Is alcohol healthy – and how much is OK?
Consume it in moderation. Having a glass or so of red wine a couple of times a week has a health benefit in many people.
On the down side, alcohol can slightly increase risk for breast cancer.
What about sodas and caffeinated drinks?
Soda is just a big bowl of sugar that makes your insulin go through the roof.
Stick to what’s natural, [such as] tea and coffee – beverages that have been around for thousands of years.
But don’t take shots of high-energy drinks. Too much caffeine at once causes the heart to beat irregularly; it leads to thousands of emergency-room visits each year.[Editor’s note: Nearly 21,000 people visited U.S. emergency rooms in 2011 for problems related to energy drinks, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.] What can people do to reduce their cancer risk?
Take a [substance] that’s been around for 2,400 years: One baby aspirin every day, after the age of 40, will reduce [your chances of getting] cancer, and reduce the death rate from [some] cancers by 57%.
Aspirin can also reduce the risk of heart disease by 22% and stroke by 17%.
Also, statin drugs lower cholesterol, inflammation and the risk of cancer and heart disease.[Editor’s note: Over-the-counter medications such as aspirin and prescription drugs such as statins can have unwelcome side effects over time; consult your doctor before taking them.]
Colon cancer can be avoided if you get a colonoscopy after age 50. If your doctor discovers a polyp [a piece of tissue that grows on the lining of the colon or rectum], it can be removed before it becomes cancer.
When should women be checked for breast cancer?
When you have your first mammogram depends on your personal breast cancer risk.
You’re at high risk if your mother [or grandmother or sister] had it. Then you should get a mammogram at age 40.
If there’s no breast cancer in your family, get it at age 50.
You need to talk to your mom and Aunt Marge, find out which diseases are in your family and take that information to your doctor. Come up with a strategy that fits you and review it every 5 years.
Some women – those with dense breasts or who have the BRCA gene mutation – may need an MRI or ultrasound too.
Breast imaging is important, but so is the doctor’s exam. You should also learn to do a self-exam once a month.
If you have cystic breasts [a benign condition that can cause lumps and pain], avoid caffeine for a few days before you check your breasts. Caffeine makes your breast more cystic, which makes a self-exam more difficult.
We know that if you catch breast cancer early, you’ll live better and longer. So stay on top of your exams.
What are some other ways we can take charge of our own health?
Get naked in front of a mirror. See if your stomach is starting to stick out more – which could indicate cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes or colorectal cancer – or you’re starting to lose hair on your legs, [which may indicate a circulatory problem or other conditions]. Check for changes in your moles [which could be a sign of skin cancer].
Write down any changes you see and talk to your doctor about them.
Your doctor sees you once a year. They’re not going to remember changes in you, but you’ll know by looking at yourself all the time.
Also, listen to your body. If you’re 30 and your back is starting to hurt, it’s saying, “You’ve got 60 more years with that spine. Unless you act now, you [won’t] enjoy them like you should.”
You need to take steps to build up your back muscles. Maybe you need to focus on yogaor stretching. Don’t ignore the pain.
Want more of Dr. Agus’ healthful advice? Watch the exclusive video at the top of page 1.
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