The Breast Cancer Cholesterol Connection
Posted on Oct 14, 2021
Scientists have long struggled to understand why women with heart disease risk factors are more likely to develop breast cancer. Now research suggests that high cholesterol may play an important role.
Estrogen drives the majority of breast cancers in women. The hormone binds to proteins known as receptors inside the tumor, helping it grow. Research is showing that when cholesterol breaks down in the body, a common byproduct of that process can increase tumor growth in human breast cancer cells. Studies are also showing that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may slow the progression of some breast cancers. Further research is being conducted to better understand the exact connection of high blood cholesterol levels and breast cancer.
Meantime, women are encouraged to take these steps to increase their overall health and hopefully reduce their breast cancer risk:
- Reduce saturated fats. Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol. Decreasing your consumption of saturated fats can reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol.
- Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats, sometimes listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” are often used in margarines and store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes. Trans fats raise overall cholesterol levels.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL cholesterol. But they have other heart-healthy benefits, including reducing blood pressure. Foods
with omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, mackerel, herring, walnuts and flaxseeds.
- Increase soluble fiber. Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Soluble fiber is found in such foods as oatmeal, kidney beans, brussel sprouts, apples and pears.
Exercise on most days of the week and increase your physical activity
- Exercise can improve cholesterol levels. Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. Work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes three times a week.
- Adding physical activity, even in short intervals several times a day, improves cholesterol levels. Consider taking a brisk daily walk during your lunch hour, riding your bike to work, or playing a favorite sport. To stay motivated, consider finding an exercise buddy or join an exercise group.
Lose weight, don’t smoke and drink alcohol only in moderation
- Carrying even a few extra pounds contributes to high cholesterol. Smoking alone substantially increases breast cancer and lung cancer risk. Moderate use of alcohol has been linked with higher levels of HDL cholesterol. Keep your alcohol consumption to 6 ounces per day.
Sometimes healthy lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower cholesterol levels. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are extremely effective when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise. If your doctor recommends medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed while continuing your lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can help you keep your medication dose low.
Filed in Current Health News
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