July 6, 2020

5 Ways to Boost Breast Health

How to be healthier and protect against breast cancer

woman walking and drinking water

Exercise and good eating are not only a one-two punch for better health, but this powerful duo also lowers your risk of developing breast cancer. Or, if you are diagnosed with it, exercise and a healthy diet can increase your odds of beating the disease.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Surgical breast oncologist Stephanie Valente, DO, recommends five things you can do to boost breast health:

1. Maintain a healthy weight

The relationship between obesity and breast cancer is not fully understood, but we know it’s important to keep a healthy weight to reduce risk.

The production of estrogen in fat tissue after menopause is a major factor. In those who have obesity, estrogen-sensitive breast cancer tissues are exposed to more estrogen than in those of a healthy weight. This can stimulate the growth and progression of breast cancer.

Women with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher (have obesity) tend to have more advanced disease at the time their breast cancer is diagnosed than those with a BMI below 25. These individuals are also at greater risk for the disease spreading and are more likely to die of breast cancer. Breast cancer survivors who are obese also run a greater risk of the disease coming back.

2. Exercising as a preventative measure

Women who are physically active are 25% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who are sedentary. Research shows that regular exercise can help prevent breast cancer by boosting immune function, warding off obesity and lowering levels of estrogen and insulin.

Along with helping you maintain your weight, exercise can also improve bone mass, which is a critical issue for breast cancer survivors who have undergone chemotherapy and endocrine therapy. These medications are tied to lower bone mineral density, which increases the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.

From daily activities such as house cleaning to programs designed specifically for those who have cancer, there’s something out there for everyone.

Advertisement

“Just 30 minutes a day and at least four to five days each week is enough to get you started,” says Dr. Valente. “Walking is the easiest type of exercise to maintain, but always listen to your body.”

Whether you’re trying to prevent breast cancer, are fighting breast cancer, or have survived breast cancer, exercise can help.

3. Stay hydrated and eat a healthy, balanced diet

Fill your plate with at least five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables each day. In addition, broccoli, cabbage, kale, watermelon and whole grains are cancer-fighting foods. It’s important to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in walnuts, fish, soybeans and pumpkin seeds. Steer clear of refined sugars and fats because they’re notorious for not only packing on the weight to your waistline, but with weight gain comes a higher risk of breast cancer, too.

“Don’t forget to stay hydrated, too,” says Dr. Valente. “Keep a water bottle on hand and aim for about 2 to 3 liters of water a day.”

Get educated on reading food labels while at the grocery store. Take into consideration how many calories a canned item or packaged food has and always look at the serving size. This way, you’ll be able to limit your intake of any bad-for-you foods.

It’s believed that good nutrition can help protect against a host of cancers, including breast cancer, and can slow or prevent the disease’s progression or recurrence.

“Creating a healthy meal plan and exercising frequently can help put you on track to maintaining a healthy weight,” says Dr. Valente. “Talk to your doctor or dietitian to help get you started on the right foot.”

Advertisement

4. Limit alcohol to one drink per day

Women who drink more than one alcoholic beverage per day — even just two drinks — are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer. If you have three or more drinks per week after being diagnosed with breast cancer, you also run a greater risk that your breast cancer will recur.

According to the American Cancer Society, the amount of alcohol consumed is important, not the type of alcoholic drink. A serving of an alcoholic drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1 1/2 ounces of hard liquor.

5. Take your vitamins, especially vitamin D

Women with low levels of vitamin D may run a greater risk of developing breast cancer, and breast cancer survivors with low vitamin D levels may have a greater risk of disease recurrence. Research also suggests that high vitamin D levels are linked to better breast cancer survival rates.

The best source of vitamin D is from the sun, so women who don’t get a lot of daily sun exposure can be deficient in vitamin D. However, if you’re in the sun frequently, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to lower your risk of skin cancer.

Have your vitamin D level checked. If your levels are low, talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin D3 supplement.

“Your health is in your hands,” says Dr. Valente. “By making these five healthy habits part of your life, you not only fight breast cancer but many other cancers and diseases while enjoying more energy, lower stress levels and better moods.”​

Related Articles

woman giving herself a breast massage and examination
December 12, 2023
6 Benefits of Breast Massage (and How To Get Started Today)

Massaging your breast tissue can help reduce breastfeeding pain, treat lymphedema and find cancer early

woman sleeping
November 1, 2023
Is It Bad To Sleep in a Bra?

Head to bed in a bra to reduce breast pain, nipple irritation and stretch marks

breast pain new bra
June 7, 2021
What’s Causing Your Breast Pain or Tenderness?

It's a common complaint, but don't just ignore it

woman itching bra strap area
January 17, 2021
Why Do My Breasts Itch Inside?

The short answer from a breast health expert

A woman gently cradling a baby in her arms.
November 28, 2018
Why Some Women Get Mastitis When They’re Breastfeeding (or When They’re Not)

Breast pain and swelling can indicate this frustrating infection

doctor speaking with middle-age woman
February 21, 2024
Does Your Health Determine Menopause Age?

Reaching menopause very early raises your risk of certain health conditions

Female speaking with doctor, with uterus and ovary with cysts
February 21, 2024
Can PCOS Cause Weight Gain?

The common hormonal condition is linked to insulin resistance, which can cause weight gain

Older woman awake in bed in the middle of the night looking a smartphone
February 20, 2024
Does Menopause Cause Insomnia and Sleeplessness?

Hormone changes can definitely leave you tossing and turning at night, but help is available

Trending Topics

White bowls full of pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate and various kinds of nuts
25 Magnesium-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating

A healthy diet can easily meet your body’s important demands for magnesium

Woman feeling for heart rate in neck on run outside, smartwatch and earbuds
Heart Rate Zones Explained

A super high heart rate means you’re burning more than fat

Spoonful of farro salad with tomato
What To Eat If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Prediabetes

Type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable with these dietary changes

Ad