Welcome to the second post on our series of Senior Health. Cancer is one of the scariest diagnosis one can get. But, as we grow older, the risk of cancer grows and becomes more of a reality. Fortunately, there are effective ways to prevent the risk of cancer. Cancer prevention keeps the body healthy and avoids common cancers, and it also has the direct benefit of giving you more control over your body, lifestyle and longevity.
Eat a Well-Balanced, Healthy Diet
By now, you know that everything you eat plays a part in the body’s functioning. While you were young, you could get away with eating a more lenient diet, but now that you’re into your senior years, it’s important to watch everything that goes into your mouth.
Eating a healthy diet is singlehandedly one of the most effective ways to prevent cancer. When your body gets the proper nutrients, it has a stronger immune system that fights off infection, is better equipped to identify and fight off cancer cells and prevents exposure to chemicals found in processed foods.
With the recent change in the Food Pyramid, nutritional experts recommend filling your plate with mostly vegetables and fruits, and then adding in lean proteins like meats and beans as well as whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Avoid fatty foods, which increase the risk of obesity. Aim for a variety of colors on your plate to ensure you’re getting a good blend of vitamins and antioxidants. Also drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated and replenished.
There is nothing good about smoking, and those that smoke are at a significantly higher rate of developing lung, bladder, cervical, pancreatic and kidney cancers. It’s not just smoking to worry about either, but secondhand smoke and chewing tobacco. Fortunately, there are many effective methods for quitting smoking, such as nicotine patches, medications and anti-smoking strategies. Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to safeguard your future health.
Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Alcohol is something that should be consumed in moderation, but many elders are unsure of what moderation is. In general, two drinks for men and one drink for women are considered within the moderation limit. Going beyond this suggestion puts you at risk for certain cancers. There are other factors to consider as well, such as whether the alcohol will interfere with your medications, put you more at risk for slips and falls or make you forget to take your medication properly. Most doctors recommend avoiding alcohol all together, but you can discuss with your doctor whether or not one drink with a meal would be acceptable.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Those who are overweight or obese are more at risk for all types of cancer, including breast, colon, kidney, lung and prostate. It’s recommended that elders get 30 minutes of exercise each day, and how you get this exercise is up to you. If you don’t exercise already, consider that exercise carries a never-ending list of benefits, including a lower weight, better balance and coordination, a boost in happiness and well-being, stronger muscles and bones and better sleep habits. Walk with a friend, play soccer with the grandkids or join a senior-focused exercise program. A healthy weight and daily exercise are key ingredients to preventing cancer.
As you get older, it may feel that doctors’ offices are a home away from home, but don’t let the busy routine of caring for your body discourage you. Early detection is increasingly important at this point in your life and can be the very thing that is needed to fight a particular cancer. Seeing your general physician regularly is important, but you’ll also need to see specialist doctors to run screenings for particular cancers, such as breast, pancreatic and colon. Speak to your doctor about what early detection tests are necessary for you.