Cancer survivors are at increased risk for certain other diseases, such as osteoporosis—a condition in which the bones become less dense and likely to fracture—and diabetes. The reason is that medications that decrease the risk of recurrence can reduce levels of circulating hormones throughout the body that build bone. Some medicines may also affect your blood sugar, which may affect risk for diabetes. To help keep these diseases at bay, follow these common sense tips:
- Eat a diet high in calcium and vitamin D. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products, green leafy vegetable and calcium-fortified foods. Foods with vitamin D include fortified cereals and milk.
- Take a calcium supplement with vitamin D. (Always check with your doctor before you take any type of supplement.)
- Do weight-bearing exercise according to your tolerance level. This kind of exercise forces you to work against gravity. Weight-bearing exercises include walking, climbing stairs, lifting weights and dancing.
- Stop smoking and reduce alcohol consumption. These habits can affect bone health and cause you to absorb less calcium from your diet.
- Eat a variety of foods, including vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nonfat dairy products and lean meats like poultry and fish.
- Pick foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber over those that are processed.
- Aim for at least 20 minutes of physical activity each day. Good physical activities include walking, gardening, swimming or cleaning house. For the most benefit, physical activity should raise your heart rate and cause you to break into a light sweat.
- For the most benefit from exercise, choose activities that are aerobic, provide strength training and keep you flexible, such as walking, dancing, swimming, working with weights and yoga.
Adapted from Reduce Your Cancer Risk: Twelve Steps to a Healthier Life (Demos Health, American Cancer Society, 2010)