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iStock_000011750431Medium.jpgBy Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D.

It's that time of year ... when we resolve to lose weight, exercise more and eat more healthfully.

Changes like these can reduce our chances of developing cancer and improve our overall health and quality of life. But our experience and studies show that New Year's resolutions often fall by the wayside a few weeks into the year. We know what we need to do, and have good intentions, but most of us are not able to turn resolutions into reality.

If you're serious about making changes, consider the following tips.

bowl of fruit.jpgBy Brittany Cordeiro

As a cancer caregiver, you face unique challenges. The loved one you're nurturing often requires your time, energy and attention, making it hard to focus on your health and wellness.

But an unhealthy caregiver could do more harm than good. Your loved one needs you to stay in fighting shape, so you can provide the care he or she needs. Plus, maintaining a healthy diet and weight helps lower your cancer risks.  

Not sure where to start?

"Research shows that making small changes can lead to bigger diet changes over time and better health," says Mary Ellen Herndon, a wellness dietitian at MD Anderson.

Try these smart food tips to maintain good health.

Dine out less
"Restaurant foods are usually loaded with extra fat, salt and calories," Herndon says. "Eating out or getting takeout even just a few times a week can cause weight gain over time."

berries and weights - energy foods.JPGBy Katie Bispeck


It is well-known that obesity is an enormous problem in the United States. More than one-third of U.S. adults are considered obese. 18%  of children ages 6-11 and 18% of adolescents ages 12-19 are obese.

Obesity has been shown to contribute to the development of many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol and osteoarthritis.

But research also shows that obesity can increase a person's risk of many types of cancer, including breast (after menopause), colon and rectum, endometrial, esophageal (adenocarcinoma), kidney, thyroid, gallbladder and pancreatic cancers.

Scientists say that obesity will soon be the number one preventable cause of cancer and that we should expect to see about 500,000 new cases of cancer as a result of obesity by 2030.

Defining obesity: What your BMI means
The term obese is used to describe a person with an unhealthy proportion of body fat. It's measured by taking a ratio of height-versus-weight. This is called your Body Mass Index (BMI). Adults with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese. This is typically 50 pounds overweight.

To determine your own BMI, take your weight (kilograms) and divide it by your height (meters squared).

Obesity has become such an important issue that the American Medical Association has recently classified it as a disease.

apple and girl.jpg

By Brittany Cordeiro 

When caring for a loved one, your health and wellness may often take a backseat. All your time and energy is devoted to nurturing your friend or family member. You grab fast food at the hospital or skip meals entirely to stay by his or her side.

But as a caregiver, it's essential you stay healthy so you can better care for your loved one. In addition, you'll be in better shape to fight off diseases like cancer.

"Research shows that making small changes can lead to bigger diet changes over time and better health," says Mary Ellen Herndon, a wellness dietician at MD Anderson.

Try these tips to maintain good health with a balanced diet.

active man

One in two men will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. And, one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in American men, just behind lung cancer.

So, what can men do to protect themselves from cancer? We recently spoke with John Papadopoulos, M.D., assistant professor of Urology. He works at the MD Anderson Regional Care Center in Katy.

Here's what Dr. Papadopoulos had to say.

What are some easy tips for men to help men prevent cancer?

There are a lot of things men can do to protect themselves from cancer:

  • Avoid tobacco - even celebratory cigars - and limit alcohol to no more than two drinks per day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and stay physically active each day.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Make fruits and vegetables the biggest part of every meal and go easy on the meat. Limit the amount of red meat you eat to 18 oz. week and avoid processed meats like hot dogs and pepperoni. 
  • Wear sunscreen and practice sun safety. 
  • See a doctor regularly and get the screening exams you need. Many men avoid seeing a doctor because they're afraid, but if you do have a chronic disease like cancer, diabetes or heart disease, the earlier we catch it, the easier it will be to treat. 

Keep in mind that doing these things doesn't guarantee you won't get cancer. But living a healthy lifestyle can put you in fighting shape if you do develop cancer.

READ: Men: Health for your age

What cancer screening exams do men need? And, when should most men start screening?

Most men need both a prostate exam (digital rectal exam and PSA test) and a colonoscopy starting at age 50. This is the appropriate age for screening if you don't have a family history (father, son, brother) of prostate or colon cancer and you're not African American, which can make you more likely to develop these cancers.

Family Grilling cw.JPGBy Amber Presely, MD Anderson Staff Writer

While you spend time with friends and family and celebrate our veterans this Memorial Day weekend, don't take a vacation from making healthy choices. A healthy lifestyle can help reduce your chances of developing cancer, so make the holiday a healthy one.

Use these tips to stay healthy and help prevent cancer.

1. Fit in activity
Taking a family road trip for the long holiday weekend? Try to schedule time in your trip to stop for a bike ride or brisk walk. Or get the family moving by kicking around a soccer ball or throwing a Frisbee for a few minutes.

Sitting less and adding more activity to your day can help lower your risks for many cancers. Get more tips to make your road trip healthy.

salad bar CW.JPGBy Joey Tran, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases, according to the American Cancer Society. Making healthy food choices may also help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your body in fighting shape if you do have cancer.

However, making healthy choices can be challenging when you're dining out. That's especially true if you're eating here at MD Anderson, when you already have many other things on your mind.

To make the best out of your healthy dining experience at MD Anderson, Ashley Smith, health and wellness manager of the department of Dining Services, has provided the following smart-eating strategies.

quinoa.JPGBy Amber Presley

If you're focused on eating a balanced diet, don't forget your whole grains!

A diet rich in whole grains may help curb your risk of colon cancer - the third most common cancer among Americans.

In addition to helping prevent cancer, fiber from whole grains can help you stay full longer and maintain a healthy weight.

"Studies show that most Americans aren't eating enough whole grains," says Mary Ellen Herndon, a wellness dietitian at MD Anderson and the Healthy Bites challenge coach. "This means they're potentially missing out on vital nutrients."

So, how can you make sure you're getting enough whole grains in your diet? Use these resources from our Healthy Bites challenge to find out.

healthy bites 2.JPGBy Amber Presley

Most people kicked off the New Year with plans for a healthier 2013. But many of us have already fallen off track.
    
Luckily, it's never too late to refocus. MD Anderson's Healthy Bites challenge is perfect for anyone who wants to take small steps to better health. 

"Each month, Healthy Bites focuses on one diet change that can potentially reduce your risk for cancer," says Mary Ellen Herndon, a wellness dietitian at MD Anderson and the Healthy Bites challenge coach. "Last month, we focused on eating breakfast every day. In February, we're asking you to eat a healthy meal or snack every five to six hours."

Below, Herndon shares answers to questions she's received from Healthy Bites participants. 

improve your diet and take Healthy Bites.JPGWant to jumpstart your healthy new year? MD Anderson's Healthy Bites challenge may be perfect for you.

"Healthy Bites helps adults take small steps toward adopting a healthier diet," says Mary Ellen Herndon, a wellness dietitian at MD Anderson and the Healthy Bites challenge coach. "Each month, we encourage participants to focus on one diet change that can potentially reduce their risk for cancer."

Want to learn more? Below, Herndon answers frequently-asked questions about nutrition, dieting and Healthy Bites.

What's the best diet for preventing cancer?

Truthfully, I don't recommend a specific diet. Instead, I tell people to focus on a lifestyle and mindset change.

Want to stay cancer-free? Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, along with regular exercise, can help.

This year, our experts offered advice for staying healthy.

eating_healthy_during_the_holidays.JPGBy Alicia Beltran

The holidays are upon us, and that means plenty of delicious temptations just begging to add calories to your diet. But you can keep yourself healthy and avoid post-holiday guilt by using these tips this holiday season.

Focus on portion size
Portion control can make a big difference in avoiding weight gain during the holidays and year-round. No matter what you're eating, be sure to eat small portions. This way, you get to taste everything without too much guilt. Try these tips:

  • Choose turkey over ham. And, instead of eating three slices of turkey, have just one.
  • Pause between bites, and stop when you are satisfied. Don't overeat. Instead, savor small amounts of each dish.
Plan ahead and balance your calories
  • If you know you have a dinner party that night, choose a healthy light breakfast like oatmeal or toast and a light lunch like a salad and half a sandwich.
  • In between meals, eat healthy snacks such as fruit or sliced vegetables.
  • Having a brunch celebration? Eat a light dinner, such as a salad.

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