updated 05/21/2013 AT 12:00 PM ET
•originally published 05/22/2013 AT 2:45 PM ET
Recently, Angelina Jolie revealed that she “decided to be proactive” and underwent a preventive double mastectomy upon discovering she had the gene that would most likely cause her to develop breast cancer.
I enjoy her movies and admire her work with the U.N., but I truly respect her for being such an incredible role model for women who are faced with similar odds.
Arguably one of the most beautiful women in the world, Angelina is redefining femininity, beauty, strength, and setting an example of how WE can make decisions and take actions that can actually increase our span and quality of life.
For many, Angelina’s surgery (and her plan to undergo another surgery to remove her ovaries) may seem hard to relate to, and somewhat extreme. Not all of us are faced with the odds that Angelina faces (or should I say, DID face).
The raw truth is: If we are lucky to live long enough, most of us will develop some form of cancer. This year, more than 1 million Americans (10 million worldwide) will be diagnosed with cancer. Research tells us that only 5-10% of all cancers can be attributed to genetic defects, while the other 90-95% are caused by environment and lifestyle. In other words, most cancer is preventable.
Like Angelina, we don’t have to be passive spectators/victims. We can make smart decisions here and now, that can significantly reduce our chances of getting cancer.
Here are my 5 best cancer prevention tips:
Nearly 50 years ago, the U.S. Surgeon General Advisory Commission Report identified smoking as the primary cause of lung cancer. Millions of smoking related deaths later, people are still smoking.
Research has show that tobacco use increases the risk of developing at least 14 different types of cancer. Forget the fact that it stains your teeth, makes you smell, and may slowly kill you. It will actually kill those around you, even faster!
If you smoke, please quit. There are many support groups, patches, chewing gums and other resources that could save lives.
Reduce your alcohol intake
As early as 1910, medical research reported an increased risk of various cancers from chronic alcohol consumption.
Since then, a number of studies have revealed that chronic alcohol consumption is a risk factor for cancers of the upper digestive tract, including cancers of the mouth, throat, and esophagus, as well as for cancers of the liver, pancreas and breasts.
For those of you who think our friends in France are healthier for their love of red wine, think again. While the number of cancer related deaths in the U.S. hovers around 6%, it exceeds 20% in French men.
If you’d like to have a glass of wine a couple nights a week, fine. If you need multiple drinks most days, slow down.
Follow a Diet
Approximately ½ of all cancers are related to dietary factors. Here are the golden guidelines for a healthy cancer fighting diet.
Reduce your red meat intake.
Charcoal cooking or smoking meats are not good.
Avoid nitrates, trans fats, saturated fats, and too much refined sugar.
Increase your intake of vibrant/colorful vegetables and fruits.
Increase your intake of high-fiber whole grains (such as quinoa, barley, millet, farro, wild rice).
Manage Your Weight
Anywhere from 15 to 20% of all cancers are due to excess weight or obesity. As our society has become more modernized and as we eat more less healthy food, we have become the fattest country in the world.
My holy trinity of losing weight is:
Walk 10,000 steps a day. Get a pedometer (like a FitBit), and keep track.
Do a short resistance exercise workout most days. This will increase your resting metabolism (even while you sleep).
Eat 5 times a day (3 meals and 2 snacks). Make sure each meal has a protein (fish, chicken, Greek yogurt, eggs), a fibrous carbohydrate (veggies, fruits, whole grains), and a healthy fat (olive oil, avocado, nuts).
Avoid Environmental Pollutants
We’re all familiar with the horrible stories of carcinogenic hotbeds like all know to avoid living near the radiation fallout of Fukushima and Chernobyl, and the horrible smog of cities like Beijing, New Delhi, and Santiago. But we should be as fearful of other environmental agents such as too much sunlight (including tanning beds), second hand smoke, living in low ozone cities, and proximity to asbestos. All of these can significantly increase your chance of getting cancer.
While many things in life are out of our control, let’s take a page out of Angelina’s book, and be proactive about living longer and healthier lives.
If you have any helpful feedback for people trying to live cancer free lives, Tweet me @harleypasternak
Check back every Wednesday for more insider tips on Hollywood’s hottest bodies – and learn how to get one yourself! Plus: follow Harley on Twitter at @harleypasternak