While mammograms can help detect cancer early, there are other steps you can take to keep your breasts healthy and lower your risk for disease. Studies have shown that healthy habits, like eating right and exercising regularly, can help breast health.
Getting plenty of vitamin D has been found to help breast health, but it is sometimes difficult to work into your diet. Most women should take a 2000 I.U. daily (a target of 50mg/ml), but be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any vitamin regimen.
Fish oil (omega-3) can help reduce inflammation and may reduce the risk of cancer. You can get fish oil through capsules or by eating fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout or herring. Taking 2000-3000 mg a day has been shown to be beneficial to breast health, but you should talk to your doctor about the best option for you.
Many studies have linked smoking to a higher risk of breast cancer in younger, premenopausal women. Secondhand smoke has been linked to a higher risk in postmenopausal women.
If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you want to quit, free local cessation programs are available at various Orlando Health locations in conjunction with the State of Florida’s Tobacco Free Florida program. Cessation programs offer free nicotine replacement products (patches, gum or lozenges) as well as community, worksite and clinic support groups.
Many studies have shown that physical activity is the most important habit you can do for breast health. Exercise helps you stay lean, which can reduce the amount of estrogen that circulates through your body. Physical activity also helps lower stress hormones, which cause inflammation and sleep problems.
The American Cancer Society recommends exercising for 30 minutes, five to six times a week. While many studies have proven that walking is an excellent option, any physical activity (cycling, swimming, yoga, Zumba, etc.) is beneficial. You can also break up your exercise throughout the day and still get the benefits.
Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Alcohol can increase levels of estrogen and other hormones associated with breast cancer. Alcohol may also increase breast cancer risk by damaging DNA cells.
Recent studies show that drinking more than three to six units of alcohol a week can increase breast cancer risk by 15%. A unit of alcohol equals six ounces of wine, one shot of spirits or 12 ounces of beer.
To help maintain a lean body weight and reduce inflammation, it’s important to avoid processed foods. Instead, eat whole foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The Mediterranean and DASH diets are considered two of the healthiest diets.