Taking a proactive role in your health and wellness journey is something you can begin at any age. Whether you like to hit the gym 5 days a week, limit your sugar intake, or perform yoga or Tai Chi for stability, there are many ways to stay active and give your mind and body the support it needs to thrive.
One area of women’s health that is just as important as getting enough exercise is breast health. In fact, exercise paired with mindful eating habits may help reduce your risk of developing illnesses like breast cancer or other serious conditions.
But aside from staying active and eating well, there are other lifestyle habits you can easily incorporate into your daily routine to protect your breasts as you age.
Top 10 Breast Health Tips
If you’re ready to start feeling your best and pursue a better lifestyle that keeps your body strong and healthy, check out these breast care tips below.
Practice Breast Health Screenings
You know that regularly checking your breasts for signs of abnormalities is important, but how many times would you say you do this throughout the year? Don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, tell yourself this is the day that changes!
Regularly checking your breasts once a month can help you detect early signs of cancer. It’s a good idea to set a reminder on your smartphone, so you remember to do this at the same time each month (typically 7-10 days after your period).
Not sure how to perform a self-exam or what to look for? We have you covered! Check out this helpful guide from BreastCancer.org, where you’ll find instructions on how to perform a self-exam in 5 easy steps.
Know Your Breasts
As you regularly perform self-exams, you’ll start to become familiar with the size, shape, and texture of your breast. In doing so, you’ll be able to notice if something feels off or if you see discharge, rashes, or lumps appear on your breast.
If you notice a lump or something irregular, contact your doctor to schedule an appointment: “This is especially true for changes that last more than one full menstrual cycle or seem to get bigger or more prominent in some way,” (Breastcancer.org).
The important thing to do is not panic. There are other possible causes of non-cancerous breast lumps. But contacting your doctor is the best way to rule out any causes for concern.
Avoid Smoke Cigarettes
Smoking has continually been named a foremost cause of many serious illnesses, including breast cancer.
A California Department of Health Services study found that the rate of breast cancer amongst women smokers was around 30% higher than for those who had never smoked.
Separate research also suggests that the effects of smoking are cumulative, with risk increasing according to years of cigarette smoking. Hence, quitting now could help cut your risk of developing breast cancer later.
Known Your Family’s History
Be sure to ask your loved ones and relatives if there is any history of breast cancer in the family. According to The American Cancer Society, 5-10% of breast cancer cases are believed to be the result of gene mutations passed down from a parent to a child.
Be sure to share this information with your doctor, as your clinician may recommend additional preventative measures to help you detect any type of mutation early on.
Exercise/Maintain Healthy Weight
As we mentioned earlier, exercise is essential to your body’s health, especially your breast health.
Here’s how it works:
Fat cells produce estrogen, and high levels of that hormone have been linked to certain cancers. Staying active can actually shrink the size of fat cells, so your body pumps out less estrogen.
The American Cancer Society recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week (ideally, spread out vs. doing it all at once). Any kind of cardio will do, so hop onto your bike, or hit the nearest hiking trail.
Short on time? Exercising at high intensity for 75 minutes a week will have the same benefit.
Many women love to bask under the summer sun or avoid using sunblock while running errands or working outside.
But here is what you need to remember. Your skin is an organ. In fact, it’s the largest organ you have. So, you want to do everything possible to protect it from harsh UV rays that can lead to sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer. This includes applying sunblock and covering up your chest area and shoulders if you’re spending long durations outside and are seeing your skin turn red.
Limit Alcohol Intake
Most of us enjoy a glass of red wine after a long workday, or a margarita with friends on the weekend. But alcohol may increase your risk of breast cancer, as it raises estrogen levels in the body:
“Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. Experts estimate that the risk of breast cancer goes up another 10% for each additional drink women regularly have each day,” (Breastcancer.org).
It’s recommended to keep your alcohol consumption to two or fewer drinks per week.
Check Your Bra Size
Did you know that, on average, more than 70% of women wear the wrong bra size? This can lead to significant health problems, including poor posture, skin irritation, and breathing difficulties—not to mention damage to the breast ligaments, causing breast pain and sagging.
Breast size can change frequently over your lifetime, due to weight changes, pregnancy, or menopause. So, rather than guessing your size, make sure you get measured regularly to ensure you are getting the support you need.
If you’d like to find your size now, check out this helpful guide that will help you get the right size in 4-easy steps!
Don’t Forget Folic Acid
Not eating enough folate, the naturally occurring form of folic acid, is linked with impaired ability to repair DNA. And damaged DNA has, in turn, been linked to cancer.
Folate is found in foods, such as spinach and black-eyed peas, as well as in folic-fortified cereals and grains.
Improve Your Posture
If you want to give yourself an instant breast lift, the best thing you can do is improve your posture.
The chest muscles can lose flexibility when your shoulders are hunched, causing sagging over time. Pay attention to how you stand and sit throughout the day and consider taking up an exercise that will improve your posture such as yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi.
Also, try to fit in a few simple desk stretches throughout the day, as well. Just five minutes a day can help you start feeling great!
Bonus Breast Health Tip!
In addition to monthly self-exams, be sure you’re scheduling your annual mammogram appointment! A mammogram is an incredibly valuable screening exam that can help detect cancers at their earliest, most treatable stages.
Learn what you can expect during your first mammogram appointment!
Need to Book an Appointment?
At the Breast Center at Maple Grove, we offer convenient, same-day mammogram appointments in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Available Monday through Friday, from 7:30am to 5:00pm, we also provide extended hours until 8:00pm on Tuesdays, as well as walk-ins, so you can find a time that works in your schedule.
To schedule your next exam, please complete our online form, or call us at (763) 398-6370.