3 Lifestyle Changes to Decrease Your Risk of Breast Cancer

By on October 1, 2016
3 Lifestyle Changes to Decrease Your Risk of Breast Cancer

By Allegra Gallian –

Our health is one of our most precious gifts. As we age, ensuring we stay healthy becomes increasingly important.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes, on average, and one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime in the United States.

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we’re here to remind you to make your health a priority. One of the most important steps you can take to decrease your risk of developing breast cancer is to get regular mammograms.

The Importance of Mammograms

Dr. Kenneth E. Thorpe, professor of health policy at Emory University and chairman of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, explains that starting at age 50, mammograms should be part of your overall screening regimen. There’s some debate about whether or not women should get mammograms every year or every two years, and Dr. Thorpe notes that it depends on if there’s a family history.

According to BreastCancer.org, your risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if you have a first-degree relative who has been diagnosed, such as your mother, sister or daughter.

Dr. Thorpe recommends asking your doctor, who knows your risk profile, what makes the most sense when it comes to frequency of mammograms.

In addition to getting mammograms, there are three effective lifestyle changes you can make to improve your overall health and reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.

  1. Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating a well-balanced diet is one of the best lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of breast cancer. Dr. Thorpe recommends including whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, lean meats, salmon and olive oil in your meal plan. You want to choose foods that are low in fat and high in protein, while limiting processed foods.

“There are foods you want to be very careful about in terms of intake, particularly salt, sugars and foods that are high in trans fat. Those would be three areas to be very careful about,” Dr. Thorpe says.

It’s important to incorporate foods you enjoy into your meal plan to ensure that your healthy diet is sustainable.

“There was a nutritionist who was sent to work with this one particular woman because she wasn’t losing any weight, and there was a very good diet that was laid out for her,” Dr. Thorpe says. “It turns out that about half of the things on the diet she didn’t like. They drew up another diet of foods that she did like, and they went grocery shopping. Over a six-week period, her blood sugar levels came down, and she had some persistent weight loss.”

  1. Decrease Salt Intake

As a part your diet revamp, you should limit your salt intake. According to Dr. Thorpe, sodium causes inflammation in the arteries, which increases the risk of illnesses as well as stroke and heart attack.

Dr. Thorpe suggests that you examine food labels when grocery shopping to see what the salt content is. He adds that if you can almost completely cut out sodium, that’s best. The lower your salt intake, the better.

  1. Participate in Moderate Physical Activity

Along with eating well, you want to participate in moderate physical activity several times a week. Dr. Thorpe recommends easing into exercise, especially if you haven’t previously been working out. If you’re new to exercise, try starting a fitness regimen that’s moderate in intensity, such as walking outside, walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike.

“Try to get at least 150 minutes a week. It could be walking, running, rowing – there’s a whole bunch of things you could do to burn calories. The idea is just to be active,” Dr. Thorpe says.

As your overall fitness level increases, try increasing the number of minutes you spend working out or incorporating higher-intensity activities such as running, weight lifting or dancing.

Lifestyle Changes Work

“We know from data from the World Health Organization that these lifestyle changes can reduce the number of new cases of cancer by about 40 percent, so that’s very substantial,” Dr. Thorpe explains.

It’s especially important for women who are overweight or have high blood pressure to adopt these changes because these conditions increase their risk of developing cancer.


Allegra Gallian is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in lifestyle, health, wellness and fitness. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.


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3 Lifestyle Changes to Decrease Your Risk of Breast Cancer