Three Challenges to Fight Breast Cancer

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October is associated with the vibrant orange and gold of autumn, but also with a lot of pink, as it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Thirty eight percent of all breast cancer cases could be prevented with changes in our daily diets and activity level, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Is this new news for you? What if we invested in ourselves to prevent this disease with the interest and importance we invest in our retirement? Stop for a moment and reflect on all the reasons you have to prevent this disease. Consider challenging yourself this month with three crucial areas that can reduce your breast cancer risk.

1. Regular physical activity.

According to the World Health Organization, across the country one in three people is not active enough. Regular activity is known to help women regulate their hormone levels and protect against post-menopausal breast cancer. It is recommended that all people be active 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity (like when you are breathing harder during a brisk walk). That breaks down to 21 minutes each day or 30 minutes five days of the week. If the thought of having an extra 20-30 minutes on most days is laughable, challenge yourself to 10-minute increments of walking, stairs or playing Frisbee with your child. Partner with a spouse or friend to keep you accountable. In one recent study, walking lowered the breast cancer risk regardless of weight or weight loss.

2. Work to achieve a healthy body weight

Set small goals and work toward gradual weight loss to get you closer to a body mass index (BMI) of 25. Spend some time thinking about what motivates you and use these things as a visual reminder. Is it your children? A survivor you know? Put pictures or mantras on your mirror or at your desk as a constant reminder of why this goal is so important. Again, enlist a support network of friends or others trying to achieve the same goal.

3. Aim for 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables daily

How many of us know the disease fighting power of plant foods but still struggle to get these in our daily diets? Commit to count your servings daily and get this minimum amount of these important foods. Do you eat the same three vegetables every week? Challenge yourself to try a new recipe with a fruit or vegetable weekly. What about seasonal squash and root vegetables? Add fruit to salads, grain dishes and smoothies. All those Meatless Monday recipes you have seen are a great way to increase your intake of low-calorie, nutrient-rich cancer fighters.

Many times, the month of October comes and goes with little personal reflection on what we do each day to prevent breast cancer. If asked, most of us value our health above wealth and other possessions. Make this the October that you value yourself enough to invest in what it takes to be healthier, live better and feel more empowered.

Carole Havrila on Twitter
Carole Havrila
Carole Havrila, RD, CSO, is an oncology nutrition specialist at the University of Virginia's Emily Couric Cancer Center. Follow her on Twitter.