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11 Steps to Improve Overall Health and Lower Breast Cancer Risk
BCRF researcher Dr. Graham Colditz shares simple ways to stay healthy
We recently spoke with BCRF researcher Dr. Graham Colditz who shared some simple day-to-day steps that can help improve overall health and lower the risk of breast cancer. Some may seem a little strange. Some may seem like common sense. But each addresses an important aspect of breast health, which includes keeping weight in check, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, avoiding too much alcohol, not smoking, and if possible, breastfeeding.
1. Learn to stop worrying and love your scale.
It only takes about five seconds to do, but stepping on your bathroom scale at least once a week is a great way to help keep weight in check. It keeps surprise jumps in weight at bay and helps you make adjustments on the fly to what you eat and how much you exercise. Start by trying to keep weight steady – to not gain. This alone can have a big impact on future disease risk. Then, after successfully keeping weight steady for a time, you can work to slowly lose weight. A pound or two a week is a good goal.
2. Stand when you watch TV.
Watching TV is a double whammy when it comes to weight. It’s a sedentary activity that we often pair with mindless eating. One way to combat both is to simply stand while you watch TV – at least some of the time. It’ll get you a bit more active and help keep mindless snacking at bay. On top that, you might just watch less, which is probably good all around.
3. Wear your workout clothes to bed.
Sleeping in your gym shorts and workout shirt can prime the pumps for your morning workout. It takes away one less barrier to getting out the door for your morning walk or gym workout.
4. BYOAFD – Bring your own alcohol-free drinks.
So many social occasions are centered around alcohol that it can be hit and miss whether you’ll be able to find an alcohol-free drink you like. The solution? Just bring your own.
5. Do something – anything – that gets you moving every day.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by detailed exercise recommendations. If you don’t want to worry about them at first, then don’t. Still, it’s important that we all get up and do something each day that makes up breathe harder than normal for a while. And that can be any number of things – gardening, walking, cycling, playing tennis, dancing. Whatever you enjoy. After you get in the habit, then work toward 30 minutes or more of physical activity every day.
6. Slow it down.
Surrounded by value meals and food ads, it’s no wonder many of us eat our meals and snacks without really thinking about whether or not we’re actually hungry. To put our minds in better touch with our stomachs, it’s good to slow down. Take time to ask yourself before you eat if you’re hungry. Then, when you are eating, eat slowly. You’re likely to more satisfied with less food.
7. Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks.
Sugary drinks are a major contributor to America’s weight problem. And cutting back on them is a great way to eliminate extra calories that have little or no nutritional value. Sugary drinks include things like soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and many sweetened coffee drinks. Replace these with plain water and unsweetened tea and coffee. Cut back slowly, and the transition will be easier than you think. Start by simply not keeping sugary drinks at home in the fridge.
8. Cut back on mindless snacking.
High-calorie snacks, like chips, candy, and cookies, can add a lot of extra calories to our day’s total. And most of the time, we probably just eat them mindlessly, not even really enjoying them. Try cutting back on mindless snacking, and when you are hungry and want a snack, choose something healthier and under 200 calories, like fresh fruit or carrot sticks.
9. Don’t be shy. Breastfeed.
Breastfeeding is great for mother and child, and can lower the risk of breast cancer. So, don’t be shy. Except for those rare instances, do it when you need to, where you need to.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – from friends, family, even the Internet.
Social support can help us all reach our health goals, so be sure to share your goals with those around you.
11. Ask Aunt Betty about the family’s health history.
All women should have at least a general idea of their family history of breast and other cancers. Most times, a family history of breast cancer doesn’t raise the risk of the disease much more than other risk factors, but sometimes, it can greatly increase the risk. And certain steps can help women at high risk lower or manage their risk.