Breast Cancer: Best Tips on Healthy Eating and Staying Active
Breast Cancer: Best Tips on Healthy Eating and Staying Active

Cancer is a complex process, which is probably caused by a combination of quite a few factors, not just one thing. The risk of developing breast cancer is increased in women who are overweight or who drink alcohol. Women who eat healthy diets and exercise can still get breast cancer.

Recent research shows that factors such as weight, diet and activity likely play a recurrence in breast cancer recurrence and survival. Aside from cancer treatment, lifestyle choices may have the greatest impact on reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence. There is a higher chance of breast cancer recurrence and lower overall survival for women who are overweight or who gain significant weight after the diagnosis of breast cancer. Women should strive to achieve a healthy body weight with a Body Mass Index (or BMI) of 18.5-24.9.

The most effective way to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit using a combination of a calorie-reduced diet plus exercise. Some tips to manage your calories include:

  • Eating a low-fat, plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruit and grains;
  • Including fiber in your diet;
  • Choosing sensible portion sizes;
  • Avoiding snacks and sweetened drinks such as soft drinks;
  • Eating mindfully. Don’t eat while watching TV, checking e-mail or while talking on the phone;
  • Limiting how much alcohol you drink.

Participation in regular physical activity has a lot of health benefits and is safe for women with breast cancer. Research shows that women that do moderate activity such as walking or riding a bike 3-5 hours a week have improved survival. Exercise can improve side effects of cancer treatment such as fatigue, nausea and pain. Regular physical activity can also help prevent osteoporosis – a possible side effect of cancer treatment – as well as high blood pressure and heart disease. Exercise also improves sleep and mood.

It is important to find exercises you enjoy. This way, you are more likely to do them regularly. Remember than any small increases in activity will help. Set small activity goals for yourself and slowly work your way up to doing more. Try the following ideas to increase your physical activity:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator;
  • Go for a walk after dinner;
  • Do some gentle stretches when you first get up in the morning;
  • Get up from your desk and take short walks around the office during the day;
  • If it’s raining, walk laps inside the mall or covered places;
  • Plan active social activities with friends and family. Instead of meeting for lunch or coffee, go for a bike ride or go to a park.

Setting goals and keeping a diary of your diet and activities can help increase your success with eating healthier, becoming more active and losing weight.

How to Live Your Best?

Get better sleep. Cancer can sometimes make it hard to sleep well at night, so focus on making sure you get as much good rest as you can. Try not to take naps during the day. Skip caffeine, or only drink coffee in the morning. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try yoga, mindfulness, and massage therapy to help you relax. That should help you sleep better at night.

Snack to control nausea. Nausea is a common side effect of chemo or radiation for some people, though it doesn’t happen to everyone. You may get it right after treatment or up to 3 days later. To keep yourself feeling good, you may find that it's best to eat a light meal or snack before a session. It can help if you eat five or six small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones. Even if you don't feel hungry, eat something like white toast, plain yogurt, or clear broth.

Make the most of your energy. You might have good days when you have lots of energy and other days when you're exhausted. Try to do something you love on the days you feel good. Rest on the days you have less get-up-and-go. Here are tips to help when your energy is low:

Try escaping your fatigue. Listen to your favorite music or read a great book. Watch a funny movie or spend time with friends.

Head outside. Take a walk in the woods or work in the garden. Watch the birds or sit by a lake. Spending time in nature can ease fatigue.

Accept help. Don't be too proud to let someone pitch in with chores like cooking or grocery shopping. It will save your energy for more important things.

About Author: Clin. Ass. Pro. Kelly Smith - University of Pennsylvania (PENN) Expert, Leader of Oncology Center of Excellence Project at Vinmec Times City International Hospital.

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