These lifestyle practices will also have a positive impact on the rest of your health.

Lauren Wicks
October 03, 2019

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women after skin cancer, and it has likely affected you or a loved one in some way. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and one of the best ways to spread awareness is to take control of the risk factors that you actually can.

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While we can't change our genes or family history, there are several major lifestyle factors that can help reduce our risk for this type of cancer. Discover three ways to lower your risk, below:

Watch Your Alcohol Intake

The CDC advises watching your alcohol consumption, as studies show the more one drinks, the more likely she is to receive a breast cancer diagnosis. Drinking alcohol in excess can cause damage to your liver, which could impair its ability to control the estrogen hormone in your body—thus increasing your risk for breast cancer.

One study published in the journal Women's Health does note that even though excess alcohol consumption is a risk factor for breast cancer, there is some research to support the belief that red wine and beer may have some anti-cancer compounds. Even so, it's important to drink any and all types of alcoholic beverages in moderation.

Our nation's current dietary guidelines define "moderate drinking" as one drink per day for women and two for men. One drink is equivalent to a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or a 1.5-ounce pour of liquor.

Incorporate More Movement Into Your Day

The research here is twofold: we need to make sure to get enough physical activity each day, and we also need to stay moving. Both a lack of regular exercise and prolonged time spent sitting contribute to one's risk for breast cancer. Translation? It's not enough to go for a morning walk and then remain mostly sedentary for the rest of the day.

The American Cancer Society advises getting 45-60 minutes of moderate physical exercise five times a week, be it barre, an Orangetheory class or taking a walk in the park. Just be sure to not skip out on NEAT—non-exercise activity thermogenesis—an important form of movement many of us avoid. NEAT movement includes taking the stairs over the elevator, gardening, walking the dog around the block and even cleaning your house!

While it can be difficult to imagine making room for one more activity in your day, try doing some bodyweight exercises while you watch your favorite TV show, take a walk on your lunch break or ask a friend to join you for a round of tennis instead of meeting you for coffee.

Follow a Mediterranean-Style Diet

Healthy eating is one of the biggest factors within your control that can affect your breast cancer risk. The American Cancer Society gives us three major things to emphasize when following a preventative diet—limit processed and red meat intake, eat two-and-a-half cups of fruits and vegetables each day and choose whole over refined grains.

In essence, this can be summed up in a Mediterreanean-style diet eating pattern. The Mediterranean Diet is ranked as the year's best diet, according to a U.S. News & World Report panel of health and medical experts, and focuses on eating more plants, choosing your protein and fats wisely and consuming healthy carbs. Unlike other diets out there, The Mediterreanan Diet is more of a lifestyle, focusing less on counting calories, carbs, fat or sugar and emphasizing whole, nutritious foods.

Not only will eating more wholesome, fiber-rich foods help you reduce your risk for breast cancer, but it will make a world of difference in pretty much every other area of your life. Following a Mediterranean Diet shows to improve your heart, brain and gut health, as well as helps keep you at a healthy weight.

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