Non-communicable diseases are on the rise in Grenada, with cancer being one of the main causes of death.
Chronic non-communicable diseases can be prevented and better managed with proper nutrition and healthy lifestyle practices. Research shows that diet is responsible for 30-40% of all cancers. Limit your fat intake to less than 30% of your total calories per day. Foods with high-fat content like fried foods, fatty meat and stick margarine should be used sparingly and solid fats like butter and margarine can be replaced with liquid fats like olive and coconut oil. Follow a diet rich in fruits and vegetables of varying colours like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale, mangoes, oranges. Include foods high in omega 3 fatty acids, like fresh tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, walnuts and flax seeds. Avoid foods high in trans fats (when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to extend shelf life and make firmer), red meats, cured or smoked foods. Studies show a diet rich in plant foods offers more health benefits than one high in animal products.
Obesity and overweight are risk factors for breast cancer so it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. Women who have gained weight during adulthood and have central obesity (concentration of fat to the abdomen or stomach) have about a 30% increased risk of developing breast cancer. Extra weight on a woman means more fat cells to produce more of the hormone estrogen that promotes growth of breast cancer cells.
Another risk factor for breast cancer is alcohol consumption. Women who consume 2 or more alcoholic drinks daily have about 1½ greater risk of developing breast cancer than women who do not drink alcohol. The recommendation is that women should have no more than 1 alcoholic drink a day which is equal to one 5 oz glass of wine, 1 beer or 2 oz liquor.
If you are at an increased risk for breast cancer; here are some tips:
- Lose weight if you are overweight especially with a BMI of 25 or higher with greater fat than lean body tissue.
- Avoid alcohol or limit to 1 drink per day
- Follow a diet that is low in saturated fats found in animal foods like meat and whole milk and trans fat found in many processed foods like some margarines, packaged snacks and cured and smoked meats
- Follow a diet high in fibre. Eat more vegetables and fruits, whole grains and avoid refined flours.
- Have a diet low in concentrated sugars, sweets, soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Consume lean protein like skinless chicken with visible fat removed, low-fat dairy and legumes
- Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like fresh salmon, tuna or mackerel, walnuts, kidney beans and soybeans
- Get physically active by having some form of intentional activity at least 5 times a week, 30 minutes a day
Your risk for developing breast cancer is increased as you get older, if you are obese, have a family member who has had breast cancer, or began your period at a very young age. Women over 40, you are advised to have yearly mammograms which should continue as long as you are in good health. Women in their 20s should have a Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) (a physical examination done by a healthcare professional) every 3 years. Learn to self-examine your breasts, know the signs of breast cancer and be your own watchdog. Report any abnormalities to your doctor and remember early detection means more effective treatment.