Cut your Breast Cancer risk by adopting a healthy lifestyle

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According to the U.S Breast Cancer statistics for 2015, 1 in 8 U.S women and approximately 1 in 1000 U.S men will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime.

Along with some of the risk factors we are unable to change such as age, genetics, family history etc, being overweight is one that we can. Overweight and obese women (BMI above 25) have a higher risk of being diagnosed with Breast Cancer compared to women who maintain a healthy weight (especially after menopause) and by taking a few simple steps to adopt a healthy lifestyle, we can lower this risk factor by 20-80% according to www.cancer.gov.

The higher risk in overweight and obese women is due to a higher level of estrogen in the body. Fat cells make estrogen and the more fat cells you have, the more estrogen present in the body. Estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow so this is why we need to watch what we eat and develop a healthy life style to lower this risk factor.  

Before making changes to your diet and exercise regime, you should speak to your doctor so they can advise you about your target weight based on your age, height, body type and current activity level. If you have pre- existing medical conditions, they can also advise you on the best route to take with regards to nutrition and exercise.

For some people, the thought of adopting a healthy lifestyle is easier said than done. Breastcancer.org Founder and President Marisa Weiss, M.D. says, "It can be hard to get enthusiastic about losing weight if you've had limited success in the past. Sometimes success can depend on how you think about losing weight: learn the steps that give you the biggest bang for your buck and reframe your feelings and attitudes about hurdles in your path. It's important to be open to new foods, including those that you're sure you hate (like the tomatoes and fish you hated as a kid). Give them another chance as an adult. There are so many healthy options out there that will help you accomplish your goals. Once you get your game on, you'll feel so much better."

With regards to exercise, it is important to include cardiovascular exercise along with resistance based exercises to strengthen your muscles and bones and improve your overall fitness, as this will help you to lose weight and potentially prevent breast cancer along with other diseases such as heart disease, osteoporosis and other types of cancer.

 If you are currently recovering from Breast Cancer, taking part in regular exercise will help to lower the risk of it returning in the future. If you have lymphedema as a result of breast cancer surgery, you are still able to exercise but there are guidelines to follow to ensure you are exercising safely and it will enable you to build up strength in your surgery arm progressively and with caution.

Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH, associate professor in the Division of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania and her team conducted a trial (physical activity and lymphedema trial) with 141 breast cancer survivors who had stable lymphedema, assigning them to either a slowly progressive weight training program or no intervention. Women in the weight-training group were not found to be at any higher risk of developing arm swelling. They also had a lower incidence of lymphedema flare-ups — 14% in the exercise group, versus 29% in the control group — as assessed by a certified lymphedema therapist.

Visit http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/exercise for more information on exercise during breast cancer and after surgery.