First the bad news: North America has the dubious honor of being able to claim the highest incidences of cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. As you look at your lifestyle and weigh the numbers, this seems pretty grim doesn’t it? You haven’t exactly been living on an organic farm or living like the indigenous along the Amazon River, have you? Well, fret not! There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it sure as heck ain’t no freight train.
From making some lifestyle changes to adding exercise to your life and knowing your family history, starting today, you can minimize your risk of cancer. And the best news? By following this same advice, you can even stave off diabetes and cardiovascular disease at the same time.
If you are a person who loves making drastic changes in your life, you could go for a completely radical one. If North America has the highest incidences of cancer, there has to be a region in the world with the lowest, right? For thousands of years the Greeks, Tunisians, Turks and myriad others along the Mediterranean Ocean have been enjoying healthy food, snacking whenever they want and have the lowest incidences of major illness, including cancer. What they do that is drastically different from North Americans is quite simple.
Instead of a meal that is centered around meat with a non existent vegetable and two forms of starch, they will eat a small fillet of omega-3 rich salmon, rice pilaf, spinach and plenty of herbs and spices in place of salt. The absence or reduction of red meat has reduced their risk of myriad cancers, including colon, stomach, anal and esophageal. Spinach and other green leafy vegetables are high in antioxidants, which go to war with those cancer causing free radicals that exist in all of us and the best part is that they win! The key to judging vegetables is simple. The darker the leaf, the more cancer fighting antioxidants it contains.
Less Radical Changes
While nobody is suggesting that you stave off meat forever, what you can do is cut down that 10-ounce porterhouse to a reasonable four ounces. Instead of smothering it in fat-laden gravy, why not add a very light sauce using olive oil, garlic, chives, rosemary and basil? Replace the baked potato smothered in cheddar cheese or sour cream with long grain and wild rice and a healthy serving of collard greens that were lightly sautéed in olive oil and garlic.
“When I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until it goes away.” How many times has the couch potato living inside you said this? Get off your rump and exercise. It’s difficult to moan and groan about your risk of cancer if you are sitting in front of the boob tube watching every sporting match, and you know who is going to get booted off American Idol before the contestants themselves do. Thirty minutes a day of raising your heart rate is literally all you need. While pumping iron might make you look good, if you heart rate hasn’t been up for at least thirty minutes, it doesn’t count toward reducing your risk of cancer. Running, hiking, a brisk walk (not a casual walk around the block to pick up the mail, either), a 5 mile bike ride, a mixed doubles game of tennis or a swim in the lake all qualify for ways to reduce your risk of cancer. Surely you can think of others.
And Speaking of Antioxidants
If you aren’t already drinking coffee, there has never been a better time to start. Loaded with antioxidants, adding coffee to your daily routine not only improves your ability to coherently speak in the morning, it helps stave off cancer. This really is a case of “if some is good, more is actually better.” According to a study conducted in the UK, drinking 5 or more cups of the high-octane drink correlated into drastic reductions of brain, mouth, pharynx and breast cancers.
Remember the 8 Glasses of Water Thing?
Water just does the body good on so many levels. It aids in digestion, provides nutrients to our organs and new studies suggest that it may reduce the risk of bladder cancer. The idea behind this theory is that water helps to dilute the build up of cancer-causing properties in our urine, thus whooshing them out of the bladder faster. It is still suggested that you drink at minimum 8 glasses of 8 ounces of the yummy goodness.
For Armed is Forewarned
Just because your mother survived breast cancer, your father had prostate cancer and your three favourite aunts had breast, colon and uterine cancer respectively, does not mean your fate is sealed. All this means is that you know more than those friends of yours who haven’t got a clue about their family history. Rather than worry about the odds of developing cancer, talk with your doctor about ways you can reduce the risk your family history imposes on you. And believe that it needn’t be anything more than an imposition. Myriad genetic tests can inform you about your predisposition to many types of cancer.
Just because you do have an increased risk of developing a specific type of cancer doesn’t mean that you will. By eating right, reducing your stress from your life, increasing exercise and changing your mental attitude, you might be surprised how effective those changes can be.
The Health Local Staff is a team of writers and experts dedicated to bringing you the latest health, nutrition and lifestyle information at www.healthlocal.ca.