What is Healthy, and Can Cancer Really Be Reduced with Exercise?

9 Jan

Our basic premise is that your body is amazing. You get a do over. It doesn’t take that long, and it isn’t that hard if you know what to do. In these notes, we give you a short course in what to do so it becomes easy for you and for you to teach others. We want you to know how much control you have over both the quality and length of your life.

This month, I am answering two questions sent in by readers:
1. What is healthy, and what does that claim mean on food packaging?
2. Does physical activity really defeat cancer?

Until the late 1800s, bathing was considered unhealthy, and a thin layer of dirt was thought to protect a person from bad elements in the air that could permeate the skin and cause disease! Tomatoes—also called poison apples—were considered toxic by Europeans for almost 200 years (until Neapolitan pizza became the rage in the late 1880s).

And almonds, avocados, and salmon were found to be UNHEALTHY—wait for it—in 2015 by the Food and Drug Administration’s own calculations!

That’s right—the standards that the FDA uses to evaluate if a food is “healthy” or not are sadly misleading. Low-fat breakfast pastries fit the “healthy” definition because the standards don’t consider sugar content or how processed a food is!

And that super-healthy trio of salmon, avocado, and walnuts? They get a thumbs down because they have more fat per serving than the FDA standards say is good for you—without considering the types of fat they contain. Fat in walnuts, avocados, or salmon is not much of a health concern because the fat they dish up is super-healthy ALA and DHA omega-3s and/or a rainbow of nutrients.

The FDA says it wants to upgrade the standards, but in the meantime if you’re looking for healthy foods, don’t rely on packaging that screams HEALTHY. (Choose packaged foods with no added sugars or syrups, only 100% whole grains, only a small amount of sat fats and no trans fats.

Beware of low-fat, sweetened with sugar or syrups foods—they’re still bad for your heart, brain and metabolism.)

And yes, there is plenty of data that physical activity helps you prevent cancer. One study recently published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine reviewed data concerning 1.4 million people and found that folks who got greater amounts of physical activity outside of work had a 42 percent lower risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma; a 26 percent lower for lung cancer; a 23 percent lower risk of liver and kidney cancer; a 22 percent lower for gastric cardia; a 21 percent lower for endometrial cancer; a 20 percent for myeloid leukemia; a 17 percent for myeloma; a 16 percent for colon cancer; a 15 percent for head and neck cancer; a 13 percent lower for rectal and bladder cancer; and a 10 percent lower for breast cancer. And, that was mostly regardless of body size or smoking history.

Add a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, avoid tobacco and other smoke, and stress management and you may have a great chance at living a long, healthy life.

Want more data? Another study out of Roswell Park Cancer Institute found that women who got more than just four days of physical activity a month were two and a half times less likely to develop cervical cancer than women who reported getting less physical activity.

So what do you need to do to take advantage of this great cancer-dodging news? We recommend a walking routine 5-6 days a week with a target for 10,000 steps a day. Your best bet: use a fitness tracker or pedometer; enlist a walking buddy; and get good shoes! As you increase your distance and speed, add in strength training for 30 minutes 2-3 days a week (at the gym or at home with stretchy bands or hand weights). Then, as you feel more physically confident, consider shaking it up by trying swimming, bicycling, playing tennis. And that makes your RealAge younger not just now, but for the long term.

For tips on walking and getting more physically active check out sharecare.com. And yes, look for the new book by Jean Chatzky and myself, AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip, to be released February 28th, 2017.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to send questions—to youdocs@gmail.com, and some of them we may know enough to answer (we’ll try to get answers for you if we do not know).

Young Dr Mike Roizen (aka, The Enforcer)

NOTE: You should NOT take this as medical advice.
This article is of the opinion of its author.
Before you do anything, please consult with your doctor.

You can follow Dr Roizen on twitter @YoungDrMike (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories of the week). The YOU docs have tow newly revised books: The patron saint “book” of this column YOU Staying Young—revised and YOU: The Owner’s Manual…revised —yes a revision of the book that started Dr Oz to being Dr Oz. These makes great gifts—so do YOU: ON a Diet and YOU: The Owner’s Manual for teens. And, the new book by Dr Mike Roizen: This is YOUR Do-Over

Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. His radio show streams live on http://www.radioMD.com Saturdays from 5-7 p.m. He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including: YOU Staying Young.

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