Breast Health 101: What Every Woman Should Know
By Sandra Kellerman
Despite the fact that breasts are a fairly significant part of our anatomy, many women aren’t exactly proactive when it comes to breast health. Just as we brush our teeth, try to eat a balanced diet, and get regular medical checkups, we can also make choices that keep our breasts healthy.
Consider Your Consumption
When it comes to breast health, one of the biggest concerns is cancer. More than 250,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2015, according to Breastcancer.org, so women should do all they can in the name of prevention. And when it comes to breast cancer prevention, nutrition is a big deal. Here are some quick tips:
- Fill up on fruits and veggies. It may sound like old advice, but it’s particularly important for breast health. Carotenoids in many fruits and vegetables are important for preventing estrogen-receptor-negative breast tumors.
- Indulge in dark chocolate. The tasty treat has an antioxidant compound that researchers say can fight fast-growing cancers.
- Grab the grapes. Dark-skinned grapes are packed with resveratrol, which protects cells from damage. So stock up on whole grapes or grape juice. This doesn’t mean you should drink more wine, which leads to the next point …
- Moderate your alcohol intake. According to a Self.com article, “A meta-analysis of 53 studies showed that women who drank more than 3 drinks a day had 1.5 times the risk of developing breast cancer as did nondrinkers.”
When it comes to consumption, of course, the best advice is “everything in moderation.”
Support Your Pair
Aside from cancer prevention, a lot of women wonder how they can keep their breasts not just healthy on the inside, but also healthy-looking on the outside. There are a number of things women can do to keep skin from losing elasticity and causing breasts to sag.
Exercising has 3 main benefits when it comes to breasts. First, if you maintain a healthy weight over many years, you avoid breast size fluctuations that can cause skin to stretch out and sag. Second, certain exercises can help you develop strong muscles in your back, chest, shoulders, and upper arms, all of which improve posture and make your breasts appear perkier. Third, working out staves off an overabundance of fat, which actually produces estrogen that may contribute to some breast cancers.
It’s also important to support your breasts from the outside with a well-fitted bra. There are a number of online guides for measuring bra size, but it’s also a good idea to spend some time with a professional in the lingerie department every couple of years or so to try on different styles and get precise measurements. Wearing a good bra can prevent chronic back, shoulder, and neck pain, making a woman much more comfortable, particularly if she has large breasts. Some research has shown that active women such as runners also may experience breast sagging earlier in life if they don’t wear proper sports bras. Look for styles rated as “high-impact” before hitting the gym too hard.
Keep a Close Watch
If there’s one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: Keeping an eye on your breasts and how they change is the most important thing you can do for your breast health.
Self-exams beginning after puberty can help you familiarize yourself and quickly notice changes. In your 20s and 30s, you should get a clinical breast exam at least once every year or 2. Most women get these during yearly “well woman” visits to the OB-GYN. Your doctor physically examines your breasts and asks about your personal and family health history. By the time you are 40, you should begin getting regular mammograms. A huge number of cancers are caught early by these tests each year.
And if You Have Implants…
There are some additional guidelines for women with breast implants. According to the website of Sacramento plastic surgeon Dr. Wayne Yamahata, “Breast augmentation should not prevent you from having mammograms. Technicians at imaging centers are trained to obtain accurate views of breast tissue when implants are present.” Women with breast implants should also monitor their breasts closely for any signs of change, particularly once the implants are about 10 years old, according to most implant manufacturers. Although dangerous complications with breast implants are extremely rare, close monitoring can prevent cosmetic or health concerns as the implants age.
Maintaining good breast health is an important part of an overall wellness plan. Taking some simple lifestyle steps and carefully monitoring for any changes are simple ways to be proactive about your breast health.
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