We all want to live a long and healthy life. We want to look in the mirror and see a healthy, happy person with beautiful skin and hair and eyes full of vitality. While beauty may be a consequence of good health, we all know that it’s far more than a skin deep thing. Not only do we want to look good, we want to feel good and model good health to our families. The trouble is that modern living does not have our backs. Most of us are working longer and harder than our parents did and we’re spending longer than ever sitting. We’re over stressed, over tired, overworked and not sleeping as much as we should. Moreover, our busy lifestyles are pushing us into making poor food and lifestyle choices. We’ve become overly dependent on fast food, ready meals and the kinds of high fat, high sodium, high sugar processed convenience foods that proliferate the vending machines in most workplaces.
Indeed, it seems as if our way of living is primed to inflate our risk of serious diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and, of course, cancer. And let’s not forget that we may be placed at increased risk of cancer due to our ethnicity or our family history… But that doesn’t mean that we should accept it as our inevitable fate. By making some judicious dietary and lifestyle choices we can turn things around and shift the odds back in our favor. We don’t even have to make enormous changes to our lives. You don’t have to quit your job or resign yourself to a life of munching on lettuce. It’s simply a matter of making little changes and being consistent with them.
Here are some ways in which even the busiest and most put upon amongst us can keep ourselves in the AC (all clear) when it comes to the big C.
Know the signs and talk to your doctor
Most of us know that the key to beating cancer is knowing the early signs and seeing your doctor about them as quickly as possible… Yet it seems as though we’re more reticent than ever to pick up the phone and make an appointment. Instead we self diagnose online, catastrophize and worry instead of getting treatment or diagnosis from a trained medical professional.
From breast cancer to head and neck cancer it behoves you to know the symptoms in advance and if you have even the slightest suspicion that you have one of the symptoms you need to make an appointment with your doctor. Many people avoid making doctor’s appointments because they don’t want to be time wasters, or they are worried that their doctor might accuse them of being a hypochondriac. But at best your doctor can give you peace of mind and at worst they can help you to get the treatment you need early to mitigate your risk.
Embrace the power of plants
If your diet consists of meat, meat, dairy, bread and more meat (as is increasingly common in the so-called western diet), you could be exponentially increasing your cancer risk. Excessive consumption of red meat can increase your risk of bowel cancer and processed red meats like bacon, sausage, pastrami, pepperoni or salami are actually classified by the World Health Organization as Type 1 carcinogens. That’s the same category as cigarettes.
Plant based foods, like veggies, fruits, grains and pulses, on the other hand tend to be low in saturated fat and high in vitamins and phytonutrients which are essential in not only staying in good physical health but in ensuring a healthy immune system that reduces your risk of cancer. Their high fiber content also reduces your risk of colon cancer and eating more plants is voting with your wallet for a more sustainable future, too.
Don’t sit your life out
We wake up in the morning, sit down to eat breakfast, sit in the car or on the bus to work, spend most of our working day sitting before coming back home for a nice long sit. The trouble is that sitting is (relatively speaking) a new configuration for our bodies. It’s not something that we often do in nature. We have evolved to be active hunter gatherers and so when we spend most of our lives sedentary in a sitting position it impinges upon our health and increases our risk of not only cancer but cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This is because sitting for hours and hours on end places a lot of pressure on our vital organs, and impedes digestion especially if we slouch or lean forward to, say, look at a computer monitor. Even getting up for a walk every half hour at work to grab a glass of water can make a huge difference. Walk or cycle to work if you can and try and do more stuff in your free time that necessitates getting up and getting active.
Real food only, please!
Sometimes the cures for most ills are the natural foods in our kitchens, while they can be perpetuated by the stuff in the vending machine. We’ve already looked at the cancer risk associated with processed red meats but these are far from the only processed convenience foods which can increase your cancer risk. Before you pick up that box of powdered doughnuts, remember that cancer cells literally feed on sugar. It is their favorite food source. Those on low sugar diets like the keto diet find that their lack of this refined carbohydrate actually starves cancer cells, leading in many cases to the prevention or effective management of cancers. Mastering the principles of meal planning and food prep can ensure that no matter how busy your lifestyle, you always have easy access to real whole foods and never succumb to the temptation of the vending machine. As you can see, it doesn’t take a seismic shift in lifestyle to reduce your risk of this terrible disease which kills millions around the world every year. All it takes is a few good choices, a lot of consistency and just a little discipline.