A new study from the National Cancer Institute has found that women with a normal body mass index (BMI) at age 20 who gained a pound a year are at twice the risk for post-menopausal breast cancer when compared to women who did not gain weight as they aged. There are many risk factors for breast cancer, including family history, your age when you first menstruated, or the age that you gave birth, but weight gain is a major risk factor. Weight gain accumulates excess body fat, which in turn increases the level of estrogen, a major element in fueling the growth of post-menopausal breast cancer.
It can be frustrating to keep your weight down, especially since your metabolism slows down as you age, but with some effort and planning using the following tips, you can reduce your risk of post-menopausal breast cancer:
- Reduce your calories and increase your activity. The simplest way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories and burn more through increased physical activity. One pound of body fat is equivalent to about 3,500 calories, so if you can reduce your calories by 300 a day and burn 200 a day with additional activity, you can lose a pound a week.
- Build muscle. Your metabolism will remain high as you age if you build muscle, which burns more calories than fat. Additionally, you begin to shed muscle after the age of 40, so it’s important to maintain your muscle levels as well.
- Watch out for hormonal birth control. Many birth control methods are known to cause weight gain in some women. If you’re experiencing weight gain when using birth control pills, intrauterine devices, or a shot like Depo-Provera, talk to your doctor about an alternative method.
- Get quality sleep. Your risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome can increase with too little sleep. In addition, your body won’t produce enough leptin, a hormone that regulates your hunger drive, and so sleep deprivation can lead to overeating.
- Eat several small meals a day. By eating one small meal every three hours, you can control your eating and resist binge eating. This type of approach can also help boost your metabolism and regulate your blood-sugar levels. Limit your meals to 250 to 300 calories each and make sure they have a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Tracking your progress can help you see how these small changes make a difference. You don’t have to be a slave to your scale, but weighing yourself regularly will help you to keep on track and maintain the healthy weight that you want.