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The Importance of Exercise and a Healthy Diet in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

How Does Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

Exercising regularly is an important part of being as healthy as you can be. More and more research is showing that exercise can lower the risk of breast cancer coming back (recurrence) if you've been diagnosed, as well as reducing the risk of developing breast cancer if you’ve never been diagnosed. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has updated guidelines stating:

Exercise decreases your body fat percentage and helps maintain a healthy weight.

This is important because fat cells in the body store high levels of estrogen, a hormone which is one of the strongest breast cancer risk factors when levels become too high.

Exercise decreases the levels of estrogen in your body.

It is now believed that exercise can modify the pattern of a woman’s menstrual cycle, causing your body to produce less estrogen. This therefore helps to lower your breast cancer risk.

Exercise strengthens your immune system.

Free radicals are highly reactive, unstable molecules which mutate cells and lead to cancer. Consistent exercise produces a stronger immune system, giving your body a better chance of identifying and destroying breast cancer cells as they begin to form.

Exercise provides a mental benefit and stress relief.

Exercise impacts directly upon your mood and emotions. Although it is often suggested and under ongoing investigation, a direct relationship between psychological stress and breast cancer has not been proven. However, researchers do believe stress can speed up cancer progression. Certainly, for those undergoing treatment or in the recovery phase, exercise is a fantastic stress-relief to help speed recovery and support treatment.

As little as 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day has been said to significantly reduce your susceptibility according to one recent study. Moderate-intensity exercise covers physical activity such as brisk walking, gardening or cycling.

How Does a Healthy Diet Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

Although no particular food can cause or prevent breast cancer, dietary guidelines may help you reduce your overall breast cancer risk. As researchers continue studying the effects of eating unhealthy food on breast cancer and recurrence risk, being overweight is a risk factor for both first-time and recurrent breast cancer. Simple ways to reduce risk through a healthy diet:

Lower your risk with Antioxidants

Plant-based foods are rich in nutrients known as antioxidants that boost your immune system and help protect against cancer cells.

Add more fruit and veggies to your diet

Focus on adding whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible. For example, eat an unpeeled apple instead of drinking apple juice.

Fill up on fiber

Fiber, (roughage or bulk(, is found in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains and plays a key role in keeping your digestive system clean and healthy. It keeps cancer-causing compounds moving through your digestive tract before they can create harm.

Choose healthy fats

Add more unsaturated fats from fish, avocados, olive oil, and nuts. Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna, and flaxseeds can fight inflammation and support brain and heart health.

Cut down on sugar and refined carbs

Instead of sugary soft drinks, sweetened cereals, white bread, pasta and processed foods, opt for unrefined whole grains like multigrain or whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, bran cereal, and non-starchy vegetables.

Limit processed and red meat

Different studies have established a link between the risk of cancer and eating processed meat such as bacon, sausages and hot dogs. The safest strategy is to limit the amount of processed meat you consume and vary your diet by seeking out other protein like fish, chicken, and eggs, rather than relying on red meat.

It’s no secret that what you eat and how active you are affects your health. Diet and exercise are an important aspect of preventing and fighting breast cancer.

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