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The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that 30 to 40 percent of all cancers can be prevented by appropriate diets, physical activity, and maintenance of appropriate body weight. They also estimate that at least 18 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States are related to body fatness, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, and/or poor nutrition. So, what can you do to decrease these cancer risks? Put a plan in place to improve your overall diet and health.

  1. Get to and maintain a healthy weight throughout life.
  2. Be physically active on a regular basis.
  3. Follow a healthy eating pattern at all ages.
  4. Avoid or limit alcohol intake (no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two for men).

What is a healthy weight?

According to the American Cancer Society, being overweight increases the risk of several cancers, such as breast, colon and rectum, endometrium, esophagus, pancreas, liver, kidney, and others. Being overweight causes the body to make and circulate more estrogen and insulin, which are both hormones that can stimulate cancer growth.

For women ages 31 to 50 that live an active lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight means consuming no more than 2,200 calories daily. For women that live a more sedentary lifestyle, they should consume no more than 1,600 calories each day. For men ages 31 to 50 that live an active lifestyle, they can consume 3,000 calories daily and still maintain a healthy weight. For men that have more sedentary activity levels, they should consume no more than 2,200 calories each day.

A healthy weight is not only good for reducing cancer risks. It can also help reduce the risk of other chronic diseases. To know if your weight is at a healthy level, calculate your body mass index (BMI). Your BMI is a score based on the relationship between your height and weight. To calculate BMI, use the following formula: BMI = weight (pounds) ÷ height2 (inches) x 703. A BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight. A score of 18.5 to 24.9 is a healthy weight, and 25.0 to 29.9 is overweight. A score of 30.0 or higher is considered obese.

If people focus on being physically active, following a healthy eating pattern, and avoiding or limiting alcohol intake, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a byproduct.

Being Active

It is recommended that people get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or physical activity per week. Increasing your physical activity gradually is just as beneficial as starting out at full speed. Doing activities that you enjoy can help you maintain that lifestyle change versus getting burned out after only a few weeks. The ultimate goal is to move more and sit less.

Eating and Drinking Healthy

To maintain a healthy weight, people can start by watching their portions and limiting their intake of high-calorie foods and drinks. It is suggested that people keep a food journal for at least one week. This will help you determine how much you are consuming and to start thinking of ways to decrease your caloric intake, beginning with eliminating the not-so-healthy food options. These changes can also improve hormone levels and your immune system.