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How Food Choices Affect Your Cancer Risk

How Food Choices Affect Your Cancer Risk

“You are what you eat!” We’ve all heard that phrase at some point in our lives and thought it might sound silly, the phrase couldn’t be more true. What we eat influences our health greater than any other influences like our diet, lifestyle choices, and environmental factors. The foods we consume affect every part of our bodies from our brains to our bones. Diet choices can lead to certain health conditions or make them worse. Type II diabetes is a great example of a health condition affected by food choices. Another serious disease your diet can lead to is cancer. That’s right. Your daily food choices affect your cancer risk. 

How Unhealthy Food Choices Affect Your Cancer

Science and the medical community still have many unanswered questions about the links between food choices and cancer. One link we are sure of is between red or processed meat and cancer. Consuming any amount of processed meat and more than eighteen ounces of red meat each week strongly influences your cancer risk. Red meats include beef, pork, or lamb. Processed meats include but are not limited to bacon, sausage, lunch meats, and hot dogs. 

Processed sugar is another food strongly linked to higher cancer risk. Diets that are high in sugary beverages such as sodas, juices, and sports drinks, as well as processed sugary snacks like cookies and candies are bad for your health in a number of ways. Even “healthier” choices like granola and fruit and grain bars as well as “sugar-free” beverages are still high in sugar or artificial sweeteners. 

What to Eat to Lower Your Cancer Risk

Healthy eating habits aren’t just good for your waistline, they can actually lower your risk of developing certain health conditions and diseases including cancer. A healthy diet is rich in plant-based foods, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. A healthy dinner plate is filled with colorful veggies and fruit, whole grains, and one protein-filled food like fish, poultry, or beans. 

Plant-based foods are your best fighters against cancer and other diseases. These foods contain naturally occurring substances called phytonutrients. Phytonutrients include:

  • Carotenoids, or carotenes, found in red, orange, yellow, and some dark green veggies
  • Polyphenols, found in herbs, spices, veggies, tea, coffee, chocolate, nuts, berries, apples, onions, and other sources
  • Allium compounds, found in chives, garlic, leeks, and onions

Plant-based foods are also rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect against oxidants, which cause cellular damage and increases your risk of cancer. Examples of antioxidants include beta carotene, selenium, and vitamins C and E. Other vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iodine, and vitamins A, D, K, and B also contain antioxidants.

Dietary fiber is also essential for lowering cancer risks. Fiber helps nourish a healthy community of microbes, better known as microbiomes. Healthy microbiomes are linked to lower cancer risk. Foods that are high in dietary fiber include whole grains and seeds, whole-grain bread and pasta, beans, lentils, split peas, and fruits and veggies.

Shopping Tips for a Healthier Diet

Before we go, we’ll leave you with a shopping tip for your next grocery store visit. Stick to shopping the outer aisles. Fresh foods like produce, meats, and dairy products are always found in the outer aisles or boundaries of grocery stores. The inner aisles are where you will find the majority of processed, sugary, and high-fat foods. The only inner aisles you should visit are aisles containing coffee, tea, and dry beans and peas. Don’t tempt yourself by visiting other inner aisles like the baking and snack aisles. 

One more shopping tip for healthier eating habits is to make a list before you head to the grocery stores. Sure, you may remember to restock the milk and bananas but keeping a list will help you stay on track and away from impulse buys that often come with unhealthy food choices. If grocery pick-up or delivery is available in your area, consider these options, too. You can shop online according to your list without the temptations of unhealthy foods being all around you. Plus, pick-up and delivery will save you time that could be spent on cultivating a garden of fresh fruits and vegetables or preparing healthy meals for your family. 

Have more questions about your diet and cancer risk? Your healthcare provider is an excellent source of information and advice. Annual wellness visits are the perfect time to discuss diet changes and health concerns with your provider. As an added bonus, patients of Mantachie Rural Health Care can request to speak with our registered dietitian during their appointment for no extra cost. Click here to request a visit with your Mantachie Rural Healthcare provider today. 

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When Should I Get My First Mammogram?

When Should I Get My First Mammogram?

Breast cancer ranks as the second most common cancer among women. Each October we wear pink to remind women of the importance of getting a mammogram. The question is, what age should women have their first mammogram? Here’s what we know. 

Ten of every 100,000 women between the ages of 20-24 receive a breast cancer diagnosis. That number increases as women age into their late 20’s and early 30’s. We notice significant jumps around the ages of 40-50. Women in their 70’s have the highest rate of breast cancer diagnoses. So if most women are not affected by breast cancer until their 70’s, why do experts recommend screenings for women who are much younger?

Multiple trials demonstrate that screening mammograms decreased the risk of death from breast cancer by 15% to 29%. Lowering your risk of death offers reason enough to have a mammogram at the earliest recommended age.

What is the earliest recommended age for your first mammogram?

All medical experts agree that early screening saves lives. The exact age of that first screening remains a widely debated topic. The American Cancer Society recommends women receive their first mammogram by age 45. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Forces say women can wait until age 50 for their first screening. However, the Mayo Clinic “supports screening beginning at age 40 because screening mammograms can detect breast abnormalities early in women in their 40’s.” 

Though some experts agree that younger is better no mammogram comes without its own risks. Women in their 40’s and 50’s are more likely to receive a false positive which is why further testing with another mammogram, ultrasound imaging, or biopsies is necessary if an abnormality is detected.

Because of the varying recommendations from medical associations and the simple fact that every woman is different, we believe the best thing you can do is talk with your doctor about the best age for you to start screening. Factors that are significant only to you such as your family history of the disease (women with a close family history are advised to get screened sooner than women with no family history) are key to determining when you should get your first mammogram. If you are over the age of 30 with a close family history of breast cancer, we recommend talking with your provider now about when you should start screening. Women with average risks should talk to their providers about a mammogram at least by age 40. 

The best time to talk to your provider about getting a mammogram is during your annual wellness visit. Click here to request your visit.

How to Keep Your Lungs Healthy

How to Keep Your Lungs Healthy

Lung disease ranks as one of the top killers of both men and women in the United States. Luckily you can take several steps throughout your lifetime to reduce or prevent your risk of lung disease.  Keeping your lungs healthy prevents more than illnesses like lung cancer and chronic lung disease such as COPD,  it also gives you a better chance of surviving covid-19. Start doing these seven things today to keep your lungs healthy for life.

Get plenty of exercise.

If you haven’t figured out by now, exercise is one of those things that everyone, young and old, needs regularly. The reason why is simple. Exercises provide natural prevention for just about every physical ailment out there including lung diseases. Even a brisk 20 to 30 minute walk a few times each week can improve your lung health.

Practice deep breathing exercises.

Turns out meditative breathing and yoga aren’t just good for your mind they’re good for the body, too. A study published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found that its participants had a significant increase in vital lung capacity after performing 2 to 5 minutes of deep breathing exercises. 

Prevent infection.

Those same CDC guidelines in place to protect you from coronavirus also prevent other infections. Fight infections by remembering to:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds as often as needed, especially after touching public surfaces.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Practice good oral hygiene including brushing twice daily, flossing once a day, and visiting your dentist for regular checkups.
  • Get a flu vaccine every year and talk with your provider about if you would also benefit from the pneumonia vaccine. 

Get regular check-ups.

Visit your provider at least once a year for a wellness checkup. Even if you feel healthy, your provider can detect underlying issues through screenings and a physical exam.

Avoid exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants.

Indoor pollutants such as secondhand smoke, cleaning chemicals, and radon can wreak havoc on your lungs. Outdoor pollutants like smog and factory smoke can also cause significant damage.

Don’t smoke, or if you do, quit.

Following the previous steps are useless if you’re going to puff away on cigarettes. If you’re not a smoker, stay that way. If you do smoke, it’s time to quit. We offer many resources to help you quit smoking successfully. Schedule an appointment with us today to get help kicking the habit. 

Pancreatic Cancer Not Answer Game Show Host Alex Trebek Expected

alex trebek pancreatic cancer
“Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek at the 2016 USO Gala, Washington, D.C., Oct. 20, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill)

Earlier this year, Alex Trebek, the long-standing host of “Jeopardy!,” announced he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age 79. Like his game show participants, this answer to what he assumed to be benign symptoms leaves us with a lot of questions.

What are the symptoms of pancreatic cancer?

In an interview, Trebek mentioned he’d experienced persistent stomach pain prior to his diagnosis. Similar pain is one of the most reported symptoms among pancreatic cancer patients. 

Other symptoms include:

  • Jaundice
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • New diagnosis of diabetes (the vast majority of people with a new diabetes diagnosis do not have pancreatic cancer)

If these symptoms sound similar to the symptoms of many other illnesses, you’re right. Which is one of the reasons pancreatic cancer is rarely diagnosed during the early stages. The other obstacle to early diagnosis is that by the time these symptoms do appear, the cancer has usually grown beyond the pancreas.

Who’s at risk of pancreatic cancer?

Like many other cancers, lifestyle choices can increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The risks increase for people who:

  • Smoke
  • Are Obese
  • Have long-standing, uncontrolled diabetes
  • Have a poor diet

You can’t control all the risk factors though. Some like chronic inflammation of the pancreas, a family history of pancreatic cancer, family history of genetic syndrome such as BRCA2 gene mutation, Lynch syndrome and familial atypical mole-malignant melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome, and age can’t be changed.

How do you treat pancreatic cancer?

Alex Trebek reported success with early chemotherapy treatment of his cancer. After a short remission, however, he experienced regrowth of the tumors and has begun chemotherapy treatment again. 

While chemo is often a part of a treatment plan, other treatments may include surgery, radiation or clinical trials. Your cancer’s stage when it’s discovered determines exactly how your doctor treats your disease. 

We talk a lot about diabetes diagnosis and management here on our website and on our social media. Although the vast majority of our diabetes patients will never receive a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, we know this disease elevates their risk. It’s one more reason we’re determined to help all our patients live healthier, longer lives.

If you need help controlling your diabetes or discovering what’s causing you to feel bad more days than not make an appointment with one of our providers by calling (662) 282-4226.

Men’s Health: A Hairy Situation

man with beard; men's health awareness; movember

Men’s Health Awareness advocates have renamed November to Movember. They encourage men to retire the razor a month and grow out their mustaches and beards in hopes of motivating conversations about men’s health. Across the world, women live longer than men, and in the United States, it averages an extra five years of life. Take a dive with us through the testosterone waters to find out why.

Who are you?

Men are twenty-percent less likely to have seen a medical provider in the last year than women. Is it because they’re healthier? Nope.

On average, men have their first heart attack around age 65, while a woman’s first heart attack happens later around age 72. (Although women are still more likely to die from a heart attack than men.)

Men are twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes at a younger age and lower BMI than women.

Men are more likely to develop, and die from, cancer than women. 

Men are three times more likely to die from suicide, although more women are diagnosed with depression than men.

All of these diseases are most easily prevented and treated in their early stages. Preventative treatment and screenings can identify risks before the illness strikes — but only if the patient seeks out that treatment. Additionally, men are less likely to follow a treatment plan than women.

Enter Movember

Raising awareness increases conversations between men about their physical and mental health. The more men talk about health screenings and their mental health, the more they realize they aren’t alone. 

Celebrate Men’s Health Awareness Month by scheduling a yearly wellness check-up with your medical provider. If you have health insurance, this wellness visit is usually covered 100%. This exam includes checking your blood pressure, a key measurement for determining heart disease.

Keep the celebration going by scheduling your necessary health screenings: 

  • Prostate cancer screening after age 40 with a family history; after age 45 for African American men; after age 50 for all men.
  • Colonoscopy at age 50.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening between ages 65-75 if you’ve ever used tobacco.

Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about your mental health, including a counselor or therapist if needed. More and more men are talking about their mental health including celebrities such as Ryan Reynolds, Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Love, Micheal Phelps, Chris Evans, and many more. If they’re not afraid to open up about depression and anxiety, you shouldn’t be either.

Finally, follow your wife/sister/daughter/friend’s example and do some self-care work. Exercise. Drink plenty of water. Find a hobby you enjoy. Try to eat a little healthier. Stop smoking. 

Your life is valuable and we need you around for many years to come.


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