Breast health is a hot topic. And if we’re honest with ourselves, thinking about it can seem a little scary. Hundreds of thousands of women each year are faced with new breast health concerns, and in some ways, those overwhelming numbers make the topic feel like the elephant in the room.1
No one wants to be faced with a breast health concern, and a lot of women ignore the idea because they don’t want to consider the possibility that something could be wrong. Putting breast health out of mind while hoping for the best doesn’t help, especially when there are steps you can take to help keep your body healthy. Here are 7 simple ways to promote breast health.
1. Know Your Body
Many experts recommend breast self-awareness over the self-exams of the past.2 The concept of self-awareness sounds much less formal, but the goal is similar—to thoroughly know your breasts.
Being familiar with your breasts and how they change with monthly hormonal fluctuations may help you quickly identify future changes. Most women have natural variations in texture, density and tenderness to their breast tissue, so it’s important to know what’s normal for you.
The point is to be so familiar with how your breasts look and feel that you notice any changes quickly and can get checked out by a doctor as soon as you notice something, just to be sure. And don’t procrastinate! It’s best to catch potential issues as early as possible.
2. Watch Your Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight contributes to better health overall, including reduced risk of heart health concerns and more energy, but it also plays a role in the health of your breasts.3,4 Research indicates that women who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher are at risk for more serious breast health concerns than those with a BMI below 25.4
Not sure how to calculate your BMI? Use this handy calculator from the Mayo Clinic. And if you’re looking for ways to maintain a healthy weight, check out Decide Your Diet: How to Decide Your Daily Diet and Be a Lean, Mean Body Machine.
3. Eat Real Foods
Your daily diet contributes to your weight, but that isn’t the only reason it’s important for breast care. Eating a diet rich in a diverse range of real, wholesome foods is the best way to make sure your nutritional needs are met each day.
Real food diets, like the popular Mediterranean diet, focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, healthy oils and fats, as well as lean meats. This type of diet provides a broad range of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and polyphenols, all of which support wellbeing.5
Experts say eating a real food diet is associated with reduced risks of many health concerns—from heart health to cognitive function and beyond.5 A balanced diet is necessary for proper functioning of all the systems of the body that help keep you healthy.
Select Foods for Breast Health
- Cruciferous veggies like cauliflower and broccoli
- Dark greens like kale and collard greens
- Plant-based proteins like legumes in place of meat proteins
- Flax seeds or flax seed oil (rich in omega-3 fatty acids)
- Oily fish (also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients)
- Turmeric, for the antioxidant benefits
Skip restrictive diets and focus on eating a broad variety of whole foods for optimal nutrition. And when you can’t meet your nutritional needs from your diet alone, opt for supplements sourced from real foods, like Swanson Ultra Real Food Multi Women’s Daily. Learn more about why eating real food matters in the article Real Food: A Revival or a Revolution?
4. Exercise Every Day
Women who exercise regularly are 25% less likely to have breast health concerns.4 Exercise also helps maintain bone mass and a healthy weight.4 The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. Ideally, workouts should be spread out through the week.6 Thirty minutes of exercise each day on 5 days out of the week is a good target. The CDC also recommends doing muscle-strengthening exercises that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
As a bonus, include some breast lifting and firming exercises in the mix. Strength training exercises that impact pectoral muscles include dumbbell bench presses, pullovers, pushups, shoulder or chest presses and tricep dips.
Looking for more ways to fit movement into your day? Check out the article Move More: How to Move More Each Day for some great ideas and mini workouts that fit every lifestyle.
5. Don’t Smoke
Millions of women in the U.S. smoke cigarettes.7 Quitting smoking is challenging for most smokers, but it is well worth the effort. The challenges you face on your journey to stop smoking are better to face now instead of the health challenges that may come later.
In addition to the many, well-known risks of smoking for people in general, women face some unique risks, including fertility and hormonal concerns, harmful interactions with contraceptives, bone density issues, and heart and cervical health concerns.7 Women who smoke also have a significantly increased risk of complications related to breast health.7
If you aren’t sure where to start with quitting smoking, ask for help. It’s one of the best things you can do for your health and wellbeing. Talk with your doctor and check out the CDC’s Quit Smoking Resources.
6. Drink Less Alcohol
When paired with a real food diet and exercise, drinking a glass of red wine each day may benefit your health, but heavier drinking can lead to problems in many areas of health and affect your immune system.8,9
More than 100 studies have been conducted on the effects of alcohol on breast health specifically.9 An expert analysis of over half of those studies concluded that drinking more than 45 grams (about 3 drinks) per day contributed to 1.5 times higher risk of breast health concerns than non-drinkers.9 In fact, for every 10 grams of alcohol consumed per day, your chances of having breast health concerns increase by 12%.9
While having an occasional glass of wine may not be harmful, keep your daily intake low for better health. You can also get the benefits of resveratrol, a key antioxidant found in red wine believed to contribute to many of its health benefits, from resveratrol supplements instead.10 Try Swanson Ultra Resveratrol, and read Resveratrol Benefits to learn more.
7. Reinforce Your Diet with Breast Health Vitamins & Supplements
Certain nutritional deficiencies may contribute to a higher risk of health concerns, so if you aren’t meeting your daily requirements of key nutrients, fill in those gaps with supplements. Also, antioxidants are powerful free radical fighters that boost wellbeing in many ways, so adding an antioxidant supplement may also help. Here are a few supplements to consider for breast health:
- Vitamin D3: Low Vitamin D levels have been linked to breast health concerns.4 Vitamin D is also vital for strong bones, immune health & more.11
- Folic acid: Studies show that folic acid may help fight damage caused by oxidative stress, which may play a role in many health concerns for women.12
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with breast health and better health overall.13 Try it in our award-winning Plant Based Omega-3 supplement, which was named 2018 Omega Product of the Year by NutraIngredients USA.
- Curcumin: This potent antioxidant derived from turmeric is beneficial to the body in many ways.14 Learn more in Turmeric vs Curcumin: What is the Difference?
Tips for Breast Health
The above tips for breast health, including knowing your body, watching your weight, eating a real food diet, getting plenty of exercise, avoiding smoking or heavy drinking, and supporting your health with supplements, should be a part of every healthy lifestyle.
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1 Breast Health & Disease. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/breast-health-and-disease (Accessed 10/02/2018)
2 Why Monthly Breast Self Exams Are a Thing of the Past (and What's Replacing Them). Forbes.https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2011/08/15/why-monthly-breast-self-exams-are-a-thing-of-the-past-and-whats-replacing-them/#274dec3c3431 (Accessed 10/02/2018)
3 BMI Calculator. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/obesity/in-depth/bmi-calculator/itt-20084938# (Accessed 10/02/2018)
4 5 Ways to Boost Breast Health. Cleveland Clinic.https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-ways-to-boost-breast-health/ (Accessed 10/02/2018)
5 Science Compared Every Diet, and the Winner is Real Food. The Atlantic.https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/science-compared-every-diet-and-the-winner-is-real-food/284595/ (Accessed 10/02/2018)
6 Physical Activity Guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/policies_practices/physical_activity/guidelines.htm (Accessed 10/02/2018)
7 The Dangers That Women Smokers Face. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/smoking-womens-health-perspective-3520429 (Accessed 10/02/2018)
8 A daily glass of red wine associated with lifestyle changes independently improves blood lipids in patients with carotid arteriosclerosis: results from a randomized controlled trial. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3833853/ (Accessed 10/02/2018)
9 Alcohol’s Effects on the Body. National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body (Accessed 10/02/2018)
10 Resveratrol. Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/resveratrol (Accessed 10/02/2018)
11 Vitamin D. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed 10/02/2018)
12 Protective Effect of Folic Acid on Oxidative DNA Damage. US National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4912249/ (Accessed 10/02/2018)
13 Omega-3 Fatty Acids. National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/ (Accessed 10/02/2018)
14 Curcumin and Health. Molecules. https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/21/3/264/html (Accessed 10/02/2018)
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.