Posted on 1 Comment

Preventing Breast Cancer

The latest on Preventing Breast Cancer

One out of every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her life­time. Five-year survival rates are good (85 to 99 percent) unless tumors have metastasized (falls to 25 percent). Death rates have dropped since 1989, but nowhere near enough.

“What’s changed in the last few years is a greater emphasis on cancer subtypes,” says Regina Ziegler of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics at the National Cancer Institute. “Researchers wonder if different subtypes have distinct causes.”

Estrogen receptors

Some breast tumors have estrogen receptors (the tumors are called estrogen-positive) and some don’t (estrogen-negative). “The percentage of breast cancer that’s estrogen-negative is higher in younger than in older women,” notes Ziegler. And those tumors are typically harder to treat.

Different risk factors may fuel breast tumors depending on whether they’re estrogen-positive or estrogen-negative.

“Being overweight or obese is a stronger risk factor for estrogen-positive cancer,” notes Ziegler. Among postmenopausal women who take no hormones, those who are overweight or obese have nearly double the risk of estrogen-positive breast cancer compared to similar women who are lean. Those heavier women, however, have only a 60 percent higher risk of estrogen-negative breast cancers.

It’s not clear how extra pounds boost the odds of postmenopausal breast cancer. “For a long time, people thought that increased estrogen levels in the breast were the main explanation,” says Ziegler.

After menopause, fat cells, not ovaries, are the chief source of estrogen. “If you have more fat cells, they produce more estrogen, and estrogen stimulates breast cell proliferation,” she explains. “But people now believe that insulin and possibly inflammation also play a role.”

For example, a recent study found that women who had high insulin levels had double the risk of breast cancer, whether or not they were overweight. Still, adds Ziegler, “you’re more likely to have high insulin levels if you’re heavier and inactive.”

The influence of diet

“Alcohol is also a stronger risk factor for estrogen-positive cancer,” says Ziegler. In one recent study, women who drank one to six servings of alcohol a week had a 29 percent higher risk of estrogen-positive cancer than women who never drank alcohol. Those who drank at least seven servings a week had a 48 percent higher risk. But there was no link with the less common estrogen-negative tumors.

In contrast, “eating more fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables, may be protective for estrogen-negative tumors,” says Ziegler. When researchers pooled data from 20 studies on roughly 993,000 women, women who ate the most vegetables had an 18 percent lower risk of those tumors than women who ate the least.


Exercise seems to lower the risk of both estrogen-positive and estrogen-negative breast cancer. “With physical activity, the big question is whether it reduces risk beyond its influence on weight gain,” says Ziegler. “We don’t know.”

You have a higher risk of breast cancer if you:

  • are a woman 65 or older
  • have a relative—especially a mother, sister, or daughter—who had breast cancer
  • have mutations in genes (like BRCA1 and BRCA2) found in families with high rates of breast cancer
  • had menstrual periods that began before age  12 or menopause that began after 55
  • were older than 30 when you had your first child
  • never gave birth
  • took hormones after menopause
  • have dense breast tissue (seen on a mammogram)
  • have abnormal breast cells (atypical hyperplasia or carcinoma in situ)

Warning signs: a painless lump in the breast or underarm area. Less common symptoms: thickening, swelling, distortion, tenderness, skin irritation, redness, scaliness, dimpling, puckering, pitting, discharge, or nipple turned inward.

To reduce your risk of any cancer:

  • Don’t use tobacco
  • Lose (or don’t gain) excess weight
  • Limit red and processed meat [or avoid entirely; eat more fruits and vegetables, natural cancer protection]
  • Avoid alcohol*
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day

Sources: Breast Cancer Res. 14: R76, 2012; Am. J. Epidemiol. 180: 705, 2014; J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 105: 219, 2013; Arch. Intern. Med. 170: 1758, 2010; Cancer Res. 75: 270, 2015.

*HER edit: since the article pointed out that alcohol is a stronger risk factor in breast cancer and women should use it as little as possible, it seems odd to suggest allowing up to two drinks per day.

Nutrition Action Healthletter April 2019, page 3.

Posted on

Prevent Heart Attacks by Sleeping

Do you want to prevent a heart attack? You need more than a plant-based diet and regular exercise!

Adequate amounts of good quality sleep are very essential to heart and blood vessel health!

Scary Stats

One out of ten Americans suffer from insomnia. Unfortunately, insomnia is a significant risk factor for heart attack.1 However, sleep shortage from whatever cause, spells “hazard to heart health. Middle-aged men who sleep five hours or less per night have twice the risk of developing a major cardiovascular event during the following two decades than men who sleep seven to eight hours by age 71.

Learn more from our friends at the Wildwood Lifestyle Center by clicking here…

Posted on

4 Under-rated foods

When was the last time you walked into the supermarket and made a beeline for the bulgur or cabbage? 

These underrated stars aren’t just delicious and healthy. They’re also relatively unprocessed, inexpensive, and versatile.

1. Lentils

Cheap. Quick. Nutritious. How could we resist lentils?

A half cup of cooked lentils has 9 grams of protein and a hefty 8 grams of fiber, plus a good dose of magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, and folate and other B vitamins. For just 120 calories, that’s a deal.

Like all dried beans and peas, lentils help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. And, like other plant proteins, they carry a smaller environmental footprint than meat. But unlike most other dried beans, you don’t need to soak ‘em before cooking. Yes!!!

Toss black or French lentils—they hold their shape when cooked—into a salad, or use them to replace that starchy side on your plate.

Save (less-firm) brown lentils for soup or stew. And red lentils (the softest) have their skins removed, so they cook in just 10 to 15 minutes. Use them in a thick soup or curry. Or add them to packaged or takeout Indian lentil dishes to cut the salt.

2. Cabbage

A head of green cabbage can stay fresh in the fridge for weeks and gives you plenty of bang for your buck. Feeding a small army of friends? Cabbage goes far.

Plus, you’ve got options. There’s also the vibrant purple-red cabbage or the more delicate Napa or savoy.

A cup of shredded raw cabbage is packed with vitamins C and K, and also delivers a decent dose of folate and fiber. For around 20 calories…and a whole lot of crunch…that’s hard to beat.

Slice some into thin ribbons—or grab a pre-shredded bag—and start bulking up your meal. Use it raw for a salad or slaw that won’t wilt. Prefer cooked? Add it to stir-fries, soups, or fried rice.

3. Pineapple

Pineapple is no slouch in the nutrient department. One cup has roughly 90 percent of a day’s vitamin C, 2 grams of fiber, and a smattering of potassium, magnesium, folate, and other B vitamins—all for only 80 calories.

But it’s not just about the numbers. Have you ever gotten a badpineapple? You can count on irresistible, juicy fruit hiding underneath the prickly skin because pineapples are typically picked ripe. Just look for one with fresh-looking dark green leaves and a sweet smell.

Google “how to cut a pineapple” before you dig in. (Blending in a smoothie? Just use frozen.) Then get chopping…and snacking.

4. Bulgur

Short on time? You can’t beat bulgur. Simply add boiling water, cover for 10 to 15 minutes, and drain. Ta-dah! (Coarser bulgur needs a longer soak, or a 10-minute simmer on the stovetop.)

Bulgur—dried wheat that’s steamed and cracked—isn’t just for tabbouleh. Sub it for the side of brown rice on your dinner plate, and you’ve doubled the fiber. Or cook it with raisins or other dried fruit and top with nuts for a new spin on hot cereal.

The whole-grain goods: a ¾-cup (cooked) serving has 6 grams of fiber, 10 percent of a day’s magnesium, and a decent dose of iron, zinc, and many B vitamins.

What’s more, stores like Whole Foods sell bulgur in bulk. Whether you’re trying to sidestep excess packaging waste or want to buy only what you need, it’s a find.

The information in this post first appeared in the May 2019 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter.

HER Edit: The original article listed salmon as a fifth underrated food as a source of omega-3, but we suggest it would be safer to avoid the fish product and get similar amounts of omega-3 from just one tablespoon of flax seed sprinkled on your food. Flax seeds are good sources of many nutrients. Their health benefits are mainly due to their content of omega-3 fats, lignans and fiber.