Research has demonstrated that diet and physical fitness can have a significant role in an individual’s chances of developing or overcoming cancer. The World Health Organization has identified factors that are most likely to increase a person’s susceptibility to cancer, such as obesity, physical inactivity or smoking.
HealthAhead — GE’s employee-wellness initiative — takes these insights to heart. The program aims to support the staff in making healthy and sustainable lifestyle choices. Recently, the company sponsored a ‘HealthAhead Day’ in GE facilities around the world. Over 15,000 employees took part that day at 56 different sites — doing wellness-related activities such as group walks, cooking demonstrations and meditations.
This kind of participatory awareness-raising within GE’s ranks has proven to be popular — creating a stronger sense of community while equipping people with valuable health information. The following top-10 list of lifestyle choices to help reduce cancer risks is one example:
- Get 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. One of the WHO’s key risk factors for cancer is physical inactivity. But don’t despair, you needn’t start training for a marathon just yet. Aerobic activity (exercise which increases your heart rate) should be performed for a minimum of 30 minutes, three times a week. Simply using the stairs rather than the elevator, walking or cycling instead of driving, and taking walks just to relax or as you catch up with a friend are enough to qualify as exercise.
- Try to maintain a healthy weight.Being overweight substantially increases a person's risk of getting endometrial (uterine), breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. But how do you know if you are a healthy weight? Using your weight and height to calculate your body mass index (BMI) helps you determine how close you are to your ideal weight. A BMI greater than 25 indicates you are overweight, while a BMI above 30 indicates obesity.
- Put a little more fruit and veg in your diet. Try to eat five or more servings of fruit or vegetables every day. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables can help reduce the risk of cancer and displace bad fats. By consuming this amount, you lower your cholesterol, level out your blood sugar, improve bowel regularity, and decrease cancer risk. And if you have an especially sweet tooth, the natural sugars found in fruit could help satisfy your sugar cravings, too.
- Be sensible in the sun.Skin cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer, and among the most preventable. There are some simple, easy to follow tips for being sensible under the sun: Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection, but also wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and head. Be careful around the hours of the day when the sun will be at its peak, especially the midday hours.
- The importance of early detection. Early detection is crucial for the effective treatment of cancer.Screenings including colonoscopies, mammograms and tests for cardiac risk, such as blood pressure and cholesterol can detect problems and potentially save lives. Everyone should visit their doctor to discuss their family medical history and learn what medical screening tests are recommended.
- Know your roots. To detect cancer early, it is important for that you investigate your family history and know what to look out for. Scoping out health conditions prevalent in your family may be one of the easiest ways to identify heightened risks for cancer and catch the disease early.
- Don’t smoke! Ok, so we know that smoking is addictive, but each year there continues to be over four million tobacco-related deaths worldwide. Smoking is the number one preventable risk factor for life-threatening diseases like lung cancer, heart disease, and chronic lung disease. Cut out smoking and you could significantly reduce your risk of developing this type of cancer.
- Drink responsibly. Regular alcohol consumption increases the risk of getting mouth, voice box, and throat cancers. There are benefits to drinking in moderation, but compared to non-drinkers, a daily intake of around 50g of alcohol doubles or triples the risk of developing these types of cancer.
- Pass on the salt. Studies have shown that certain salted, pickled, or smoked foods can increase the chances of developing stomach cancer. Cutting down on salt will not only make you feel less bloated, you’ll also lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
- Find ways to better cope with stress. Try to find positive ways to cope with stress: perhaps go for a long walk, hit the gym or take a yoga class. There is no direct link between stress and the risk of cancer, but a stressful lifestyle can lead to unhealthy habits, like over eating, under exercising or smoking. Replacing these with other, positive ways of dealing with stress can lead to an overall healthier lifestyle.