Tip For A Healthy Lifestyle

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Not enough can be said about the importance of a good dietary and fitness regime. Both are necessary for maintaining a healthy weight, as obesity has been associated with increased breast cancer risk, especially after menopause. Many studies have also consistently shown that a healthy weight may help reduce the risk of breast cancer as well prevent any recurrence after treatment. To help you estimate the healthy weight for you, use the Body Mass Index.

In addition, regular exercise and a healthy diet both offer other benefits, including:

  • Increased self-esteem
  • Lower levels of anxiety, depression and fatigue
  • Improved quality of life and physical fitness
  • Reduced risk of developing other cancers, heart disease and diabetes.

Nutrition

Although no food or diet can actually help prevent you from getting cancer, your choice of food can help lower your risk of getting the disease or from getting it again. Good nutrition is also crucial in helping to control the side effects of treatment and in recovery after treatment.

In general, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains are recommended. Of course, be sure to make exercise part of your dietary plan. Here’s what you should do to maintain a healthy diet:

  • Dietary fat: There have been many studies examining the relationship between breast cancer incidence and fat intake, but a relationship between dietary fat and breast cancer occurrence has not been shown. However, since fat is high in calories and a diet high in saturated fat is not heart-healthy, a low-fat diet (where only about 30% of your total calorie intake is from fat) is recommended. Do eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish (salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel and sardines), walnuts, flaxseeds and soybeans. Avoid red meats, which are high in saturated fats that contribute to heart disease.
  • Alcohol: The consumption of alcohol is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Recent studies have all come to the same conclusion: that drinking alcohol is a risk factor for developing breast cancer. More importantly, it has been found that even small amounts can have a big effect. One drink a day can increase a postmenopausal woman’s chances of dying from breast cancer by 30% compared to women who did not consume any alcohol. For each drink consumed a day, the lifetime risk of woman developing breast cancer is increased by almost 10%. And it doesn’t matter the type of alcohol consumed – and this includes red wine, unfortunately – the effects are the same. Hence, total avoidance of alcohol is recommended.
  • Fruits, vegetables and whole grains: Although fruit and vegetable consumption may not significantly reduce breast cancer risk, they contain phytochemicals and antioxidants that may be protective against other cancers and heart disease. At least five servings (or cups) per day is recommended. Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach (bayam), sawi, bok choy and brussels sprouts should be included as part of the diet. By eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, you will also be able to reduce the amount of fat and calories while adding more nutrients in your diet.
  • Soy: There is conflicting opinion about the intake of soy foods such as soy nuts, soy beverages and soybeans, for women who had estrogen-positive breast cancer. A conservative recommendation for women who have a history of estrogen-positive breast cancer is three servings of whole soy foods a week. Concentrated sources of soy, such as soy protein powders, soy pills or supplements with concentrated isoflavones should be avoided.

Exercise

Staying physically active is vital for your overall health. If you’re undergoing radiation therapy or chemotherapy, or are recovering from surgery, exercise will not only help you feel better, but your body will be fitter and you’ll be able to maintain a healthy weight.

Many women struggle with weight gain during and after chemotherapy, gaining as much as 15 pounds, not from overeating but from the lack of physical activity. This weight gain can be a real problem, as energy levels can be very low after chemotherapy and many are too weak to get out of bed. However, it’s important to stay active, even by walking for just 10 minutes a day. And although chemotherapy also takes its toll on the immune system, exercise can help boost it, both physically but emotionally.

Fatigue is also a common symptom in those who undergo cancer treatments. Sometimes, the exhaustion may last a long time after treatment, hindering physical activity. Nonetheless, engaging in any form of exercise can be very helpful in reducing fatigue. Exercise can improve physical and emotional well being, endurance and strength, which fight fatigue and depression.

The key is to start slowly, with gentler exercises, such as walking, yoga, qigong and swimming, and then gradually increasing the duration of the time spent on the activity. And try not to do it alone – get support from family or friends, or do it with an exercise buddy! You will be treated by a team of professionals, including some or all of the following:

  • General Practitioners (GP) – The one who usually arranges your first referral to a specialist breast clinic.
  • Oncologist – A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of cancer patients. A clinical oncologist is trained in giving radiotherapy and chemotherapy, while a medical oncologist administers chemotherapy only.
  • Radiologist – A medically qualified doctor who specializes in the use of imaging techniques (X-rays, ultrasound, CT etc) for diagnosis, and the one who will interpret your mammogram.
  • Pathologist – A doctor specializing in identifying diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.
  • Radiographer – A non-medically qualified person who assists the radiologist in imaging and is trained in using X-ray machines. Some also give radiotherapy.
  • Breast Surgeon – A specialist in breast surgery who also does fine needle aspiration and biopsy. Some may also do reconstructive surgery.
  • Breast-care nurse – Nurse with special training in dealing with breast disease, who offers information, support and advice.
  • Ward nurses – A nurse who plans your care on the ward.
  • Physiotherapist – Gives you exercises to do after surgery for you to regain your strength and fitness.
  • Psychologist – Professional counselling that can help you cope with your illness, and deal with decisions about treatment, depression, anxiety as well as family issues.
  • Social worker – Can help you work out practical difficulties including transport, childcare and financial issues.