Overweight and obese women -- defined as having a BMI (body mass index) over 25 -- have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to women who maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause. Being overweight also can increase the risk of the breast cancer coming back (recurrence) in women who have had the disease.
This higher risk is because fat cells make estrogen; extra fat cells mean more estrogen in the body, and estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow.
Still, the link between extra weight and breast cancer is complicated and affected by other factors. For example, the location of the extra weight matters. Extra fat around yourbelly may increase risk more than the same amount of extra fat around your thighs or hips.
Losing weight can be harder as you get older, but it can be done with careful changes to your diet and regular exercise. The first thing to do is to talk to your doctor about a healthy weight for you based on your age, height, body type, and activity level. Next,talk to your doctor about a safe and sensible plan to lose weight designed specifically for you and your needs.
Many people believe that if you eat fewer calories than you burn each day, youll lose weight, and if you eat the same number of calories that youll burn, youll maintain a healthy weight. This plan works for many people, but not all.
If youre counting calories, its important to think about what youre eating. Say Jane eats 1,200 calories a day of cake, cookies and white bread. Shes probably not going to lose any weight. Betty eats 1,200 calories a day of fresh vegetables and fruit and lean protein. Shes probably going to lose some weight and get a lot more nutrients from her food. Counting calories is only part of the weight loss equation.
And counting calories is only one way to lose weight. Because the hormone insulin plays a major role in how your body uses and stores fat, some research suggests that eating foods that keep insulin levels steady throughout the day lean meat and fish, poultry, vegetables, and fruit -- rather than foods like sugar, candy, white bread and crackers can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Breastcancer.org Chief Medical Officer Marisa Weiss, M.D. says, "It can be hard to get enthusiastic about losing weight if you've had limited success in the past. Sometimes success can depend on how you think about losing weight: learn the steps that give you the biggest bang for your buck and reframe your feelings and attitudes about hurdles in your path. Here are just a few examples. You can turn progress into failure with a common misconception: eating and exercise are equally important for weight loss. In fact, 80% of weight loss is what you eat and drink. Only 20% relates to exercise. Don't get caught thinking they're 50/50 partners: a 400 calorie slice of cheesecake that takes 5 minutes (or less) to eat would take hours on the treadmill to burn off. You also have to be prepared to give up cooking methods that may be part of your family traditions (like deep-fried chicken or adding cheese to all your vegetables) and change old 'harmless' habits (like tasting while you cook or eating raw dough when you bake). It's important to be open to new foods, including those that you're sure you hate (like the tomatoes and fish you hated as a kid). Give them another chance as an adult. There are so many healthy options out there that will help you accomplish your goals. Once you get your game on, you'll feel so much better."
Create a healthy eating plan and an exercise plan. Once you have the OK from your doctor and a weight goal, you can create a healthy eating plan that meets your nutritional needs. You may want to talk to a registered dietitian about how to create a healthy eating plan that's tailored to your specific needs and likes.
If you're unable to work directly with a registered dietitian, you have someother options. Computer programs and online tools can help you further analyze whatyou eat. They go beyond whether or not you're getting enough of a specificnutrient. Some of them might even make recommendations about how much ofspecific foods you should eat per day and track your eating and nutrientpatterns over time.
Exercise is such an important part of daily life that the United States Department of Agriculture said that all people should meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans in the Appendix of the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Regular exercise helps reduce breast cancer risk. And the American Cancer Society recommends that women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer exercise regularly (about 5 hours per week) to improve their quality of life and physical fitness, as well as to reduce the risk of developing new cancers. Research shows that women who exercise the equivalent of walking 3 to 5 hours per week at an average pace after being diagnosed with breast cancer may improve their chances of surviving the disease.
There's no magic bullet or single food that will make you lose weight quickly. In fact, the safest way to lose weight is to do it slowly -- about a pound a week.
The United States Department of Agriculture 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines forAmericans recommend:
The guidelines also recommend eating a variety ofnutrient-dense foods across all food groups, including:
Here are some tips to make your diet nutritious and help you lose weight:
How toeat healthywhen you eat out at restaurants:
For more information on healthy eating, dietary supplements, and nutrition resources, visit the Breastcancer.org Nutrition section.
Think Pink, Live Green: A Step-by-Step Guide to Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer teaches you the biology of breast development and how modern life affects breast cancer risk. Order a free booklet by mail or download the PDF of the booklet to learn 31 risk-reducing steps you can take today.
Being Overweight - breastcancer.org
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