We’re constantly presented, from all angles, with the virtues of a healthy lifestyle. Walk down a high street and you’ll see billboards plastered with carefully manufactured images of “natural” good health. A healthy lifestyle is treated as little more than a beauty product; a means by which we too can achieve the well toned images of airbrushed perfection that emblazon the adverts we encounter every day in the digital realm and real life. But of course, a slim and beautiful body isn’t the same thing as a healthy one. Beauty may only be skin deep, while good health cuts right through to the bone. The trouble is that modern living is rarely conducive to lasting good health. As our means of earning a crust becomes more sedentary and we become increasingly deskbound, we are more busy and yet less active than ever. Barely a day passes when some late breaking news report doesn’t remind us how our busy and frantic lifestyles and reliance on convenience foods is slowly but surely draining our life expectancy, and increasing our risk of illness. Just look at all the damage that day after day spent sitting does to your body.

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If we’re to truly embrace a healthy lifestyle we must do so not only for cosmetic reasons but to keep potentially life threatening illnesses at bay. We all know that an healthy and active lifestyle reduces your risk of heart disease and even dementia but here we’ll look at some ways in which it also reduces your risk of an illness so dreaded, feared and misunderstood that many of us are afraid to even mention it by name.

It’s okay to use the C word

Cancer is not something we should fear, hide from or sweep under the rug. It’s something that we should guard against at all times. Thanks to tireless research, new treatments are developing all the time to help people combat this terrible affliction. Recent advances in stem cell research have led to a b-cell maturation antigen that can be very effective in combating some types of blood cancer. But aside from helping to fund this important and life saving research by donating to a charity like Cancer Research UK we should all also do our best to reduce our risk. Prevention, after all, is always the best cure. While we’re still a long way from completely understanding this dreaded illness, our understanding has improved drastically over the past century. We know enough to be able to mitigate the risks while also pursuing a healthier and happier life. Here we’ll look at some important ways in which we can all reduce our risk of cancer while also improving our quality of life. I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are important factors. Instead we’ll look at more actionable changes you can start making today…

The food, the whole food and nothing but the food

We’re all working harder and for longer hours than ever before and after 8-12 hours at work, most of us want nothing more than to just vegetate in front of the TV with a takeaway or a microwaved ready meal. But our reliance on processed or fast foods has been directly linked to cancer. The trouble is that these foods are pretty hard to avoid. They’re marketed by experts to be extra tempting and appealing and they’re precision engineered to light up the pleasure centres of our brains. They’re also extremely ubiquitous. Let’s face it, it’s much easier to order a pizza than cook a meal from scratch.

Nonetheless, eschewing whole foods cooked from scratch in favour of ready made or processed foods with a list of ingredients that contains more numbers than letters is amongst the highest cancer risk factors, right up there with smoking.

Embrace the power of plants

Veganism isn’t a panacea that’s proven to solve all health problems, but it is fair to say that those who eat more plants and less of everything else have a reduced risk of cancer. This is because most red meats contain high concentrations of heme iron which is proven to have cancer inducing properties. Moreover, processed meats like the ham, salami, pastrami or pepperoni you put on your sandwiches have been defined by the World Health Organisation as Type 1 carcinogens. That’s the same category as cigarettes!

This is one of the reasons more and more people are turning to a whole foods plant based diet, but even if you don’t feel like eschewing meat and dairy altogether, increasing your intake of plants means that you’ll be getting a lot more phytonutrients that are proven to help keep cancer at bay. Here are some extremely potent immune boosting foods and check out our own recipe for immune boosting tea.

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Get on your bike

Exercise is a key factor in mitigating cancer risk. Physical activity helps you to stay at a manageable weight and stimulates healthy immune function. Getting two and a half hours of moderate intensity exercise (e.g. a brisk walk or a leisurely cycle) as well as an hour and a quarter of more vigorous exercise a week can reduce your risk of several cancers including breast, endometrium, prostate, and colon cancer. Cycling is a particularly useful form of exercise not just because it is physically stimulating but because it also brings with it mental health and other wellness benefits. Just stay off the busy and congested city centre roads wherever possible. Try to stick to little used country roads, parks, dirt paths and open spaces. Ingesting noxious vehicle emissions can have carcinogenic properties while access to nature is a proven mood booster that’s more likely to make you actually want to get out and on your bike.

Get checked regularly

Nobody likes the non specific sense of unease that comes with sitting in a doctor’s waiting room and some employers can get sniffy when it comes to affording you time off work. But the simple fact is that regular medical checkups can not only help to detect early warning signs of cancer but can also set your mind at ease when you encounter worrying signs like lumps here and there or freckles that you swear weren’t there yesterday.

When you’re vigilant and maintain a healthy lifestyle, you will reap the benefits for the rest of your long and happy life!

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