Absolutely! You have the power to keep your body in optimum condition. Diet, exercise, nurturing relationships, and a balanced approach to life's ups and downs can go a long way to protecting your body from disease.
Here are some of the most important lifestyle modifications you can make towards preventing breast cancer:
• Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, especially after menopause, take steps to lose the extra pounds. Losing weight will not only help protect you against developing a wide range of disease, from diabetes to different cancers, it will improve your quality of life!
• Consume less animal fat. Women who eat less fat have a lower risk of breast cancer. Choose lower-fat animal products, such as chicken without skin. Switch from whole milk to skim milk.
• Get appropriate amounts of omega-3 fats, which are abundant in fish and fish oil. If you do not get regular exposure to sunshine, make sure to include cod liver oil as one of the fish oils you consume.
• For protein, choose more vegetarian sources, such as legumes. Examples are beans and peas (e.g., black beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, and split peas).
• Consume more soy foods. Women in Asian countries consume higher amounts of soy foods and have a lower risk of breast cancer than do women in the United States. Try soy milk on your cereal, and tofu in stir-fries and pastas.
Avoid highly-processed soy foods, as they may not be as beneficial as soy milk and tofu.
• Consume at least 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. People whose diet is abundant in fruits and vegetables have lower risk of cancer, including breast cancer. Ideally, select fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. However, fresh, conventionally-grown vegetables are healthier for you than are older, wilted, organic vegetables. Choose a variety of colors of produce to get the most benefit. An orange with breakfast, apple for mid-morning snack, tossed salad and mixed fruit for lunch, raw veggies for an afternoon snack, two types of vegetables for supper, and a late-night banana add up to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables.
• If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Overall, women drinking 2 to 4 alcoholic drinks (where a drink is defined as 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1 ounce of liquor) per day had a 40% greater risk of breast cancer than did non-drinkers. Some studies show that even one glass of wine or one bottle of beer per day increases the risk by 9% more than that of non-drinkers.
• Consume 25-35 grams of fiber each day. Legumes (especially dried beans and peas) contain more fiber than any other type of food. Include legumes in your rice dishes, salads, or soups. Whole-grain cereals are also a good source of fiber; check the label for the exact fiber content. Whenever you increase your fiber intake, you also need to drink adequate fluids. At least 64 ounces of water each day is recommended.
• Drink tea instead of coffee. Both green and black tea appear to be protective.
• Choose less-processed foods. Go for brown rice instead of boxed mixes. Enjoy homemade soups, rather than canned soups or soups made from boxed mixes or bouillon cubes. Freeze portions of your leftovers to make homemade frozen dinners, rather than purchasing store-bought frozen dinners containing preservatives.
• Limit your intake of sugars as much as possible in order to reduce your level of insulin.
• For cooking, steam, poach, or boil foods, rather than frying or charcoal broiling them.
• Maintain healthy levels of vitamin D by getting adequate amounts of sunshine.
• Don't smoke. Although the verdict is still out on the link between smoking and breast cancer, tobacco is known to cause other cancers, notably lung cancer. But the bottom line is, smoking is not good for you; it sabotages your overall health and well being. If you smoke, get help and quit! (Easier said than done, but you can do it!)
• Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins. Examples are toxic chemicals present in air pollution, pesticides, chemical cleaners for the household, and synthetic fresheners for indoor use.
• Get regular exercise. Exercise is one of the greatest gifts you can give your body and mind. Also, exercise can reduce your insulin levels, thereby helping to protect you against several diseases, including breast cancer. Consider this: older women who exercise may be less likely than their inactive peers to develop breast cancer. Women who biked or walked for more than an hour each day had a 19% reduction in their odds of developing breast cancer. Another study demonstrated that women who exercised 3 to 5 hours per week had a lower risk of mortality from breast cancer than did women who exercised less than 1 hour per week.
• Get in touch with your emotions. Emotional health, including learning to view and deal with the stresses of daily living as growth experiences, is very important in the prevention of many types of disease.
• Make time for at least 15 minutes each day when you can relax. Mediation, deep breathing, and yoga are all wonderful options to help maintain balance.
• Get adequate sleep each night.
• And last but not least: commit yourself to a diligent screening regimen. Be sure to do monthly self breast exams and get annual clinical breast exams (by a healthcare professional) and mammograms. Your best defenses against breast cancer are early detection, and appropriate and timely treatment if the disease is detected.