By Kerci Marcello Stroud, AOL Health
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer for American women. An estimated 211,000 women contract the disease every year. While you can't prevent breast cancer, you can significantly reduce your risk and improve your overall health by making the following lifestyle changes.
Slim Down. Being overweight puts you at an increased risk for developing breast cancer, especially if you have gone through menopause or previously had the disease. Extra fat cells produce extra estrogen, and exposure to additional estrogen ups your risk.
Drink Fewer Cocktails. Moderation is key when you belly up to the bar. Studies show that consuming alcohol ups your risk of developing breast cancer, in addition to other types of cancers. The more you drink, the more your risk increases.
Reduce Your Exposure to Estrogen. The presence of extra estrogen in your body can increase your risk for developing breast cancer. Unwanted sources of estrogen include excess pounds, alcohol and red meat. Hormone replacement therapy can also be a danger for women who have already had breast cancer. Talk with your doctor to learn more.
Eat Healthy. Following a healthy eating plan reduces your risk of developing breast cancer. Experts recommend opting for whole grains over refined grains, having at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and eating only small amounts of red meat.
See Your Doctor Regularly. Annual visits to your doctor will keep you healthy and up the chances of early detection, giving you the best chance of beating breast cancer if you do develop it. Doctors recommend annual breast exams for women over 20 and an annual mammogram for women over 40.
Know Your Risk Factors. If breast cancer runs in your family or you have already had the disease, you are at an increased risk. Talk to your doctor about the best preventative measures. She may recommend breast self-exams, an MRI or an ultrasound in addition to annual checkups.
Exercise More. Working out more will boost your health in two important ways. First, exercise can lower your estrogen levels, which lowers breast cancer risk. And second, breaking a sweat can strengthen your immune system, making it easier for your body to fight disease.
Stop Stressing Out. We all know we're happier when we're less crazed but new studies also find that reducing stress can strengthen your immune system. Ready to chill out? Meditation, yoga and even a few deep breaths have all been known to do the trick.
Stop Smoking. Lighting up is associated with an increased risk for breast cancer, and it can cause lots of other diseases as well. Need another reason to quit? Here's one: If you do develop breast cancer, smoking can cause complications during treatment.
Say Yes to Fruits and Veggies. Some experts believe that eating more fruits and vegetables can decrease your risk of breast cancer. The jury is still out on this link but a diet packed with produce will help you maintain a healthy weight, which in turn lowers your risk.
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