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Breast Health and Well-Being
Kirk Padmore

Breast Health & Well-Being

by Avril Harry, RN, BSc Oncology Nursing (U.W.I.)

Breast health is a critical part of our overall health and wellbeing. Moreover, breast health is commonly a topic of discussion in the month of October - breast cancer awareness month. During this month we hear and participate in the Pink Campaigns as we don pink memorabilia. It is however the goal of our team at WEFITNESS to provide you with breast health tips year round, as awareness should be year round, not only awareness of breast cancer but also on breast health issues that affect us all. This is in effect a proactive approach in your preventative health as you seek to make your health and well-being your priority.

The current statistic is that one in eight people will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Thus we cannot over emphasize how important breast health awareness is for our women both young and old alike, and let’s not forget the men too. It therefore begs the question, what can I as an individual do to as best as possible reduce my risk of developing breast cancer? Yes there are things each and every person can do in an attempt to reduce the risk of developing breast health issues one of which is breast cancer.

For the most part since we cannot always control our environment and we certainly cannot amend our genetics it therefore stands to reason that what we do and put into our bodies play a role. A recent report by British Journal of Cancer indicated that of 48,385 cases of breast cancer found, 26.8% were due to environmental factors. Despite this finding, there are certain lifestyle alterations that we can proactively engage in to lower our risk of developing breast cancer. One such activity, is our diet which is a critical tool towards this end.

As a breast care nurse, the most popular question I’ve been asked by my patients and which I’m sure many of you have asked is: “should I be eating a special diet to optimize my breast health or to reduce my risk of developing breast cancer?”

In our society many persons are of the view that eating healthy is expensive. But one should also consider the long-term effects of an unhealthy diet. These effects may include: obesity, cardiac and kidney disease, diabetes and an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Think of the economic costs and psychological distress these illnesses have on the individual and by extension their loved ones.

Undoubtedly, a healthy diet, is in fact one of the things we can do to lower our risk of developing cancer. Our diet is a critical tool that we proactively have control of. Since, we can’t always control our environment and we definitely cannot control or alter our genetics. But we can control what we put into our mouths.

How healthy is your diet? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do my daily meals consist of more plant based foods as opposed to more processed meats and fried foods?

  • Do I consume fast foods more than twice per week?

  • Do I have a greater number of sugary juices as opposed to a daily intake of 8 or more glasses of water per day?

  • Do I drink in excess of 2 alcoholic beverages daily?

  • Do I consume four to five portions of fruit daily?

It is important to note that a well-balanced diet can provide the right amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This is generally the healthiest and best way to get them. However, some people may need to supplement the nutrients in their diet. Ask your doctor or dietitian what to do if you are 65 years of age or older. You may also need supplements if you have other medical conditions or are on a special diet.

A healthy diet and lifestyle are associated with overall good health. There are now studies which indicate that diet and lifestyle may play a role in averting breast cancer and its recurrence. The following are noteworthy lifestyle adjustments to consider:

  • Consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods.

  • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

  • Limit consumption of processed meat and red meat.

  • Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day.

  • Choose whole grains instead of refined-grain products.

  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit consumption. Drink no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men.

  • Exercise regularly it is recommended at least four hours a week.

  • Avoid chemicals than can increase your chances of developing cancer (carcinogens).

  • Breastfeed your babies, once it is possible.

Remember that what we eat can make a difference. Now is a good time to start towards the road of good breast health.

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