Purposeful prevention

I recently held a Skype consultation from my office in Ashland with a deaf client in Florida who has breast cancer. It was fascinating to use video technology while her husband sat next to her signing what I said.

I would speak a few sentences at a time, and he would translate. We smiled as I watched his gesticulations, and we connected in an unbelievably cool way. I learned about her childhood in Germany which, despite its technological sophistication, was behind us in helping the deaf when she was younger.

On the other hand, as far as helping people with and preventing breast cancer, in some ways Germany is ahead of us. There's long been a sophisticated "green" movement there, potent resistance to genetically modified and hormonally enhanced foods and an awareness of the connection between environment and cancer that is only beginning to emerge here.

Though there is a growing consensus among health professionals that various cancers are at least in part environmentally influenced, our federal government is just starting to acknowledge this connection.

But why wait for the government to catch up before we try to prevent cancer? Of course, if you adhere to some of the following recommendations, there's absolutely no guarantee you'll prevent cancer. But here are some suggestions.

  • Relax and avoid negativity.
  • Learn mind-body exercises that help reduce stress.
  • Walk in the woods often.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise at least five days per week doing a combination of weight-bearing exercises, such as lifting dumbbells or yoga, and intervals of cardiovascular activity, such as sprints or riding a recumbent bike set on hill-climbing mode.
  • Sleep eight hours nightly.
  • Learn about your cosmetics and house-cleaning products' contents.
  • Buy organic or sustainably grown foods to avoid pesticides, herbicides and hormone-treated meats.
  • Avoid processed foods and transfats; don't eat margarine or shortening.
  • Use culinary herbs, increase your portions of them and focus on trying new ones whenever you can.
  • Eat more servings of veggies than you do, including multiple servings of crucifers, such as arugula, watercress and radishes.
  • Eat brightly pigmented fruits, such as berries, daily.
  • Drink at least a half-gallon of water per day, more in summer, and make part of it loose-leaf green tea.
  • Use turmeric in cooking or smoothies every day.
  • Cut back on sugar intake, but don't substitute with artificial sweeteners.

This list goes on. Feel free to write to me and add to it. There are dozens of health professionals in the area who can help clarify some of the principles and flesh out a cohesive plan for you.

In the meantime, start by implementing one concept per week, educate yourself and please don't wait until next year to make it your resolution.

Michael Altman is a nutritionist at Ventana Wellness and teaches at Southern Oregon University. Email him at altmanm@sou.edu.

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