Breast Health for your Best Health

Breast health for your best healthAs women, our breasts are an important part of our anatomy, from creating our feminine figures, to feeding our children.  That’s why maintaining breast health is an essential part of our holistic health.  Just like we care for our hearts, our brains and our digestive systems, our breasts need care and support as well.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we are exploring the best practices for your breast health:

Breast Exam Plan:  When we think of breast health, most of us first think of breast cancer.  Breast cancer is one of the leading cancers among women in the U.S., however when it is detected early, it is not deadly.  Women should have a breast exam plan that includes monthly self breast exams, yearly clinical exams, and regular mammograms starting at age 40.  Although breast cancer is not always accompanied by signs and symptoms, having a plan that will increase your chances of early detection is the best way to protect yourself from breast cancer.  Also, know your risk factors, such as genetics, family history and lifestyle choices, and discuss them with your physician.

Know Your Breasts:  No one will ever know your body as well as you do.  When you know what is normal for your breasts, you will better be able to tell when something is abnormal.  Many non-cancer related breast conditions can occur, like cysts, fibrosis, duct issues, swelling and age-related changes, which may cause pain or discomfort.  Having a baseline for normalcy of your breasts can help your doctors diagnose your situation and bring you relief.

Childbirth, Breastfeeding and Hormones:  Although there are many risk factors for breast cancer and other diseases that effect women, childbirth, breastfeeding and hormone therapies play a role in breast and overall health.  Researchers believe that being pregnant and breastfeeding slightly lowers the risk of several types of cancer that are impacted by hormones, including breast cancer.  The theory is that women who have less menstrual periods have less fluctuations of certain hormones that may lead to cancer.  Women have no menstrual cycles when they are pregnant, of course, and fewer menstrual cycles while breastfeeding.  Therefore, the more time you spend in these two circumstances, you may slightly lower your risk of disease.  Similarly, women who start their menstrual cycles late and end them early have less risk too.  Hormone therapies, including birth control and replacement medications during menopause, can increase risk of breast health issues.

L347-PinkGingham-165x218Wear Comfortable Bras that Fit Your Body:  We are each gifted with breasts that are as unique as ourselves.  Finding comfortable bras that fit your breasts and your body is a crucial part of caring for breasts.   Not only will a well-fitting, comfy bra go unnoticed throughout your day, it can also improve support for your entire upper body.  After all, a bra is not just made of cups to support your breasts.  It also has straps to disperse weight across your shoulders and back, two areas that can be affected by an ill-fitting bra.  Your bras should lift and slightly compress your breasts to avoid excessive bounce.  No part of your bra should dig into your skin or ever leave a mark.  Bras with wider or lightly padded straps and multiple hook-and-eye closers will give you maximum comfort, flexibility and breathability for your lifestyle.  Many women believe the myth that breastfeeding causes breasts to sag.  That’s not true, but an improper bra can cause sagging over time.  That’s why women with larger breasts or whose breasts have expanded during breastfeeding should never go without a bra, even while sleeping.

Stay Healthy:  We can’t talk about breast health without talking about healthy lifestyle choices.  Our bodies are a intricate interconnected machine and each area affects the next.  As with any aspect of our health, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is essential.  Foods with a high concentration of antioxidants, lean protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber are all part of a wholesome diet.  Be sure to stay active by doing exercise that also makes you happy.  That means you don’t have to hit the gym everyday if you prefer playing tennis, biking or swimming as your workout. Limit excessive fat intake and alcohol consumption and never smoke.  Maintaining a healthy weight is also important for health, especially breast health. Women whose weight fluctuates tend to have saggier breasts because of the constant expansion and contraction of breast tissue.

Cheers to your breast health for your best health!