Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month October 8, 2009

As many as one in eight American women will develop breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. While we can’t change our genetics, we can do a great deal to reduce the risk of breast cancer with lifestyle changes. There are no foods, beverages or magic pills proven to prevent breast cancer, says Dr. Margaret Lewin, Medical Director of Cinergy Health, but we can reduce the risk. 

Data from multiple American and international studies show that simple lifestyle changes can make a significant impact on our health. Here are some important steps women can take:

  • Get our weight down and keep it down to a Body Mass Index (BMI) less than 25. For example, a woman 5’2” tall should weigh less than 136 pounds, 5’7” less than 159. Obese women have higher body fat stores, a magnet for estrogen.
  • Cut fats out of our diets, specifically Trans, saturated and omega-6 (sunflower, safflower, corn, cottonseed) fats. Aim for a diet with fewer than 30% fat calories. Graphs of breast cancer incidence in countries around the world are nearly identical to the fat intake in those countries: the higher the fat intake, the higher the incidence of breast cancer.
  • Reduce dietary “white” carbs (potatoes, sugar, flour, rice) – which can induce hormone changes increasing cellular growth in breast tissue. Replace them with whole grains, beans and legumes. (Click here for delicious, elegant, gluten-free recipes.)
  • Load up on fruits and vegetables, especially dark, leafy greens; cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage); berries, cherries and citrus fruits.
  • Eliminate alcohol – or keep it down to one small drink daily (not the same as abstinence during the week and seven drinks over the weekend!).
  • Exercise regularly – at least 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobics, such as brisk walking. The higher our body’s muscle mass, the lower the fat stores. (Read Get seriously fit–Outdoor bootcamp routine.)
Finally, should we be destined to develop breast cancer, finding and treating it early can be life-saving. Many authorities recommend routine yearly mammograms starting at age 40, adding an ultrasound for those women with ‘dense’ breasts, and even an MRI for women at super-high risk. Since cancers can develop before your next scheduled exam, use your fingertips to examine your breasts every time you shower or bathe. Don’t make this a scary exercise: trust that your fingers are very smart at recognizing changes. See your doctor as soon as possible should you note such changes, even though more than 80% of breast lumps are totally benign. We can’t prevent breast cancer, but we can markedly reduce our risks with lifestyle changes; and early detection and treatment can be life-saving.
Check your Body Mass Index.
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