Written by Dr. Filza Swalah, ND
Breast health is not only determined by the genes we’re born with, but also with what we decide to do with our health on a daily basis.
Here are a few factors to keep in mind when supporting Breast Health:
1. Body Weight1
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for maintaining breast health. Research has shown that women who gained 55 lbs. or more after the age of 18 are associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Exercise helps with maintaining optimal body weight and is also associated with a reduced risk of developing breast cancer.1 Starting with 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity most days a week is a good goal to begin with.1 It’s never too late to start! Here are a few tips to get active:2
- Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Find activities that you enjoy. Dancing, swimming, and brisk walking are all good options.
- Don’t forget muscle training! Muscle training is important for supporting joints and overall health, especially during menopause. Aim for twice a week.2
- Little things matter! Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away and walk to your destination. Small ways to be active can maintain activity levels.
Diet also plays an important role in maintaining breast health, especially since it plays a role in maintaining healthy weight.1 A healthy diet consists of all the food groups. Some actionable tips are:3
- Choose healthy protein options like eggs, lean meats (chicken and turkey), lean cuts of beef, pork and wild game, nut and seeds and fish like trout and salmon. Vegetarian proteins options are lentils and legume.
- Have a variety of fruits and vegetables
- Chose whole grains options like whole grain pasta, bread, whole oats, whole grain rice and quinoa. Don’t be afraid to explore other whole grains like farro, freekeh & buckwheat.
There is a growing body of evidence that alcohol can increase the risk of developing breast cancer.1 Health Canada recommends limiting alcohol intake to one alcoholic drink a day which can look like:1
- 12 ounces (340 mL) of beer;
- 5 ounces (140 mL) of wine; or
- 1.5 ounces (42 mL) of spirits.
Smoking is not only linked to lung cancer, but also increased risk of developing breast cancer.1 There is no amount of smoke or secondhand smoke that is considered safe. The healthiest option is to quit smoking. Talk to your health care provider for advice on how to quit effectively!
6. Get Screened
Health Canada recommends that women from the ages 50 to 69 should have a mammogram every 2 years.1 If you are not in that age group, talk to your family doctor for health advice tailored specifically to you.
7. Know When to See a Doctor4
It’s important to keep an eye out for any breast changes. This could include any new lumps that are painful, nipple discharge, changes in the skin of your breast or nipples, unusual increase in the size of one breast and one breast being lower than the other. If these changes occur, get checked by a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
8. Breast Self-Examinations4
Health Canada does not recommend breast self-examinations for women between the ages of 40 to 74 who do not have a high risk of breast cancer. This is because research has shown that it can lead to unneeded tests and biopsies. Instead, it’s important to know what your breasts generally look and feel like and visit a doctor when changes are noticed.
- Canada, P. H. A. of. (2011, November 21). Government of Canada. Canada.ca. Retrieved September 15, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/chronic-diseases/breast-cancer-your-risk.html.
- SCPE. CSEP. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2021, from https://csepguidelines.ca/adults-18-64/.
- Canada, H. (2021, September 9). Government of Canada. Canada's Food Guide. Retrieved September 15, 2021, from https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/.
- Breast self-examination. HealthLink BC. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2021, from https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/hw3791.