A healthy lifestyle
Breast Health issues | healthy lifestyle | points | prevention | self exam | investigations

 

A healthy lifestyle

 

"Healthy living" is the new catch phrase of western societies. The media is filled with stories and pictures of people working out in gyms, eating health foods and living the good life. While there is nothing wrong with healthy living many of the messages carried in the media are overstated in the extreme. People are told to mega dose on vitamins, to eat fad diets and to imbibe new wonder pills that are claimed to give them new vigour and vitality.

 

What is the truth?
Taking a rational look at the world medical literature to date, strongly suggests that living a healthy lifestyle is indeed beneficial to one’s health. But what exactly is a "healthy lifestyle" and how do we ensure we live a healthy life, what are the facts about healthy lifestyles and what is fantasy?

 

What is good for you?

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Eating a low saturated fat, low salt, high fibre diet (see below)

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Taking in an adequate supply of vitamins

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Regular aerobic exercise (half hour on alternate days is the minimum)

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No smoking

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Alcohol restricted to two measures per day

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Avoid stress

 

What is bad for you?

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Taking mega doses of vitamins (particularly vitamin A).

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Taking mega doses of minerals (particularly iron, zinc, selenium).

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Passive smoking (even if you do not smoke yourself, sitting in a room with other smokers is damaging to your health).

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Listening to the glib promises of unbelievable vitality, if you take this new "natural remedy". In other words, beware of the “gurus”.

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Not going to your doctor when you notice that something is wrong (see below).

You may be wondering what all this has to do with breast disease. Well, the following points should be noted.

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There is a close correlation between dietary fat intake and breast cancer incidence in populations. Although this does not prove that high saturated fat diet will significantly increase the risk of breast cancer, it is very suggestive.

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Closely associated with this, is the observation that obesity has been shown to double the breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. So if you are fat and over fifty years, your risk of getting carcinoma of the breast is twice that of a thin fifty-year-old female. It must be emphasised, however, that no such association between obesity and breast cancer has ever been demonstrated in pre-menopausal females or women who are still having their “periods”.

Even if the evidence that a diet high in fat causes cancer is anecdotal, the risk is still there. In any event, there are many other advantages to eating a low fat, high fibre diet.

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There is a strong correlation between high alcohol consumption and breast cancer. Women who drink more than two measures of alcohol per day (three or more tots of spirits or three or more glasses of wine) may have a higher risk of getting breast cancer. The reason for this is not known, but one may speculate that it could be through the “promoting” effect of oestrogen. The hormone oestrogen is metabolised in the liver and it is well known that alcohol is a liver poison (toxin). With liver damage from high daily alcohol intake, the oestrogen is not broken down adequately, causing raised oestrogen levels, which in turn predisposes some women to breast cancer.


It must be noted that small daily doses of alcohol are actually good for you. Two measures of alcohol per day, does not increase the risk of breast cancer, but does reduce the risk of heart disease. This is because alcohol raises the levels of good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) which decreases the chance of coronary artery disease.

 

What should one do and what to avoid
Just what is a healthy lifestyle. There are so many conflicting reports that it is sometimes difficult to be sure. Nevertheless, the following recommendations are widely accepted today.

 

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Low saturated fat diet. Can one cut this fat from the diet? As saturated fat is present in a whole spectrum of foods, it is virtually impossible to eliminate it completely. Saturated fat is present in the following foods in high quantities:

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Meat, pies, boerewors, sausage.

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Cream, butter, cheese, full cream milk, ice cream, chocolate.

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Biscuits, pastry, cakes.

These are the foods that should be drastically reduced in the diet. Eating saturated fats ultimately results in increased levels of "bad cholesterol" (LDL cholesterol) in the blood. LDL cholesterol causes blockage of arteries and associated heart attacks, strokes, gangrene, etc.

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Try to replace saturated fat with good fats in your diet. These so-called good fats are unsaturated. The chemistry of this is not relevant here, but for those interested, reference to the sister book “Know Your Blood Vessels” will explain fat metabolism in detail. The two main varieties of unsaturated fat that concern health are poly and mono unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA and MUFA).


PUFA are derived from vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower, corn and soya bean oils. The important component of these oils is the omega 6 fatty acid, linoleic acid. MUFA are found in olive oil, avocados and rapeseed oil (canola oil). MUFA are stable and do not become rancid like PUFA. When PUFA becomes oxidized or rancid, it actually damages your health (leaving oil open and standing in the kitchen). In fact rancid PUFA may be as bad as saturated fats. So, in summary, MUFA and fresh PUFA (non rancid) appear to be good for you and should replace the saturated fat in your diet.


The other good fat is fish oil fat. The chemicals in fish oil are eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid, which are beneficial to the body. They are also PUFA, and they prevent clotting in the arteries. Fish oils tend to lower the triglyceride fats in the body. Fish oils contain omega 3 fatty acids and are found in high concentration in cold seawater fish such as mackerel and salmon.

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Tub margarine should replace butter in your diet, as butter is rich in saturated fat. Good tub margerine (such as canola) on the other hand, will contain both PUFA and MUFA. Do not make the mistake of thinking that brick margarine is also good for you. It is not! Brick margarine, where the PUFA has been re-hydrogenated, is as bad as butter.

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Eat fresh fruit and vegetables. These should form a large component of any diet. Besides being a source of fibre (roughage), these foods contain the antioxidant vitamins (vitamins E, C and A). Antioxidants are free radical scavengers in the body. They mop up the toxic free radicals that may play a part in cancer, heart disease, aging and so on.

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Eat high fibre foods,

What exactly is fibre?

Biological tissues are made up of millions of tiny cells and fibre refers to the supporting structure of these cells in the plant kingdom i..e the cell walls. Fibre is mostly undigested in the human gut.

There are two types of fibre:

- Water soluble

- Water insoluble fibre such as whole wheat, other grains, fruit, vegetables, etc.

Fibre increases stool bulk, makes the stool soften and it decreases gut transit time.

 

How much do we need?

We should eat about 30 grams of fibre per day. In South Africa, rural people tend to eat more fibre and easily reach 30 grams per day. Westernised people tend to eat half of this or less. This is unsatisfactory and a high fibre diet should be encouraged.


What fibre should we be eating?

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One of the best ways to boost fibre intake if the diet is in any way deficient in fibre, is to supplement your daily fibre intake with high quality fibre such as FYBOGEL®. By simply boosting your diet with three to six grams of Fybogel per day (one to two sachets), you can get the fibre you need easily and efficiently. Fybogel is a perfectly natural fibre that cannot possibly do you any harm. It is not a drug.

Other ways to boost your fibre intake:

- Eat cereals high in fibre.
- Eat brown bread particularly the “health breads”, which are filled with roughage.
- East fresh vegetables and fruit.

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What does fibre do for you?

- It improves the quality of your bowel habits (prevents constipation).
- It decreases the tendency to obesity.
- It tends to lower blood cholesterol, particularly oat bran.
- It tends to lower the blood sugar, particularly oat bran.
- It fills up your stomach and satiates you so you do not crave harmful foods.

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Fibre is recommended to help prevent many illnesses including:

- Constipation (infrequent passage of hard stool)
- Arterial disease (atheroma/atherosclerosis causing heart disease, stroke, gangrene, etc.)
- Colon cancer (malignant colon disease).
- Diabetes (particularly non insulin dependent diabetes mellitus NIDDM).
- Obesity (overweight).
- Diverticulosis coli (benign colon disease).

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A recently completed large study involving more than 40 000 people over a period of ten years in the United States of America found an inverse relationship between fibre intake and myocardial infarction (heart attack).

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Exercise
Studies throughout the world have repeatedly demonstrated that people who avoid exercise have a 33% greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Aerobic exercise is associated with a lowering of both the systolic (upper) and the diastolic (lower) blood pressure. But, perhaps even more exciting, aerobic exercise tends to elevate the HDL. This is the good cholesterol that leaches fat out of arteries. Exercise lowers the cancer rate by 37%.

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What is aerobic exercise? It is any exercise that increases oxygen consumption. Activities recommended are:

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Jogging/running, swimming, cycling, climbing stairs repeatedly, dancing (often called “aerobics”), skipping, brisk walking, and sports such as tennis, soccer, rugby, golf, squash, racket ball, light and rapid weight lifting, brisk walking.

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These exercises should be performed for at least a half hour four times per week. The intensity should induce sweating after about fifteen minutes, but should still be comfortable enough to allow for a conversation with a companion. In other words, aerobic exercise should not leave one so breathless that speech becomes a burden. Note that heavy weight lifting may raise the blood pressure and could be counterproductive.

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What does exercise do for you?

- Increases HDL cholesterol, which is protective against heart disease and literally sucks the cholesterol out of the artery.
- Diminishes blood pressure.
- Helps you to lose weight.
- Makes smoking more distasteful and disagreeable (it may actually soon make you a anti-smoker).

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Alcohol
Two measures per day is good for you. More is not! Alcohol also increases the HDL (good) cholesterol. High intake of alcohol may increase the risk of breast cancer.

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Stop Smoking
Not next week, not tomorrow, not today, but now. Each cigarette you smoke harms your health. Smoking is the scourge of this century. It is a killer! Passive smoke (from someone else smoking) is also a killer.


Cigarette smoke causes among other things:

- Blocked arteries (heart attack, stroke, gangrene).
- Cancer (lung, bladder, oral).
- Obstructive lung disease (emphysema, chronic bronchitis, aggravates asthma).
- The growth of an embryo (foetus) to slow.

It should be noted, however, that no correlation between smoking and breast cancer has ever been demonstrated. So smoking does not cause breast cancer.

How does smoking cast its evil spell?
It does the damage to the body by increasing the fequency of free radicals. These free radicals damage the lining of the blood vessels (atheroma) and cause mutations to the cells lining the lungs (lung cancer), and so on.

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Low Salt Diet
A high salt diet results in the body retaining fluid, which may eventually cause high blood pressure.

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Avoid Stress
It is difficult to avoid stress nowadays especially in large and sometimes violent cities such as Johannesburg. It has repeatedly been demonstrated that stress can damage your health. Adrenal hormones increase in stress situations (adrenalin, cortisol). These hormones suppress the immune system with all its attendant disadvantages including the increased risk of getting cancer.


How do you control stress? Some good ways to bring down stress levels are:

- Through exercise.
- Using relaxation techniques.
- Listening to beautiful music.
- Being in beautiful scenery.
- Alternative medicine (aromatherapy, reflexology).

Complementary therapy is the use of other therapies in conjunction with conventional medical therapy. Let your doctor know what treatment you are taking as different medicines may interact with chemotherapy drugs or cause an increase in bleeding at surgery.

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Homeopathy

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Acupuncture

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Chiropractic

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Herbal treatments.

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Traditional healers

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Tissue salts

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Crystal, pyramid, pendulum

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Magnet healers

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Reflexology

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Iridology

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Astrology

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Moxibustion