DR. ISLAM: Yes, diet and exercise matter

We can all agree that our diet is important. We realize that it’s best to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. We’ve read the articles and heard testimonials from our friends about the health benefits of whole grains versus products made from enriched white flour.

Those same friends who order a salad when you order a burger and fries invite us to meet them at the gym, insisting that we’ll feel better if we exercise. And we believe them. But sometimes that knowledge isn’t enough to motivate us to change our lifestyle habits. We’re set in a routine of picking up dinner on the way home from work, or tossing frozen chicken nuggets in the oven for the kids. We look at our hectic schedules and wonder when we could possibly fit in even half an hour at the gym.

If this is you, maybe you need some extra motivation, a really good incentive to start making some changes. There might not be a monetary value on the table, but if your food and exercise choices could help you envision your future free from colon cancer, would you consider it? A recent study from the American Institute for Cancer Research reveals that 47% of colorectal cancers could be avoided by a healthy lifestyle.

What’s diet got to do with it?

The American Cancer Society also agrees that those who consume a healthy diet significantly lower their risk for colorectal cancer. The study from the American Institute for Cancer Research reveals that a regular diet of red meat and processed meats — such as sausage, bacon and cold cuts—increases a risk for colorectal cancer. Some researchers link the iron content in these meats to a rise in cancerous tumors.

The study also offers a warning to those who drink alcohol. Consuming at least two glasses of wine, two beers or two cocktails every day puts you at a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer. So if you do drink alcohol, be sure to drink in moderation. As you adjust your grocery list to remove red and processed meats, be sure to add whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables which are high in fiber.

Research indicates that consuming three servings of whole grains each day lowers your risk for colorectal cancer by 17 percent. One serving of whole grains includes a cup of cereal, a slice of bread, and half a cup of cooked pasta or rice. (Make sure you read labels and are purchasing these items as whole grain, not simply whole wheat.) Taking a fiber supplement is not equivalent to eating whole grains, fruits and veggies.

The study suggests that the chemical compounds found in products that naturally contain fiber may also aid in lowering the risk for colorectal cancer. Consuming less meat and more fruits, veggies and whole grains will also help you maintain a healthy weight. People who are obese or overweight are at a higher risk for developing cancer.

What’s exercise got to do with it?

Along with eating the right kinds of food, there is no doubt that exercise will help keep your weight at a healthy level and remove excess fat, a key factor in raising risk for colorectal cancer. People who have an active lifestyle are 20% less likely to develop colon cancer. Exercise and physical activity is not limited to training at the gym.

Going for a walk or a jog every day and limiting screen time so that you do something other than sit or lie down will help you avoid a dangerous sedentary lifestyle. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults participate in 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity throughout the week.

Children are encouraged to get 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity every day. Not only will this help you feel better and maintain a healthy weight, but will significantly impact your overall health and reduce your risk for various cancers.

If you have questions or concerns about your diet, weight, or risk for colorectal cancer, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider today. Don’t wait another day to take control of your health.