We’ve all been told time and time again how important a healthy lifestyle is in preventing death and disease — especially cancer. In a study published last month, researchers from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbruecke found that five key healthy behaviors are tied to a lower risk of developing colon cancer. In both men and women, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Every year about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease, and more than 50,000 die from it.
The 12-year study analyzed the data of 347,237 men and women from 10 countries. Researchers composed a healthy lifestyle index that included five lifestyle factors. They assigned study participants corresponding numbers of zero if they did not have these factors, or one if they did. The points were then summed to give each participant a cumulative score. Over the course of the study, 3,759 cases of colorectal cancer were detected and recorded.
Researchers discovered when analyzing the data that the more healthy lifestyle factors a person had, the lower their risk of colorectal cancer. People who had two, three, four, or all five healthy lifestyle factors had a 13, 21, 34 and 37 percent lower risk, respectively. The researchers also noted that their analysis showed no difference between men and women.
So what can you do to lower your risk according to these findings? The healthy lifestyle index was composed of these five healthy habits:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduce abdominal body fat.
- Participate in regular physical activity.
- Limit alcohol consumption and do not smoke.
- Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, fish, yogurt, nuts, seeds, high fiber foods, and low amounts of processed meats.
If you’ve got even one of these healthy habits covered, that’s great. But the real difference in risk came into play when study participants included two to five of these habits in their lifestyle. Picking up healthy habits is easier than you might think. For example, adding just one 30-minute walk several times a week will get you to the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity to reduce risk.
If you’re a UPMC Health Plan member, get stared or stay on track with help from a health coach. They can help with weight management, nutrition, and physical activity. Some employers — like UPMC — offer credit for participating in wellness programs. Check with your employer to find out if you can receive Take a Health Step (TAHS) points for participation.
What healthy habit will you start working on today?