Unhealthy lifestyle and poor eating habits are the root cause for most illnesses, and colon cancer is definitely one of them. The second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, colon cancer or colorectal cancer (CRC) attributes to more than 52,000 deaths every year. The cancer begins as a small noncancerous polyp on the inside of the colon, which over the years aggravates to become colon cancer.
While old age, ethnicity, and family history are some of the factors that increase your predisposition to colon cancer, most doctors link colon cancer to poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, and obesity. In fact, experts believe that nearly one-third to one-half of all cancers can be prevented by following healthy lifestyle habits.
So, if you want to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, here are a few modifications that you must bring in your lifestyle:
#1 Eat Healthy
There’s no better way to maintaining good health and absolute wellness than through a balanced diet – one that’s rich in both macro and micro nutrients. So, if you want to stay healthy, you need to eat healthy. In fact, diet that includes a lot of green vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole grains has been linked to a decreased risk of colon cancer. So,
- Try to build your diet around healthy food groups – fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Include nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, and low-carb healthy starches in your diet
- Try to avoid, in fact eliminate, sugar-rich food and beverages, refined carbs, trans fats and processed low-fat products from your daily diet
- Limit the amount of red meat (lamb, beef and pork) and processed meats in your diet as they have been linked with an increased risk of colorectal cancer
- Create a healthy diet plan that you can sustain for long, and keep unhealthy foods as occasional treats
#2 Avoid High Calorie Junk
Junk foods are high in calories, sugar and fat, but lack important nutrients and minerals. They are considered as the key components in obesity and in the development of chronic health diseases like colon cancer. So to lose weight and prevent chronic illnesses, limit your intake of these unhealthy, nutritionally poor food items and choose their healthier alternatives whenever possible. Some food items to avoid include:
- Sugary drinks: Give up on colas, processed fruit juices, energy drinks, and sodas.
- White flour products: Limit all your foods items made using white flour, including breads, pizzas, pastas, burgers, and cakes.
- Sweetened breakfast cereals: Chocolate coated corn flakes, muesli, ready-to-eat oats are all processed, contain refined grains, added sugars, and are full of unhealthy carbs, and are best avoided.
- Fried food: Frying is among the unhealthiest cooking methods. To stay healthy, you need to limit your consumption of chips, French fries, and other food products that are either cooked in high heat or fried.
#3 Exercise Often
If you are not physically active, you have greater chances of developing colorectal cancer. So, apart from maintaining healthy eating habits, it is also essential to stick to a regular fitness routine. Jog, swim, run, or play a sport – but do indulge in a fitness activity that suits your schedule and taste, at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. It will not only help you build muscles and stamina, but will also help you burn all those extra calories.
#4 Maintain an Ideal Body Weight
Obesity is the leading cause of all diseases, and not just colorectal cancer. To stay disease-free, it is important to maintain an ideal body weight through proper diet and regular exercise. So, if you are overweight, you must aim to shed all those extra pounds. Get in touch with an experienced physiologist, who can help you learn the healthy ways to lose weight, because fad diets that promise extreme weight loss may be attainable, but not sustainable.
#5 Quit Smoking
Long-term smokers are more likely to develop and die from colon or rectal cancer than non-smokers. So, if you are an active smoker, cut down on your smoking and quit it eventually. The sooner you quit, the better are your chances of preventing cancer and other diseases.
#6 Avoid Alcohol
All types of alcoholic drinks – red and white wine, cocktails, beer, and liquor – increase your risk of developing cancer. In fact, the more you drink, the higher are your risk of developing colon, liver, esophagus and other cancers. So try to avoid alcohol as much as possible. Even if you have to drink, limit your consumption to no more than two drinks a day.
#7 Watch for the Signs of CRC
Colon cancer doesn’t exhibit early signs and symptoms. However, you must talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing:
- A change in bowel movements
- Blood in stool
- Abdominal pains or cramps that don’t go away
- Sudden, unexpected weight loss
- Frequent diarrhea or constipation
They may either be the early signs of colon cancer or some other health abnormality. So the only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.
#8 Ensure Regular Screening
To prevent and detect colon cancer at the initial stages, it is important to evaluate the signs and symptoms of CRC through regular screening. The American Cancer Society recommends regular screening for colorectal cancer right from the age 45 years. These screening tests help in the detection of precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum, which if not removed turn cancerous. So, timely detection and removal of these polyps lowers the risk of colon cancer. Regular screening also helps in the early detection of colon cancer, when the treatment works best. Today, there are a number of tests available for colorectal cancer screening. You must talk to your health care provider to choose a test that best suits your needs and medical condition.
At EPIC Health, we offer regular screening for colorectal cancer detection and prevention. Our gastroenterology experts perform a number screening tests and procedures, including colonoscopies, to detect, cancer cells, polyps, lesions or any other abnormalities or conditions that may develop into cancer.
We also provide expert nutritional support and counseling to help you adopt healthy eating habits and a well-rounded fitness routine. Our certified dieticians and exercise physiologists evaluate your height, weight, and current medical condition to create a customized diet and exercise regime, keeping in mind your food preferences and lifestyle habits. They can not only help you knock off your excess weight, but also keep it off for years to come.