Healthy Living & Breast Cancer

I wanted to write a post regarding cancer, in relation to the fact that a few years ago, a person I immensely loved was diagnosed with a lung cancer while she had a very healthy diet, which led me to inquire more about health and nutrition. I will speak here about the form of cancer that impacts most women now: breast cancer.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Men also are diagnosed with breast cancer only at much smaller incidence. This means the odds of us knowing someone who has been through treatment for breast cancer is high.  Unfortunately, for some people, recurrence of breast cancer, metastatic disease or another type of cancer diagnosis years later is a reality. There are no guarantees in the prevention of cancer, prevention of recurrence and if you lead an idealistically healthy life, you may still develop cancer or have recurrence or metastatic disease. However, when your body is healthy it will fight the disease better and may delay diagnosis so that you have more worry free years or may be cured.

Prevention and prevention of recurrence follow a very similar recommendations. They are amazingly simple and complex at the same time. The choices we make every day on what and when we eat and whether or not we move our body impact our chances of being diagnosed with cancer and how we will respond during treatment IF we are diagnosed. According to the American Cancer Society, our physical activity and eating habits could reduce cancer mortality by as much as one-third! That’s dramatic! That statistic means that a big part of the solution is in our control!

Overweight & Obesity and Cancer

One of the strongest links for increased risk of recurrence is overweight and obesity. Interestingly, breast cancer is one of the few cancers where weight gain during treatment is common. There is a link, but not a cause and effect. Many possible causes are theorized for this phenomenon, but nothing conclusive. What is conclusive is aiming to prevent the weight gain and /or losing as little as 10% body weight has a significant impact on chance of recurrence. We are not speaking of many pounds, usually a very doable number!  Some very promising recent findings show that exercise, specific and with intervals of moderate to high intensity in each session, can dramatically impact fitness (which decreases 5% or more during treatment and may be a factor in weight) and exercise capacity has been shown to be a strong predictor of prognosis. In one study the control group, non-aerobic exercisers, had a 3% decline in fitness while the aerobic trained group had a 17% increase! As you can see, exercise needs to be a part of life, during and after treatment.

 Nutrition and Cancer

Nutrition also has an impact.  The strongest impact is consumption of fruits and vegetables. People who consumed the recommended 7 – 9 servings had significantly reduced incidence of recurrence.  How can you incorporate more color in your day? Lower consumption of animal products comes in a close second. We encourage small amounts of protein with meals and snacks for satiety and blood sugar control, however small amounts equals a total of 6 ounces each day at most.  That’s each day, not each meal. When we consume appropriate protein, there is room left for those servings of fruits and veggies.

For Prevention – During Treatment and In Survivorship

  • Is 30 minutes too much time to invest in reducing your cancer risk? (yes or no?) Choose to move each and every day, after all, you have the choice to move when others only wish they could.
  • Limit sedentary activity even if you’re active.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Forego the fads which aim to achieve healthy weight, but will not enable you to maintain a healthy weight. You may have to put in a little effort here, and you are worth the effort.
  • Limit consumption of processed meats and animal proteins.
  • Eat at least 2 1/2 cups, 7 – 9 servings, of vegetables and fruits daily. Choose a rainbow of colors as the variety of colors provides a variety of rich anti-oxidant rich nutrients.
  • Choose whole grains vs. refined grains. Less processing is less exposure to chemicals.
  • Most supplements may be organic, natural, or even vegetarian, but they are still pills and except for fish oil, the research on supplements overwhelmingly shows that the pill form of nutrients does not produce the same health benefits as we get from eating the foods rich in nutrients. An Exception to this is Juice Plus+® which provides whole food based nutrition from 17 different fruits, vegetables, and grains. See our JuicePlus+ page for details.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages, if you drink. Daily consumptions should be limited to 2 drinks for women and 3 for men.  On serving equals one shot of liquor, 4 oz of wine or 12 oz of beer.

What will you choose today to decrease your risk of cancer?  Past blogs discuss ways to move more and add fruits and vegetables into your every day life – suggestions on “how” to make the work in your every day life.

Healthy Living: What does it mean to you?

Healthy living is much more than eating healthy and being physically active. Healthy living is living life to it’s fullest. It’s participating in activities you love. It’s eating foods you enjoy. Healthy living is making sure your choices match your values. Too often we are caught up in what needs to get done whether it’s taking care of the house, the family, or our jobs that we don’t take time to stop and smell the roses! Healthy living is finding a balance between work, home, and self. This does not mean the time is equally spent, rather that each area of our life is fulfilling and rewarding. Healthy living is more about quality than quantity! Healthy living is forgiveness of self and others. Healthy living involves your mind, body and spirit.

Connecting with your spiritual self.

I believe Yoga and Meditation can be a way to guide people to connect with their spiritual self, the most often missed aspect of healthy living. We may be religious and still miss our connection. Through breath and meditation, you can achieve a re-connect with this often missing link to well-being. Through the opportunity to leave the stress of the day behind, we allow ourselves the benefit of focusing on what is truly important and valuable in our life.

Smile, sing, laugh, and play daily!

You can’t be unhappy when you’re smiling, singing, laughing, or playing (SSLP)!  Look for ways to incorporate SSLP daily. Fake it if you have to until you’ve convinced yourself.  Bonus: Smiling is a natural face lift! Remember, healthy living is enjoyment.

Be positive.

If it’s difficult to be positive- fake it!  Start your day with one positive comment about yourself.  End the day by saying out loud one (or more) positive choices or actions that you did today.  Some days this will be challenging, some days it won’t. This simple activity can be very powerful in healthy living. Unhealthy living focuses on the things that  could have/should have/would have. Whereas our positive self does what needs to be done to nourish the body, mind, and spirit.

Set a non food goal for yourself

Take a break from focusing on food and focus on an action. It may be to read more, take up a hobby, call a friend or colleague, take a walk in the park, or rent a movie. Healthy living and healthy eating is more than just food. When you take time to nourish the soul, you will find you nourish the body.

Clear out old habits that no longer benefit you.

Just as we periodically clean out our house, basement, or garage, so too must we clear out old behaviors in order to achieve healthy living. Think about your goals in life and the behaviors you want to maintain in order to achieve those goals—at this moment in your life, what are your barriers to those behaviors? While sometimes the barriers are external (a family member, work schedule, etc), we do have control over most things in our life. Which of those barriers can you do away with? What habits hinder your progress? Does negative thinking, lack of confidence, or fear keep you from reaching your potential? Our thoughts can be retrained by consciously choosing to find the positive in ourselves and the situation. Identify what behaviors you want to begin practicing by noticing the behaviors of those you admire—what is it about that person that you want to emulate? Then practice, practice, practice, those behaviors and thoughts. Pretty soon, someone will be asking you how you do it!

What choice can you make today to practice healthy living? Do you have any tips you’d like to share on how you make healthy living happen for you?