Healthy habits for a Healthy Bust

Your breast health matters every day, and there's no better time to rethink your habits for optimal breast health than October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer ranks as the second leading killer of women, and it's the most common cancer in women, with one in eight women being diagnosed with it in her lifetime.

Yet what you may not know is that you have more control over your breast cancer risk than you think, even if you have a family history of it. Only five per cent to 10 per cent of breast cancers can be blamed on inherited gene mutations such as BRCA, and merely 13 per cent of women with breast cancer have a first-degree relative with a history of the disease.

In fact, about 75 to 80 per cent of what happens to your breasts is under your control. Of course, that doesn't guarantee something won't happen. Some women can do everything right and still get breast cancer, namely because everybody has a cancer cell somewhere and it may happen that your immune system's policing doesn't get it. That said, prevention can go a long way.

So, what habits should you adopt now for healthier breasts? Below are six to keep in your toolbox.

Examine your bust

You should be doing monthly self-exams on your breasts to recognise lumps and bumps and spot changes in the future more quickly.

Keep up with mammograms

Along with self-exams, get yearly mammograms starting at age 40. This is a general guideline, as your doctor may want to tweak something. For instance, if you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor might recommend you to start mammography earlier. One other point? You need to know if you have dense breasts, something a mammogram will reveal. If so, you'll need additional screening to help see more clearly through that dense tissue.

Eat plant-strong

Every time you eat, you move yourself closer to – or further from – cancer, and there's no denying that a plant-based diet is best for the breasts. Plants, legumes, and 100 per cent whole grains provide nutritional armour for cancer risks. On the flip side, animal products can increase cancer risk, namely by elevating estrogen, which fuels 80 per cent of all breast cancers. Yet by eating plants, you'll consume high amounts of antioxidant-rich foods that release molecules that can scavenge free radicals, eliminate carcinogens that you eat and encounter, prevent and repair DNA damage, identify and destroy harmful cells in the body, inhibit new blood supply required by tumours to grow, stimulate the immune system, regulate hormone metabolism, and reduce inflammation. And while it's ideal that you eat plants 100 per cent of the time, every time you swap plants for animals, your health will benefit.

Nosh on these three, cancer-fighting foods daily

Although, the plant kingdom is loaded with good-for-breasts food, broccoli, soy, and ground flax should be in your daily lineup. Eat a half cup of raw or steamed broccoli for its cancer-reducing isothiocyanates. Steam it or eat it raw, but chew broccoli thoroughly to break down the cell walls and let the molecules mix, creating sulforaphane, which displays ridiculous talent when it comes to seeking out and destroying breast cancer cells. Then, get two to three servings of soy a day, as it decreases the occurrence, recurrence, and death rates from breast cancer. Finally, eat one tablespoon of ground flax, which contains powerful cancer-fighting phytonutrients called lignans.

Move more

Active women have a 20 per cent lower risk of developing breast cancer than inactive women. On the flip side, being sedentary increases breast cancer risk by as much as 40 per cent versus those who move at moderate levels for three to four hours a week. But don't think you have to spend loads of time exercising. Even walking briskly for just 11 minutes a day can drop breast cancer incidence by 18 per cent. Not into sweat? No problem. Simply strive to move more throughout the day with the goal of five hours a week. For instance, take a walk at lunch, use a desk treadmill while you work, or do jumping jacks during commercial breaks.

Maintain a healthy weight

Excess weight has numerous health consequences, including an increased breast cancer risk. Overweight and obese adult women have a 50 to 250 per cent greater risk for postmenopausal breast cancer than normal weight women. Plus, up to 50 per cent of postmenopausal breast cancer deaths can be attributed to obesity.