April is Cancer Awareness Month. This means there’s a lot of talk about reducing the risk factors for developing cancer. I like to look at it more in the positive and proactive terms of increasing protective factors.
According to the BC Cancer Agency, more than half of all cancers are preventable. We do have some ability to affect what happens to us, as some of the choices we make every day can help keep us healthy. Lifestyle factors that help protect against cancer are similar to those that help protect against other conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Overall, the messages we hear are largely the same, whether they are for protection against disease or for living a healthy life: eat well, be active, try to relax, live smoke free, if you drink alcohol do it in moderation, get enough sleep and practice safe sun. It sounds simple, but sometimes isn’t easy.
Personally, I find that a lot of these protective factors go together. When I’m feeling my best, my body seems to crave healthier food choices and it seems easier to be active. I also sleep better and feel more relaxed. The cycle seems to work both ways. If I’m feeling down, I start wanting less healthy food choices, feel more lethargic, become less active, sleep less and then eat more food that makes me feel sluggish. The key is getting the cycle moving in a positive direction! Starting with one small goal every week or two and working towards it is usually enough for me to overcome the inertia that can hold me back.
The fear of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer can seem overwhelming. For me, feeling energized, relaxed and like myself are positive (and effective) motivators to help me make healthier choices. As a side effect, these choices also help protect me from cancer and other diseases and arm me for managing whatever comes my way in the future.
Focusing on feeling good each day is where I am going to start. Now where did I put that orange…