As we enter into Spring and the weather improves, many people naturally think about “getting summer-ready.” They work towards eating healthier and exercise in an effort to lose some weight to be “beach-bound.” Although many people focus mainly on the aesthetics resulting from dieting, there are actually numerous health benefits including a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, decreased risk of diabetes, and even cancer prevention that can be secondary benefits.
With the weather starting to warm up, the sun starting to shine, and the cold fronts decreasing in severity, people are now sprinting to the door to get outside. The data on the advantages of being active is far from new. The World Health Organization had written a piece greater than a decade ago warning people of the complications of a sedentary lifestyle. It has been found to be one of the top ten leading causes of death and disability in the world at that time. Physical inactivity not only increases mortality, but can severely increase the risk of several different diseases including but not limited to heart disease, high cholesterol, Diabetes Mellitus, and obesity.
Physical inactivity can also play a role and can even increase your risk of cancer. The America Cancer Society indicates that about 1/5 of all cancer deaths in the United States each year are linked to excess body weight, poor diet, excessive alcohol intake, and decreased physical activity. According to the National Cancer Institute and the Mayo Clinic, you can aid in lowering your risk of breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight by helping decrease certain hormone levels that may play a part. An increase in hormones such as insulin and related hormones in obesity can encourage colorectal cancer. It has been shown that even by decreasing your weight by 10% can you reduce your risk of cancer. Although cellular and genetic factors that continue to be discovered play a major role, there is no denying that a healthy diet and physical activity contribute to cancer prevention.
At this time many people start thinking about losing body fat and potentially seeing the appearance of abdominal muscles and definition. There is a common saying that “abs are made in the kitchen”. Although some may be thinking about how they will look in the mirror or in front of others, eating healthy can pose several other benefits. The National Institute of Health, The American Cancer Society, The National Cancer Institute, The American Heart Association, and The National Heart and Lung Institute recommend increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables in our daily diets. Integrative medicine physician Dr. Eddie Fatakhov explains that “Eight to ten servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with a certain amount of whole grains, is what we should be consuming every day; however, most Americans do not even consume three to four servings daily.”
Dr. Fatakhov explains that “by consuming more grains, vegetables, and fruits we can ourselves and do our part to neutralize free radicals with antioxidants and natural substances. Additionally, increased consumption, may in cases, help to reverse the existing damage, caused by the free radicals.” Several studies have shown that nutrition can play a very important role in cancer prevention and have a significant impact on breast, colon, oral cavity, lung, prostate cancer to name a few. Eating foods such as vegetables that are loaded with antioxidants and fiber can further help dysmorphic cells from developing. While it may not be known exactly which factors have the greatest effect, the evidence is even supported by the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute.
Thus, there is no reason we all should not live longer lives, maintain our energy, sex drive, and other faculties throughout our entire life span by being more active and eating healthier. While different people may have different reasons for starting now, there is no better time to start than today. So, this summer when you look in the mirror smiling about your progress, know that you are making even greater strides that meet the eye, in your journey towards a happier and healthier life.
By Joshua Mansour, MD
Dr. Joshua Mansour is a board-certified hematologist/oncologist working and in the field of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and cellular immunotherapy in Stanford, California.