Tag Archives: Healthy Lifestyle

How to Prevent Hereditary Cancer: A Yoga Concept

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Do you or your loved ones have any hereditary cancer? Facing hereditary cancer can be challenging. The passing of family members is devastating, and the possibility of getting this “C” makes you feel fearful, sad, frustrated, powerless or even angry. Staying very emotional is understandable, but won’t fix the problem.

Warrior2_IMG_3388-e1360171441431-1024x682Today I’m going to show you one way to stay on top of this horrible “C” – a solution inspired by Yoga Warrior II.

Let’s engage in this yoga pose first. As the warrior II image illustrates, you stretch one arm straight in front and extend the other out behind, with legs and feet stepping apart in a facing-forward position, while your body maintains steadiness and balance, being powered by the leg and core muscles’ strength, with your gaze focusing ahead (just to give an idea for non-yoga goers).

In addition to its physical benefits, the mental or psychological aspect of Warrior II guides you to honor the past, to explore your future, and to strengthen your presence. Angelina Jolie has taken real-life Warrior II actions when facing her risk for hereditary breast cancer. She kept in mind the tragedy of losing her mother to breast cancer, and desires to stay around long for her children and the loved ones. Courageously, she pursued all she could do at the present. Angelina went for a genetic testing to find out her mutated BRCA1 gene, and then underwent a preventive double mastectomy to reduce her high risk of developing breast cancer.

Cancer risk factors come from foods we eat, water we drink, the environment we live, and the genes we inherit; the latter is considered out of our control. What Angelina has done is truly empowering not only for women dealing with hereditary breast cancer, but also for a boarder population; because breast cancer occurs in men too and men do get mastectomy treatment. This conveyed a message that you can take control of your health, including hereditary cancer, by taking preventative measures before it’s too late.

So, what can you do now when it comes to the genetic susceptibility to cancer? Here are 8 practical tips:

1.      Consult your physician and get genetic testing. Genetic counseling is an essential step for any hereditary illness.
2.      Identify a medical or preventive treatment that’s best for you. With the advance of new technologies and therapies, you have more options to choose, which opens up the horizon for your healthy future.
3.      Remember follow-up visit or care whether or not you have had any therapy.
4.      Explore insurance plans for the coverage of your cost. This seems non-therapeutic, but could be a determining factor for many folks to make an informed, life-saving decision.
5.      Cope with any change in your physical body, and manage side effects from your treatment. Keep informed on any related issues.
6.      Seek support when coping with fear, i.e. any fear of cancer diagnosis or cancer recurrence, so as to uphold your emotional well-being, which is vitally important.
7.      Live a healthy lifestyle, refraining from any known cancer risk factors such as tobacco smoking, alcohol, or toxic chemicals and carcinogens.
8.      Enjoy the moment!

See more Cancer and Hereditary Cancer

Image credit: By Brittany Becher

Let the Season Joys Boost Your Immune System, Not Stress Ruin Your Happiness

Holiday Season is approaching! Are you excited? Or stressed out? The primary cancer risk factors during holidays are diet and stress. We covered the diet factor in our Newsletter December issue, and focus on coping stress here.

Holiday realities

The holidays are both a wonderful and stressful time of the year. Besides the usual work loads and family commitments, we have new functions, as we rush around trying to meet looming deadlines. Parties and social events, holiday shopping, decorating, trips, holiday meals, going to the new movie releases, entertaining guests, … see how much we try to cram into the festive season! It gives me a headache just naming all the things.

The key danger of stress

Now imagine doing all that. It’s certainly a recipe for stress. Holiday stress normally falls into categories of financial, physical, psychological/emotional drains. Stress has a negative effect on your health. This is not just a theory. Many studies have found key mechanistic evidence at the cellular level. Chronic stress and/or depression can increase the body production of cytokines, that is, immune-modulating substances. One of them is called interleukin-6 (IL-6). High serum levels of IL-6 have been linked to risks for several adverse conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, mental health complications, and some cancers.

The relationship between stress and cancer is complex. Many factors may come into play. However, research has demonstrated that stress factors (e.g., the death of a spouse, divorce, social isolation, and medical school examinations) alter some white blood cell functions and promote immune dysfunction. Taken together, stress reduction is of importance for many health reasons.

Win control over stress with top 8 effective tips:

Since stress can translate into negative changes in the body, this year I challenge you to have the least holiday stress ever, and let the joyful spirit of the season boost your immune system! I’m here to help you achieve that.

1. The keywords are Prioritize, Be realistic, and Simplify (PBS). So, plan ahead based on PBS.

2.      Take it easy. Make the holidays enjoyable rather than perfect. If a card cannot get to its destiny on time, give the person a surprise call on that holiday morning! If you don’t feel like cooking or baking, buy some packaged prepared meals as an alternative, or go without one or two “traditions”. Instead of spending hours in the malls or sitting in the traffic, shop online for gifts to save time and get good deals.

3.      Tap the resources within your family, from neighbors and friends. Do what you enjoy, and make it fun for everyone. If you love decorating trees and hate shopping or dishwashing, trade chores within the family, so everyone picks up their favorite task.

4.      Create a budget within your means to avoid “New Year Depression” on debt. Folk wisdom tells us to shop ahead of time for bargains. However, we all can be creative and spend less, believe it or not. If your budget doesn’t allow you to buy expensive gifts, buy a small one. Everyone appreciates a gift regardless of its size. If it’s too costly to attend a fancy party, organize a new, fun activity to celebrate at home or go to a movie.

5.      Listen to your body and take care of it. If you are tired, acknowledge it; if you need a treat or massage, get it; and if exercises or physical activities make you feel good, go for it.  Also, be sure to get enough sleep.

6.      Practice stress-relieving techniques, particularly those that work for you. Breathe deeply, meditate freely, visualize a peaceful scene, or listen to soothing music. Enjoy some quiet time or “down” time for yourself, especially when you feel over-stressed or under uncomfortable conditions. Caution! Just because the letters in desserts can be used to spell stressed, it doesn’t mean you need to relieve stress with desserts. Avoid over-eating, particularly high sugar and/or high calorie foods.

7.      Laugh, laugh, and laugh! Laughter is an effective medicine.

And perhaps the most important tip of all is:


8. The holiday season is a time of Family, Friends and Fun! Connecting with others for laughter and love is the best stress-reliever and most effective immune-booster. And remember, for some, this is a time of loneliness and depression. Invite them to your home; show kindness to them. If you are alone during the holidays, reaching out to help others can benefit your own physical and psychological well-being.

If you like this post, please share it.  Sharing is caring and giving.


Photo Credits: By dtweney; By Just a Temporary Measure



Breast Cancer Prevention Is for Everyone

In October, we increase nationwide awareness for breast cancer. Remember: both men and women can get breast cancer. The most important factor is catching it early, because at an early stage, the cancer is most treatable, and can be closely monitored if you’re at increased risk.

How to catch it early:

1.   Recognize symptoms/signs.

2.   Consult your physicians especially if you have a family history of breast cancer.

3.   Get mammograms, and if necessary, MRI.

What are common symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore?

1.   A lump in the breast, sometimes an area of lumpiness, which can be found through regular self-examination.

2.   The lump is not always painful or visible, but can be felt.

3.   Any change in the skin around the nipple.

4.   Unexpected inversion of the nipple.

5.   Breast pain or discomfort.

6.   Weight loss.

7.   Signs that indicate the cancer could be spreading, such as a lump in the underarm area or bone pain, or other symptoms depending on the organ/tissue affected.

Cancer is such a scary, horrible and challenging disease. Although early detection is the key, “prevention is better than cure.” Always. There are things you can control.

How to prevent breast cancer:

1.   Keep informed and educated, do so beyond health promotion events or cancer awareness campaigns.

2.   Avoid your exposure to radiation, toxic chemicals and carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). Particularly, start limiting the use of chemical cleaner wherever you can.

3.   Quit alcohol consumption and smoking. When combined with genetic or inherit factors, drinks and cigarettes enhance several cancers’ risks.

4.   Live a healthy lifestyle, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercise, and sleep well.

5.   Maintain a healthy weight, because the link between body fat and cancer risk has been proven.

In short, these are essential things everybody can do in Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a year around.

How to Smile

Smile – Is it easy or not?

Everybody can smile, it’s an ability we’re born with — no need for training. Yet, in our modern world, it’s amazing how many people walk around with frowns.

In addition to allowing us to spread our happiness, smiling stimulates our immune system and relieves stress. When one’s life is overwhelmed with stress and negativity, it’s hard to smile.

Practicing these S-M-I-L-E tips will make smiling easy.

S- is for serve.  When you serve, give, or help others, you feel good inside and out, and end up smiling.

M- is for manage. Manage stress and control negativity, which will make you relax and smile.

I- is for inspire. Are we all inspired by people who are upbeat, positive, and passionate? Be the one!

L- is for love. Love people and lighten up the world. What comes back to you is mostly based on what you give out.

E- is for enjoy. Life is short, enjoy the moment, and enjoy whatever you do — read, play, or work.

S-M-I-L-E and you will end up smiling, gaining all the benefits— socially, mentally, emotionally, and physically. You will be on the road to health and happiness.

Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles. What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” – Dale Carnegie

Can you smile to ten people tomorrow?

Photo credit: By Nanagyei

What’s in Colorful Berries for You?

Berries_2746572505_797146afd7_mBerries (such as blueberry, cranberry, blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry) are known for their antioxidant power. They contain a number of healthful compounds including vitamins A, C, E and folic acid, selenium, calcium, phytochemicals such as polyphenols. By consumption of berries, you can enjoy diverse health benefits — from preventing cardiovascular disorders, age-related degenerative diseases and inflammation, to improving brain functions and eye health.

How about minimizing cancer risks? Studies from numerous cell culture and animal models, in vitro and in vivo, have demonstrated berries’ anti-cancer properties using berry extracts or constituents. Although certain phytochemicals in berries (i.e. antioxidative potentials) contribute to cancer suppressive action, a novel, key ingredient for berries’ cancer fighting effects is the compound called anthocyanin(s), which also give berries’ natural, vibrant colors.

Anthocyanins play a role in reducing malignant transformation of cells. They exert anti-carcinogenic effects in the following ways:
1. Regulate carcinogenic attack and enhance the removal of carcinogens;
2. Protect DNA integrity via a decreased DNA binding of carcinogens and inhibition of oxidative damage to DNA;
3. Suppress inflammatory processes via alternating cell signaling pathways;
4. Inhibit tumor invasiveness and metastasis via the induction of cell death at various stages of cancer progression.

Sounds promising, doesn’t it? Surely, berry anthocyanins are your supporters in promoting human health and disease prevention. Evidence is still needed for the anti-cancer effect in human studies. While edible berries serve as a source of natural anthocyanin antioxidants, cancer-fighting properties in each group of berries may vary, and you need to acquire more accurate information on health benefits that can be expected from different berry products.

The bottom line:
1. Consume berries regularly. Eat fresh and frozen ones.
2. Mix berries with your cereals, shakes and juices. A combination of various berries has their health benefits maximized over an individual berry.
3. Do take precautions about manufactured and/or concentrated berry powders on the market.

What’s your favorite berry or berries? How do you include berries in your healthy diet?

Photo credit: by love♡janine

The Cancer Prevention Power of Olive Oil

697352_oliveoil w-treeDo you use olive oil to dress your salads? Or for light sautéing? It not only tastes great, but has many health benefits. While many folks know olive oil is healthy, not everyone knows why it’s good, particularly in terms of lowering cancer risks, and not everyone incorporates it into their cancer-fighting diet. Olive oil and unsaturated fats, which are typical ingredients in the Mediterranean diet, have been proven to reduce the risk of several cancers.

Let’s take a look at how powerful olive oil is.

The healthful components in olive oil:

1. Monounsaturated fats: Healthy fats help reduce cancer risks. They also lower bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and raise good cholesterol (HDL) levels, thereby preventing heart disease.

2. Polyphenols: Powerful antioxidants neutralize harmful free radicals, and reduce oxidative stress and DNA damage, potentially helping to combat degenerative diseases including cancer.

3. DHPEA-EDA: In virgin olive oil, it may constitute up to half the total antioxidant contents in the oil. DHPEA-EDA can protect red blood cells from oxidative damage that these cells are particularly sensitive to.

The impact of olive oil on cancer prevention:
Extra virgin olive oil might possess anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, and anti-apoptotic effects. Experimental studies provide new evidence that olive oil has the potential protective effects against cancer of colorectal, breast, and upper digestive tract.

Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats and is rich in polyphenols. Olive oil helps lower cancer risks. Other benefits include protection against heart attack, stroke, osteoporosis, cell aging, ulcers, and even gallstone formation.

Final note:
Virgin and extra-virgin olive oils may contain higher levels of polyphenols (powerful antioxidants) compared with processed or refined olive oils. Consuming Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a part of a healthy diet, but as with most foods, moderation is important. Good fat is still fat and all types of fat are high in calories.

How do you consume olive oil in your daily diet? We’d like to hear it!

Photo credit: by Seda Inal

A Quick Glance at the Dangers of Stress

Stress_3088120425_0eeb73ecef_mStress and its negative effects may have accumulated over the winter months, fueled by darkness, extreme cold and snow, limited outdoor activity, work, deadlines, and worries over holiday debt. It’s really getting to you, right? Well, it’s time to get rid of it. With spring coming, an increase in natural sunlight, greening trees and blooming flowers can all improve your mood. So, embrace spring beauty!

What does stress do to you?

Obviously, it causes negative emotions and unhealthy behaviors (e.g. overeating, increased consumption of alcohol, and smoking), but I’m going to show a few “pathophysiological facts” associated with stress.

Firstly, stress over-produces inflammatory agents/factors, resulting in an imbalance of immune regulation. Chronic stress and/or depression can increase the body’s production of proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-6. According to researchers, high serum levels of IL-6 have been linked to risks for several health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, mental health complications, and some cancers.

Secondly, stress increases stress hormones, leading to increased DNA damage. During psychological stress, our bodies produce such stress hormones as epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol that may affect many cells directly. These effects can be temporary, like heart rate and blood pressure, or lasting, such as permanent DNA damage, which may cause the development of cancer. Research shows that short-term exposure (<30 min) of mouse fibroblast cells to any of stress hormones mentioned above, at physiological concentrations, induced at least five-fold increases in DNA damage in treated cells compared with untreated controls.

Finally, stress may weaken one’s immune system, which indirectly contributes to increased risks for cancer, such as some virus-related tumors, which have been shown from both animal and human studies. Furthermore, both stress and depression may decrease activities of cytotoxic T-cells and natural killer cells, thereby compromising immune surveillance against tumors. More studies to illustrate a cause-and-effect relationship between stress and cancer development are on the horizon.

There are many ways to manage stress, which is not the focus of this post. However, exercise is one of the most important keys to minimizing stress. Keep active in the spring. The easy one is walking, so easy that everyone can do it. By moving your body, you can increase circulation, while improving your mood and clearing your mind.

Gardening, landscaping, running, hiking, walking, sightseeing, and boating…the spring activities are endless. Just get out of the door and have some fun.

What’s your favorite spring activity or regiment to relieve stress?

Photo Credit: by chmeredith
J.P. Godbout, R. Glaser. Stress-induced immune dysregulation: implications for wound healing, infectious disease and cancer in the December, 2006 issue of Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.
M.S. Flint et al. Induction of DNA damage, alteration of DNA repair and transcriptional activation by stress hormones in the June 2007 issue of Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Seasonal Beauty Clears the Mind and Benefits the Body

If you live around the Washington, DC area, you may have seen the cherry trees in full bloom around the Tidal Basin. If not, have a peek of these wonderful shots taken at the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Cherry Blosm_4495310685_cb11c3bc83_mJ.Memorial Blosm_4495277343_b1f87ae2e6_mBack to our topic on spring cleaning. This is a great time to de-clutter not only our spaces but also our minds. The winter doldrums have passed, and spring speaks of new beginnings. Human emotions and/or thoughts, negative and positive, influence our bodies and can be reflected in physiological and immune interactions. It has become abundantly clear that positive emotions and psychological well-being have beneficial effects on physical health. Conversely, negative emotions or attitudes, as well as stress, appear to weaken one’s natural resistance to carcinogenic attacks. So if anything needs clearing, it’s our mind.

There are many ways to clear your mind, such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, listening to relaxing music, going outdoors, writing journals, or simply doing less. Let’s just talk about the joy of seasonal beauty like cherry blossom viewing in America’s capital. I’m sure that folks outside DC can also enjoy their own variety of nature’s splendor during spring time.

Monument Blosm 2010_4495311641_78832c8c30_mGorgeous sunshine and spring wind are accompanied by a magnificent show of pink and white flowers at the peak of blooming. Taking a walk along the Tidal Basin, indulging in nature’s beauty and spectacular views — water, trees, and flowers, plus such national treasures as Washington Monument and Thomas Jefferson Memorial — brings with it a positive and relaxed mood, one easily shared with family and loved ones. A good long walk takes energy, yet amazingly such peaceful scenes can create energy as well.

Do you know there are 12 kinds of cherry trees that grow around the Tidal Basin? Well, I can also list more than 12 positive emotions and actions I associate with cherry blossoms: appreciation of nature, time with family and friends, relaxation, happiness, joy, love, energy, positive feelings from walking, positive moods and thoughts, smiling and laughter, de-cluttering of the mind, taking a break from stress, favorite activities, engaging in the present, and letting go of negatives. All of these effects promote physical and psychological well-being.

Do you have similar experiences? Without a doubt, they too benefit your immune system and aid in cancer prevention.

What’s your experience of cherry blossom viewing? What are your favorite ways to clear your mind? If you like this post, please bookmark it or share it. Thanks.

Photo credits: by daveynin

Trans Fats and Processed Fats: The Consequence

These days, probably everyone knows about the evils of trans fats. But do you know that despite public knowledge, people may not be aware they are consuming a good portion of trans fats? What are trans fats exactly? How do they impact our health? And on a practical note, how do we avoid them?

Trans fats (or trans fatty acids, TFA) are formed through an industrial process called hydrogenation, in which hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. So, they are processed fats. TFA are also found in small amounts in various animal products such as beef, pork, lamb, and the butterfat in butter and milk.

How bad are trans fats?
1. Trans fats raise total blood cholesterol levels, particularly LDL (bad) cholesterol.
2. Trans fats lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Higher LDL and lower HDL may increase the risk of heart disease, the leading killer of men and women in the U.S.
3. Trans fats may increase inflammation, a process in which your body responds to injury. It’s known that inflammation plays a key role in the blockage of blood vessels, as well as in the development of cancer.  Trans Fat_1430996646_77cda80359_m

How do you know if the food contains trans fats?
Be careful about the words printed on the food package or Nutrition Facts Label.
Here’s how you should interpret such words:
“hydrogenated”/”partially hydrogenated” = trans fats
“shortening” = containing trans fats
“Trans Fats: 0 grams” = likely and/or actually containing trans fats
or  “Trans Fats: 0 grams” = contains less than 1 gram per serving, meaning if a food package contains several servings, you may end up consuming several grams of trans fats.

What are food sources of trans fats?
Here are some common foods that often contain trans fats :
- Margarine
- Red meats (beef, pork or lamb, esp. as the main dish or processed food)
- Cookies and crackers
- Donuts, muffins
- Microwave popcorn
- White bread
- Fast foods (e.g. fried chicken, biscuits, fried fish sandwiches, French fries, etc)
- Foods at many restaurants

If you eat out a lot, be cautious, as there are no food labels that come with your meal, and many restaurants use trans fats. The lack of regulations for labeling restaurant foods could be profitable for the restaurants, yet hurtful to your health.

You can also check out 10 Surprising Foods That Contain Trans Fats.

Here is the problem:
It is hard to evaluate the trans fats content in food items, thereby making consumption difficult to monitor. For example, do you know what you get from one doughnut at breakfast? More than 3 grams of TFA.  How about one large serving of french fries? More than 5 grams of TFA.

Although the FDA requires trans fats to be listed on the nutrition label, there are no labeling regulations for fast foods or restaurant foods. So, foods containing the unhealthy fats can even be advertised as “cholesterol-free” and “cooked in vegetable oil.” Plus it’s easy to be fooled, because food labels can read, “Trans Fats: 0 grams” when actually those foods contain trans fats. Needless to say, many folks are misled by marketing tricks or advertisements that often disguise lies under a thin veneer of facts.

Only you can say “NO” to trans fats, which is the most effective one.

In addition, limit trans fats intake to less than 1 percent of your total calories per day, as the American Heart Association recommends. This means if you need 2,000 calories a day, you should consume less than 2 grams of trans fats (i.e. less than 20 calories trans fats).

Photo Credit: by Mykl Roventine

Are You Heart and Breast/Prostate Healthy?

Today let’s talk about some healthy strategies for heart health and cancer prevention, i.e. the “kill two birds with one stone” approach.

Okay, first thing first. Take simple, small lifestyle actions day by day, which is what will help you win the battle of fighting cancer and heart disease. Rome wasn’t conquered in a day, and probably not in a week either.

To reduce risks of cancer, you need to incorporate lifestyle changes, as WHO’s message on the World Cancer Day 2010. These changes can also benefit your heart. Simplicity_3947605103_1bb33061f9_m

Here are 9 simple, healthy strategies:

1. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. I know that ice cream is appetizing, but fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as foods low in saturated fat but high in fiber can serve as cancer-fighting and cholesterol-fighting agents.
2. Exercise regularly. Best suggestions are about 30 minutes a day. Find various ways to stay physically active, which will help you lower cholesterol, maintain healthy weight, and prevent cancer.
3. Maintain a healthy weight with a body mass index (BMI) lower than 30. Overweight and/or obesity increases your risks for heart disease and cancer. Need help? You can get a FREE diet profile here.
4. Stop cigarette smoking and avoid second-hand smoking. Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, causing an estimated 1 out of every 5 deaths each year, according to National Cancer Institute (NCI). Noticeably, research reveals a link between elevated CRP and obesity as well as smoking.
5. Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol consumption is linked to increased risk of various types of cancer including breast, colorectal, mouth, esophagus, larynx, and liver cancer. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to high blood pressure and heart failure.
6. Reduce inflammation and cancer-causing infection. Stay away from factors that make us susceptible to infection and inflammation, such as toxic chemicals, pollutants, stress, inadequate intake of nutrients, a diet high in sugar, fat and animal proteins. Strengthen your immune system.
7. Avoid or minimize your exposure to air pollutants. Air pollutants mediate inflammation, thereby contributing to cancer and a troubled heart. It’s difficult to control the air in our outdoor environment, but we can control the air in our homes. Pay attention to occupational hazards, take preventative measures in workplace too.
8. Relax! Reduce stress. Stress can weaken the immune system, trigger inflammation, subsequently leading to heart attack, stroke and cancer. Have a positive outlook and find your own “secret” stress reliever.
9. Know your numbers. Regular health checkup can help you monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Consult your physician on cancer screenings.

Finally, a Bonus for Valentine’s Day and chocolate lovers.

Substantial research suggests that flavonoid-rich food could help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer based on its anti-inflammatory effect. Cocoa is the richest source of flavonoids, but current processing reduces its content considerably. Dark chocolate is flavonoid-rich (with at least 70% cocoa). So, what’s the catch? In comparison, milk chocolate is sugar- and fat-rich. To learn a few quick tips on how to consume chocolate wisely, check out our “Tip of the Week“.

What’s your thought on fighting cancer and heart disease? If you like this post, please share it.

Photo credit: by lrargerich