February is National Cancer Prevention Month!
Sponsored by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), February is a good month to initiate some gradual changes in our lives to prevent cancer. AICR's website provides guidelines for simple dietary changes that will help anyone: make every meal 2/3 fruits, vegetables and whole grains and 1/3 animal products (eggs, cheese, fish or meat). Plant-based diets are high in micronutrients, and research is only beginning to uncover their benefits. Over time, this strategy will decrease dietary intake of fats and help maintain or achieve a healthy weight. Research cited on the AICR's website indicates exercise also plays a role in cancer prevention. The recommendations are to walk an hour a day and add an hour a week of vigorous exercise.
Prevention is a complex subject and is just one aspect of the concept of Wellness. AICR's recommendations cover the Physical aspect of cancer prevention, but the Mind and your status in Community are integral aspects of the Wellness Triad. Holistic health and Integrative Medicine are health care fields that promote Wellness. Mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual factors, the realm of the Mind, play powerful roles in our state of health. No matter what your religious background or beliefs, meditation is a simple practice that can be used to promote health and modulate thought and feelings. Meditation has been practiced by humans for millenia. It just so happens that as of this writing I am reading a translation of The Ramayana, the epic Hindu poem written in the 4th century BCE. Meditation, mind control and telepathic communication are what makes the hero, Rama, so great. Meditation has been studied by researchers who have found it to be a cost-effective (free!) way of reducing stress and pain and improving health. It is not necessary to meditate in any particular position. The picture above is of a labyrinth, a ubiquitous symbol throughout human culture that can be used for Walking Meditations.
In the Wellness Triad, Community encompasses the environment, relationships and family, occupation and workplace, insurance and socioeconomic status, housing and transportation, recreational and cultural opportunities, and education. Loneliness and loss weaken our immune system and leave us susceptible to many illnesses, including cancer. We may be eating right, exercising, relaxed with a positive outlook, but if we are exposed to toxic fumes or something as mundane as the pollen count being high, we are not going to feel well. Take a Wellness Inventory of these aspects of your life, and choose one change that you can make this month to prevent cancer!
Photo courtesy of Atomische.com