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End Of The Year In Good Health!

Being Thankful For Good Health! happy There are many things to be thankful for this holiday season – being with family, enjoying the company of friends, or living in a nice house, for example. If you have good health, you can be especially thankful. While most people think of Thanksgiving and Christmas as a time to overeat and indulge, you can still maintain good eating habits and a healthy lifestyle during the holidays. How to be Thankful and Healthy this Holiday Season Be grateful for the delicious food that everyone worked so hard to provide, but opt for heart-healthy, low calorie, low-fat foods whenever possible. Choose white turkey meat, plain vegetables, mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, no-fat gravy and homemade pumpkin pie. The tryptophan (amino acis) in the turkey will help calm you, in case there is any stress during the holiday meal. Avoid heavy alcohol consumption. Avoid overeating by keeping portion sizes small. A portion of meat is about the size of the palm of your hand; a serving of potatoes is about the size of your fist. Double up on vegetables, which are low in calories, high in nutrients, and fill you up so you will not be tempted to overeat. Make a relish dish of raw vegetables and low fat, low-calorie dip for your home parties, or offer to bring it as a dish to pass. Go out for a walk at least once a day. Invite your friends and family to walk with you – you might be surprised how much further you will go when you walk as a group. Most of all, tell your family how grateful you are to share a meal with them. Share your fondest memories of the people seated at your table as well the memories of those who are no longer with you.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Prevention Strategies.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked by a pervasive presence of pink and campaigns by national and local organizations, serves as a reminder for all communities to be more aware of prevention, early detection, research and support in the fight against breast cancer. There are many risk factors that women cannot avoid, such as family history and genetics, older age, dense breasts and being white. However, people can make certain decisions or adopt behaviors that lower their risk. These are defined as preventative measures. While research into cancer prevention is ongoing, here are a few areas that are being studied, according to the National Cancer Institute: • Changing lifestyles and/or eating habits • Limiting exposure to cancer-causing entities • Using medicine to treat a precancerous condition or prevent cancer
  Addressing risk factors Certain habits, such as drinking and smoking, should be limited or avoided altogether. Women also should avoid exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, known as carcinogens such as air, water and soil pollution and cigarette smoke, or those that interfere with the body’s normal functions, according to the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure to radiation from medical imaging tests also should be limited, unless it is medically necessary. Additionally, women who are taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy should speak with a doctor about the associated risks. Good habits for women to adopt include breastfeeding their babies, if possible; exercising regularly; keeping a healthy weight; and getting sufficient nighttime sleep. “Staying healthy throughout your life will lower your risk of developing cancer, and improve your chances of surviving cancer if it occurs,” the CDC states. One of the most important aspects of cancer treatment is early detection. While a mammogram is the best way to detect breast cancer, this screening has benefits as well as limitations. For instance, according to the CDC, harms include false positive test results and undue radiation exposure. The CDC recommends women be familiar with how their breasts feel and look, which will help them notice “symptoms such as lumps, pain, or changes in size that may be of concern.” The National Cancer Institute provides an online interactive Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool to help women estimate their risk of developing invasive breast cancer. The tool is updated periodically as new research is made available. (Sources: “Breast Cancer Prevention (PDQ®)–Patient Version” National Cancer Institute. United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon

Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon

February is Heart Awareness Month!

Red puzzle heart with stethoscope on brown wooden backgroundHeart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for women in the United States, killing one in every three females. These are your mothers, sisters, daughters and best friends. Women’s health must be a priority and heart disease cannot be overlooked—it’s not a “man’s disease” as once thought by so many.

Do you know the symptoms of heart attacks for women?

Heart Attack Symptoms For Women

The American Heart Association lists the following symptoms as the main heart attack indicators for women.

  • Focused in the chest, an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, pain or fullness. The feeling(s) may last several minutes and then go away, only to return.
  • Pain and/or discomfort in the arms (one or both)
  • Pain and/or discomfort in other areas such as the stomach, back, neck and jaw.
  • Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, with or without discomfort or pain.
  • Lightheadedness and nausea.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat.

It’s extremely important to note that women can and do experience heart attacks without having any chest pressure or pain, the most common heart attack symptom for men. A women’s heart attack is not a man’s heart attack, which is why it makes it critical to know and to be able to recognize these symptoms.

Important: Please contact 9-1-1 and get to a hospital if you experience any of these symptoms or suspect that you may be having a heart attack.

The American Heart Association urges everyone to remember, “women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.”

What Causes a Heart Attack?

When your heart can’t get oxygen because blood flow has been blocked, a heart attack happens. Typically, this occurs as a result of coronary heart disease, states the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute ( NHLBI). A heart attack also may happen when a coronary artery spasms severely. The spasm cuts off blood flow through the artery and causes a heart attack. This type of heart attack may be caused by a reaction to a specific drug, cigarette smoking, severe emotional stress or pain and even exposure to extreme cold temperatures. Unfortunately, 64% of women who die from heart disease show no previous symptoms. This is what experts call, silent coronary heart disease.

How to Prevent (Silent) Heart Attacks?

Several factors can increase your risk for heart disease, which can lead to a life-threatening heart attack. This include but are not limited to:

  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Poor dietary choices
  • Physical inactivity
  • Alcohol abuse or overuse
  • Smoking and drug use

If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor for recommendations on how to lower your risk for heart disease and potentially fatal heart attacks.

Any women who finds herself experiencing one or more of the heart attack symptoms listed above, should immediately get help. Don’t brush your symptoms off as the flu or your imagination. Your health is important. You are important.

New Year, New You!

It’s a new year and now is the time to make wellness and a healthy lifestyle a priority. Start off the new year right with better food choices designed to improve women’s health. There are several, easy and affordable ways to cut calories, increase nutrient intake and feel better about your food choices.

Eat More Food

Eating more food simply means eating more whole foods or food that has not been processed in some manner. Whole foods like apples, unsalted almonds and fresh berries can be a healthier choice for a mid-morning snack versus even a low-fat granola bar. With a whole apple, unsalted nuts and other whole food choices, your body enjoys important nutrients that can help fight heart disease and even breast cancer.

Nutrition tip: A single serving of unsalted almonds (about seven almonds) has 22 milligrams of calcium plus fiber, iron, magnesium, vitamin E and other essential nutrients. It’s a heart-smart snack.

Produce Versus Processed

Spend some time in the produce section of your grocery store, make it your first stop when shopping. The middle aisles of most grocery stores are home to processed items like boxed dinner kits, sugar-laden sauces and cereals with added nutrients. Instead of relying on a box of cereal for your daily recommended amount of fiber or vitamins, look to whole food choices like sweet potatoes, a good source of fiber as well as vitamin A. Fill your cart with a variety of different fresh fruits and vegetables. Make a promise to yourself to try at least one new fruit or vegetable every week or every visit to the store.

The Mayo Clinic reports that blueberries are packed with phytonutrients that have the potential to prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers. If fresh blueberries aren’t in season, opt for frozen blueberries packaged without any preservatives or additives like sugar. Toss a handful into the blender with a cup of Greek yogurt, one-half cup of unsweetened orange juice and a medium banana for an easy, delicious and nutrient-rich smoothie.

Read the Label

When you do opt for packaged items, remember to read the nutrition label to stay on track with your healthy food choices and portion control. Often we underestimate the actual size of a single serving. At the top of the nutrition label is the serving size — always check there first, because what you may think is a single or two serving item, may really be three, four or more servings per package. Check the labels and avoid packaged items with trans-fats and high percentages of cholesterol, sugar and sodium.

Everyone can make healthier food choices in the new year. Start by adding fresh berries to a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast instead of flying out the door with a donut high in saturated fat. Grab a handful of unsalted almonds when the 2 p.m. munchies hit instead of a candy bar from the vending machine. Swap out French fries for a baked sweet potato. Don’t forget to drink your water. You can do this. The smallest change can make a difference. It’s a new year and anything is possible.  

Learn How To Cope With Stress

iStock_000018547652_FullHave you felt like there are not enough hours in the day, unexpected bills keep coming, or your career responsibilities are too demanding? How do you react to all these family, financial or personal situations? Have you felt as you are going to collapse at any moment? We have all been involved in these stressful and difficult situations at some point of our lives. But how is this affecting our health? And how can we handle it?

There is no question that stress can result in harmful effects to our bodies. Though little evidence exists about any direct cause-effect relationship between stress and breast cancer or heart disease, excessive stressful situations can lead to unhealthy behaviors that will contribute to risk factors of these diseases. For example, people trying to ‘manage/cope’ with stress often engage in behaviors like smoking, drinking alcohol, physical inactivity and overeating. Unhealthy stress management responses like these will increase our blood pressure and cholesterol levels. What are some healthier ways to manage stress? Let’s take a look:

Usually people relate the word ‘stress’ to something negative. However, feeling stressed is completely normal. In fact, certain amounts of stress can turn out to be positive – it all depends on how you cope with it. Our body is designed to manage some level of stress (i.e. stress that helps you get to work at a certain time). Achieving an optimal level of stress can even be motivational, increase your memory, boost your immune system and help you focus on important tasks.

Of course, our bodies are not made to handle chronic stress. Chronic stress makes us feel tired, depressed, angry, forgetful, out of control, or anxious. You might also experience headaches, back strain, or stomach pains. While we all perceive and handle stress in various ways, the key is to figure out what triggers your over-stress and how to cope with it.

Here are some great ways that may help you:

1. GET ACTIVE: Exercise! Whether it’s a walk, a swim or yoga, physical activity will increase endorphins – the hormones that make you feel good. Lifting weights will help you drain accumulated tension. Being regularly active will also reduce your risk for developing breast cancer or heart disease.

2. BE POSITIVE: Be self-confident. Welcome good humor. This will help you calm down, relax, and control stress. Try to turn any negative thinking into positive thinking!

3. BE PROUD: Don’t try to be perfectionist, nobody is. Just be proud of who you are.

4. QUIT SMOKING: Even though many people see smoking as a stress reliever, studies have shown that smoking causes more stress than it relieves. Smoking is a short-term fix with many long-term health problems as a result.

5. LIMIT ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE INTAKE: Excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption can aggravate stress and even trigger panic attacks. It can also increase your blood pressure. Instead, try substituting these for decaf coffee or tea and limiting alcohol consumption.

6. REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT! Focus on eating energy-boosting foods like fruits and snacks containing omega-3, like nuts. Incorporate unsaturated fats (good fats) like avocado, salmon and seeds. Consume lots of vegetables and be sure to eat whole grain foods. Don’t skip meals and don’t wait more than four hours without eating. Never forget that maintaining a healthy diet is key to living a healthy lifestyle, thus reducing your risk for breast cancer and heart disease.

7. CHEW GUM: Reach for a stick of gum! Studies have shown that it helps reduce cortisol levels and as such, stress. Go for “Sugar-Free” options to avoid increased sugar intake.

8. CALL A FRIEND: This will calm you down and allow you to share your feelings, often relieving some of the pressure.

9. SLEEP: Try to sleep 6-8 hours each night. Studies have shown that people who sleep less have reduced insulin levels and increased levels of cortisol, which increases appetite. Your metabolism will become slower and stress will increase.

10. ACCEPT THAT YOU CANNOT CONTROL EVERYTHING

11. RELAX: Listen to calming music, reading a book, doing yoga and breathing deeply for a few minutes each day are just a few ideas.

12. LAUGH: Studies have proven that laughing releases “happiness hormones” (such as dopamine) and decreases cortisol and adrenaline levels, making your nervous system know that you are happy!

Sources: American Heart Association, Reader’s Digest, Smokefree Women, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, National Cancer Institute

The Benefits of Volunteering

IMG_3765Volunteers are the backbone of many organizations, contributing time, expertise and passion for a cause. Organizations, from national charities to local fundraising events need volunteers to achieve success. The impact from these volunteers often is immeasurable. However, volunteering also offers many benefits for the volunteer.

Benefits of volunteering

The first benefit of volunteering is the difference a volunteer can make in just one person’s life. Parents who volunteer generally have children who become volunteers as adults, helping to establish the next generation of compassionate, proactive volunteers. Volunteering also offers many benefits for long-time professionals as well as new additions to the workforce. These benefits include:

• Learning/developing new skills • Leadership experience • Developing new friendships plus networking contacts • Résumé enhancement • Opportunity to share skills/talents with others • Contributing positively to your community

Volunteering provides mental and emotional benefits

Research has determined a strong relationship between volunteering and health. Volunteering offers several important mental and emotional benefits such as improving self-confidence and self-esteem, fulfilling the need to feel valued, and keeping the mind engaged in problem-solving activities. Volunteers often feel an overall mood improvement after reaching out and sharing their time to help others — the simple act of giving without expecting anything in return can be a powerful mood enhancer.

In the 2013 Health and Volunteering Study published by UnitedHealth Group, “94% of people who volunteered in the last twelve months say that volunteering improves their mood.”

Physical benefits of volunteering

An improved mental and emotional state can benefit physical health. Happier people tend to stress less and enjoy more feelings of contentment. Lowered stress levels are better for blood pressure and overall heart health.

A 2013 study from Carnegie Mellon University, published in Psychology and Aging stated, “Adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. High blood pressure is an important indicator of health because it contributes to heart disease, stroke, and premature death.” In general, volunteers also tend to exercise more and maintain a healthy diet both of which contribute to healthier blood pressure levels.

The Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development published “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research.” This research revealed that volunteers who share 100 or more hours of their time each year, are “the most likely to exhibit positive health outcomes.”

Senior volunteers may enjoy the most health benefits from their volunteering activities, helping them to stay active, maintain independence, and enjoy a variety of social interactions.

Businesses benefit from employee volunteers

Employees who volunteer provide specific benefits to their employers. Employees who volunteer regularly are happier, less stressed, and tend to suffer less illness. These employees are better able to focus on important tasks at work, helping productivity and overall workplace mood. In addition, healthier employees lead to lower health care costs.

Volunteers who work with The Women’s Breast & Heart Health Initiative (WBHI) gain leadership skills, improved public-speaking,  team-building skills and overall improved confidence – all while helping to fight breast cancer and heart disease, one woman at a time. So the question is: What are you waiting for? Sign-up to volunteer for WBHI’s Fall Door-to-Door Outreach today!

Shared Risk Factors of Breast Cancer & Heart Disease

A risk factor is a variable associated with an increased risk of disease such as breast cancer or heart disease. Breast cancer and heart disease each have several risk factors independent of one another; however, both diseases also share many of the same risk factors in women.

The following are shared risk factors in women for breast cancer and heart disease:
  • Family history
  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Night-shift work (due to disrupting the circadian rhythm and potential suppression of melatonin, linked to tumor development)
Some of these risk factors, such as family history and age, women have little/no control over.  However, leading a healthy lifestyle including a well-balanced diet (fruits, vegetables, proteins) and regular exercise as well as not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption are choices a woman can make to help lower her risk of developing breast cancer and heart disease. Having a risk factor does not mean a woman will get a disease and not all risk factors affect individual women to the same extent. Contact your doctor to learn more about your risk factors for the development of breast cancer and heart disease. (Sources: American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Cancer Society)

Breast Cancer and Exercise

A healthy lifestyle combining nutrition and exercise can be beneficial in reducing breast cancer risks in some women.The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC ) reported in 2009 and 2010, more than one-third of adults in the United States were obese. With a definitive relationship established between increased body weight/weight gain and breast cancer among women, the benefits of regular exercise play an important role in the fight against breast cancer.

Battling weight to battle cancer

Unfortunately for women, weight gain causes not only a tighter waistband but also an increase in hormone levels, particularly estrogen. A recent studied by the Institute of Cancer Research reported that among women fighting breast cancer, obese women usually have higher estrogen levels than women who are not obese. Since many breast cancers need estrogen to grow, doctors tend use hormone-blocking treatments. Treatment may include a drug such as an aromatase inhibitor, which is a hormone-suppressing drug. It is possible however; weight loss through exercise and nutrition also may be beneficial when attempting to reduce estrogen levels in breast cancer patients and those at risk for breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) encourages regular, intentional physical activity or exercise to reduce the risk of breast cancer and other cancers. Regular exercise also may reduce the risk of other diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes. The ACS guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes (two and one-half hours) of moderately intense exercise/activity per week, 75 minutes (one hour and fifteen minutes) of vigorously intense exercise/activity per week or a combination of both moderate and vigorous exercise spread throughout a seven-day period.

Types of exercise

Women’s health and wellness routines must include some levels of exercise to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, especially when fighting breast cancer. Incorporating moderate and even intense exercise into a daily routine doesn’t have to be costly or stressful.

Moderate exercise should raise your heart rate, cause you to sweat yet you should still be able to hold a conversation without gasping for breath. Inexpensive ways to exercise moderately include taking a brisk/fast walk through your neighborhood or local park, pushing a lawn mower or riding a bicycle.

Vigorous exercise makes you breathe harder and it may be difficult to hold a conversation while exercising. Examples include jogging, playing a game of basketball, soccer or tennis and swimming laps (not leisurely swimming, concentrated strokes to raise the heart rate.)

Gardening, playing with your kids and household chores such as vacuuming and mopping are other ways simply to get moving. Every time you get up and do something active, you are helping your overall health. Reducing sedimentary habits can help fight weight gain as well.

In addition, it’s important to remember to eat nutritionally balanced meals that do not exceed recommended daily caloric intake. If you’re not sure what your caloric intake should be, talk to your doctor. Before beginning any exercise routine it is important to talk first to your doctor to determine what is best for your health.

Latest News in Breast Cancer

A number of recent studies have revealed exciting news in both the detection and treatment of breast cancer. Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer when it comes to cancer deaths among women in the U.S. As we learn more about breast cancer, we are able to develop methods of reducing the incidence of it, which can help protect scores of women from this deadly disease.

In the area of breast cancer detection, two new developments can help in the area of early detection. Breast cancer early detection can make all the difference in a patient’s outcome; when breast cancer is caught at the localized stage, the five-year survival rate is 98%. Part of early detection is knowing whether you have an increased risk for breast cancer. For this reason, a number of women are opting for genetic testing to see whether they carry the markers for increased breast cancer risk. However, at this time, direct to consumer DNA tests are, for many people, prohibitively expensive, costing between $100 and $1500. Researchers at Johns Hopkins performed a focus group to find out what women were looking for in direct to consumer tests. Results revealed that women would be willing to buy tests that ranged in price from $10 to $20, and that they would be willing to test their children for increased risk of the disease. These findings can be used to make direct to consumer genetic testing more easily available.

In other detection news, with the successful completion of the mapping of the human genome, researchers are now focusing on proteins. By studying protein microarrays, doctors feel that they will be better able to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. Until recently, this was a dauntingly time consuming process because of the need to isolate proteins. However, a new technique which does not require that the proteins be purified can speed up the process, allowing doctors to learn more quickly. Accuracy of the program is high; in a recent study where 28 antigens were identified, doctors were able to identify cancer with 80 to 100 percent accuracy.

In the area of treatment, a recent clinical trial on a cancer vaccine has had promising results. When women who had had cancer before were given the vaccine, their rate of recurrence dropped to around 10%, down from 18% without the vaccine over a period of 22 months. This represents a 43% drop in reoccurrence. Short term side effects of the vaccine were minimal, and included flu-like symptoms, redness at the injection area and bone pain. The vaccine works by teaching the body to recognize HER2, the oncoprotein that promotes tumor growth, as an invader.

Breast Cancer Risk and Nutrition

Diet is perhaps the single largest controllable factor in a woman’s breast cancer risk. There are foods that increase your risk, and also foods that can significantly reduce it. By maintaining a healthy, varied diet rich in cancer-preventative foods, you are able to substantially cut your chances of breast cancer. Plus, eating a wide variety of nutritious foods is also part of a healthy lifestyle that goes beyond reducing cancer risk.

According to The American Cancer Society, a large number of women’s health studies have suggested that a diet low in animal fats can lead to lower rates of breast cancer. Cancer rates are lower in parts of the world where people eat less animal fat. Additionally, in tests on rodents, higher fat diets led to higher incidence of mammary cancers. Seek out low-fat protein options to keep your fat intake within recommended guidelines. For instance, opt for a lentil salad or vegetarian black bean chili for dinner. Try tilapia for an affordable, low-fat mild fish entree. Pick lean cuts when eating red meat, and take the skin off chicken. Preliminary studies seem to indicate that the younger you are when you adopt a low-fat diet, the more cancer protection it provides.

While no clear cause and effect has been established between eating fruit and vegetable and breast cancer risk reduction, it is well-known that eating plenty of vegetables is necessary for proper women’s nutrition. Vegetables are low in fat, but high in filling fiber. Aim for five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Pick fruits and vegetables with colors through the rainbow to make sure you are getting a wide array of nutrients. Think yellow peppers, deep green kale, pale eggplant and vibrant red berries. Keeping cut veggies on the top shelf of your fridge makes them an easy snack.

One of the clearest dietary risks for cancer is alcohol consumption. Women who drink have a higher incidence of breast cancer than those who don’t. If you do imbibe, limit it to one alcoholic drink per day. This allows you to take advantage of the wellness benefits of beverages like red wine while limiting your cancer risk. Also, if you drink, be sure to consume plenty of folate-rich foods like fortified cereals and leafy greens. Although scientists don’t understand why, folate seems to help reduce cancer risk among women who drink.

Pursuing a healthy diet not only cuts down breast cancer risks, it helps reduce other health risk such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Plus, a good diet leaves you feeling more energetic and provides a general sense of wellness. Commit to maintaining a healthy diet to cut your breast cancer risk and enjoy better health overall.