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Healthy Habits to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

As the New Year begins, it’s a great time to refocus your efforts on health. Adopting a healthy lifestyle has countless benefits, affecting nearly every aspect of your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Some things may also reduce your chances of getting breast cancer. Plus, making healthy choices is empowering—every good decision is an investment in yourself and your future. It’s never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Here’s how.

1. Maintain A Healthy Weight

Gaining weight as an adult increases your risk of developing breast cancer. According to one large study, women who gain 20 pounds after the age of 18 have a 15 percent higher risk. Those who gain 55 pounds or more increase their risk by 45 percent. So it’s important to maintain a healthy weight.

Additionally, being overweight or obese after menopause can increase a woman’s breast cancer risk by 30-60 percent. That’s because fat cells make estrogen after menopause and the more estrogen you have in your body as you age, the more likely to increase the risk of breast cancer.

2. Stay Active  

Women who get regular physical activity have about a 10-20 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women who don’t. Fortunately, you don’t need an intense exercise routine to get the benefits. Activity equal to walking 30 minutes a day may lower your risk. Lace-up your athletic shoes and get going.

3. Eat Fruits and Vegetables

Studies show eating fruits and veggies may slightly decrease the risk of some breast cancers. Also, eat produce high in carotenoids, the natural orange-red food pigments found in melons, carrots, sweet potatoes and squash. Studies show women with high blood levels of carotenoids have a decreased risk of breast cancer. In general, fruits and vegetables are the best sources of carotenoids (rather than supplements) as supplements may have some health risks.

4. Don’t Smoke

Tobacco smoke has at least 250 harmful chemicals, at least 69 of which have been shown to cause cancer. If you smoke, there are health benefits to quitting at any age.Stopping, or not starting, is one of the best things you can do.

5. Limit Alcohol Intake

One study found women who had 2-3 alcoholic drinks per day had a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer than women who don’t drink. Women should limit themselves to less than 1 drink a day and men should limit themselves to 2 drinks a day.

6. Breastfeed, If You Can

Breastfeeding has many positive benefits for women throughout their lives. In addition to reducing the risk of breast cancer especially in premenopausal women, studies show it lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes and ovarian cancer.

7. Limit the Hormones

Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) is approved for short-term relief of menopausal symptoms. But women who take estrogen plus progestin to relieve these symptoms increase their risk of getting breast cancer and dying from it. Fortunately, when they stop MHT, their risk starts to decline, returning to normal levels within 5-10 years. If you are considering MHT, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits.