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Golden Years or Cancer Years? Healthy Choices Can Make a Difference

Publication: Healthy Magazine, McAllen

With smart personal financial planning and a dose of luck, your so called “golden years” can be, well, mostly golden. But are you also engaging in smart personal health planning? You may be carefully tracking the numbers associated with your 401K, but do you pay close attention to more vital data points, like your cholesterol level, weight, or blood pressure?

Your investment strategy likely is focused on reducing risk in advance of retirement. Unfortunately, health risks follow a different track. In fact, American Cancer Society statistics show that cancer risk peaks between the ages of 60 and 70 for both men and women. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead, to “invest” in mitigating disease risk through a concerted effort to live a healthy lifestyle.

Other ACS data suggests many people have adopted this approach, as an estimated more than 1.3 million cancer deaths have been prevented in the U.S. since 1991 – thanks to healthy habits that start long before cancer is top of mind. Whatever your age, it’s never too late for healthy habits to make a difference. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and avoiding tobacco use are pillars of a healthy lifestyle that helps prevent cancer and many other health issues.

For 50 years, doctors have known that tobacco use causes lung cancer, but it’s less well-known that tobacco also is tied to at least 15 other cancers. For those still using tobacco, it’s not too late to benefit from quitting. Smokers who quit faced a lower risk of five cancers and stroke after only five years. Avoiding tobacco use is a sure way to lower risk of many cancers, but it’s only one piece in the puzzle.

Diet and exercise habits develop over a lifetime, and the longer you practice good habits, the easier they are to maintain. A healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats can help reduce risk of many cancers. A healthy diet also means cutting down on unhealthy foods: avoid heavy consumption of high-fat foods; red or processed meat; salty, pickled, or smoked foods. Drink alcohol in moderation – no more than one drink per day for women, and no more than two drinks per day for men.

Getting regular exercise – at least 150 minutes per week – can decrease cancer risk. For cancer patients and survivors, remaining active helps manage the side effects of treatment and reduces risk of recurrence.

Healthy living also means following recommended guidelines for cancer screening. Early detection – finding cancer before its symptoms are apparent, and when it is most treatable – remains a key to fighting the disease. Symptoms for many cancers are not obvious until the disease has reached an advanced and more difficult to fight stage. Screening guidelines vary according to age, family history, and gender, but everyone can fight cancer by staying current on their screenings, and starting a habit of monthly self-checks for skin and breast or testicular cancer.

Investing in the stock market or your personal health does not come with guarantees. But being proactive and thoughtful can deliver gratifying results. It is never too late to form habits that fight cancer. Through healthy living and screening, everyone can lower their risk and help beat the odds of your golden years becoming cancer years. For more on healthy living and cancer screenings, visit


This story originally appeared in Healthy Magazine. To view this story, please click here.

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