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5 Healthy Lifestyle Tips to Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk

YMCA of Greater Kansas City
October 10, 2018
Group exercise class at the Y

We all know that physical activity is good for us, but how does it affect our health in the long run? 

Beyond keeping your weight in check, an active lifestyle is linked to a number of biologic effects on the body and improved overall health. Benefits include lower blood pressure, improved oxygen flow to the brain, strengthened immune system, and stronger heart and muscles. 

Plus, eating well and staying active can even reduce your risk for developing certain diseases, including breast cancer.

Approximately one in eight women will develop breast cancer. Obesity and inactivity are major contributing factors. Changes that include exercise and good nutrition are especially important to decrease the risk of breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society makes these five suggestions to protect your breast health:

  1. Watch your weight. Being overweight or obese increases breast cancer risk. This is especially true after menopause and for women who gain weight as adults. After menopause, most of your estrogen comes from fat tissue. Having more fat tissue can increase your chance of getting breast cancer by raising estrogen levels. Also, women who are overweight tend to have higher levels of insulin, another hormone. Higher insulin levels have also been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer.
  2. Exercise regularly. The American Cancer Society recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week, or a combination of both. Moderate-intensity activities are at the level of a brisk walk that makes you breathe hard. And don’t cram it all into a single workout – spread it out over the week.
  3. Limit time spent sitting. Evidence is growing that sitting time increases the likelihood of developing cancer, especially for women. In an American Cancer Society study, women who spent six hours or more each a day sitting when not working had a 10 percent greater risk for invasive breast cancer compared with women who sat less than three hours a day, and an increased risk for other cancer types as well.
  4. Limit alcohol. Research has shown that women who have two to three alcoholic drinks a day have about a 20 percent higher risk compared to women who don’t drink at all. Women who have 1 drink a day have a very small increase in risk. Excessive drinking increases the risk of other cancer types, too.
  5. Avoid or limit hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Talk with your doctor about all of the options to control your menopause symptoms, and the risks and benefits of each. If you do decide to try HRT, it is best to use it at the lowest dose that works for you and for as short a time as possible. 

So what steps can you take to make these changes? It doesn’t take much to make a big impact on your health. Begin with making small, measurable goals for yourself and find the best way to remain accountable. 

The Y is here to support you on your journey to a healthier lifestyle. Here are some suggestions on how to get started.

  • Schedule a Coaching Connection meeting at your Y. You’ll meet one-on-one with a Health Living Coach to discuss your goals and create a personalized wellness plan together. Contact your local Y to set an appointment. Find a location near you.
  • Try a new class. Just three of our 50-minute group exercise classes a weeks will add up to the recommended 150 minutes a week. We’ve got something for everyone--Les Mills BODYPUMP, Water Fitness, Active Older Adults classes, Yoga, Zumba, and so much more. Find your Y’s schedule here.
  • Download the free YMCA of Greater Kansas City app to keep yourself motivated. You can track your workouts, check schedules and participate in fitness challenges. Learn more.
  • Be creative. There are lots of ways to stay active indoors and outdoors. Find something you enjoy and stick to it. A walk around the neighborhood, playing tag with your kids at the park and even raking leaves can count toward your physical activity goals. 

Small changes now will add up to a world of difference in the long run. Don’t wait to get healthy!