereal. Egg yolks, liver and some types of fish naturally contain vitamin D.
In addition to eating a nutritious diet packed with calcium and vitamin D, everyone needs regular physical activity including resistance training (strength training) and weight bearing exercise. Lifting weights, rock climbing, gymnastics, running and walking are examples of activities that help build bone strength. If you choose to run or walk, be sure to lift weights for your upper body too so you build those bones as well.
Calcium and Bones. NIH.
What We Eat in America, NHANES 2005-2006.