If your New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside, you’re not alone. Research suggests that only eight percent of Americans actually keep their resolutions.
When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s, resolve to make your health a priority during the coming year by committing to one healthy lifestyle change. We all know that keeping up with your health can significantly lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity, but according to Sacred Heart Hospital’s cancer specialist Dr. Thomas Sunnenberg, lifestyle changes can also reduce your risk of cancer.
Dr. Sunnenberg explains that “Making lifestyle changes is not a guarantee against cancer, but it stacks the odds in your favor.”
1. Reduce carcinogen exposure.
Smoking even one cigarette on a regular basis can increase your risk of early death by 64 percent compared to non-smokers. If you want to take the plunge but don’t know where to start, consider one of Sacred Heart Hospital’s tobacco cessation programs. To learn more and get started, call 850-416-7764 or visit www.sacred-heart.org/tobaccocessation.
Florida, the so-called Sunshine State, has the second highest rate of melanoma cases in the country. Limit sun exposure to work and outdoor sports and don’t seek out sunshine for aesthetic purposes. Stay away from tanning booths.
2. Your mom was right: eat your veggies.
Bright-colored vegetables contain powerful antioxidants that play a role in free radical absorption. Antioxidants “clean up” free radicals, which are damaging compounds that increase the risk for chronic diseases.
Eat at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables high in xanthins (spinach, peppers, sweet potato and tomato) and fruit with lycopene (guava, watermelon and pink grapefruit) a day.
Supplements containing antioxidants are not a substitute for the real thing, so experiment with different produce to find varieties that you enjoy.
3. Eliminate the extra body fat that can fuel cancer.
A recent study by the American Cancer Society found that people with a high body mass index (BMI), larger waist and type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop liver cancer.
Take steps to achieve a normal BMI range between 20 to 25, and if nothing else try to keep your BMI below 30. Get started by setting a series of specific short-term goals that pave the way to your ultimate goal. For example, walking 30 minutes three times a week is a realistic goal if you are just getting started with an exercise routine.
As your endurance increases, increase your time and physical effort.
4. Don’t try to improve on Mother Nature’s delicate balance.
Estrogen replacement therapy after natural menopause age (no later than 55) increases the risk of breast and uterine cancer and should be considered carefully. In reality it’s appropriate for a very small subset of women who cannot tolerate menopausal symptoms.
Excess testosterone in aged males can also produce similar adverse health events, but at later ages so watch out for medications that impact your hormonal balance.
5. A drink a day doesn’t keep the doctor away.
Limit alcohol consumption to less than 1 oz. (the size of a shot glass) per day. Excess alcohol consumption causes inflammation in tissues which may progress to a carcinoma: cancer that forms in the cells that make up the skin or tissue lining of the organs. Possible manifestations include liver tumors (hepatomas) from inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), oral cancer from exposure to Scotch whiskey, and pancreas cancer from repeated inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
It’s hard to stick by your New Year’s resolutions, but the knowledge that success will also lower your risk of cancer should help motivate you to make lasting changes that will make an impact! To learn more visit http://www.sacred-heart.org/.