According to a new expert study, the best health advice for surviving a cancer diagnosis when you are older: keep a healthy weight, stay active, and maintain a good diet. With that, you can help take the bite out of bad news.
The key is obviously not to give up when hit with a life-changing diagnosis of cancer. Settling into a pattern of unhealthy behavior, driven by sadness or surrender, can only make things worse. At a major conference last week for cancer prevention research, researchers reported that lifestyle decisions play a big role in allowing you to live longer after cancer diagnosis.
There are guidelines, in fact. The World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research teamed up to create guidelines for body weight, physical activity, and diet for cancer survivors. So, the new study tested to see just what difference it made to follow such guidelines.
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The researchers did so among older female cancer survivors. They found that those who kept an ideal weight, exercised, and ate a healthy diet had nearly a 40% lower risk for death, compared with women who don’t do these things.
The study comprised more than 2,000 women from the “Iowa Women’s Health Study” who were diagnosed with cancer between 1986 and 2002. In a questionnaire in 2004, they answered questions on body weight, physical activity level, dietary intake, and other demographic and lifestyle factors.
The study found 495 deaths among this population, from 2004 to 2009. Of them, 197 were caused by cancer and 153 from heart disease. (The two never fail to be the biggest determinants of death.) Researchers adjusted for age, general health, smoking, and specific aspects of the cancers, to arrive at their ultimate finding. They found that death by any cause was 37% lower for women who most closely adhered to the suggested lifestyle changes.
Those who reached the recommendations for physical activity had a lower risk for death from any cause, death from heart disease, and death from cancer. Fitness proved more important than changing the diet (though both are very good ideas). The ultimate idea: show cancer that you won’t just take it lying down.
Sources for Today’s Articles:
How to Make it Through a Cancer Diagnosis
American Association for Cancer Research web site “Adhering to Lifestyle Guidelines Reduced Mortality in Elderly Female Cancer Survivors,” October 17, 2012.