Good health begins early in life. Cancer should no longer be considered an age-related disease. Young adults do get cancer. While current statistics suggest that as we age our risk for cancer increases, that is not a hard fact. Evidence shows that early changes in behavior and lifestyle could prevent future cancers. Read on for 9 healthy habits to start in your 20’s.
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Cancer Can Strike in Your 20’s
I recently met a woman in her 20’s who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her adult life was just starting, and here she was faced with this horrible disease. She was single, no children and enrolled in university.
This very young woman was about to have a mastectomy. Chemotherapy threatened to prevent her from having children. Treatments would interrupt her studies and delay her career. What would dating be like after all this? Her friends were already ghosting her. They didn’t know how to deal with cancer either. Life in your 20’s should not be filled with such things.
Around the same time, a wonderful young blogger friend of mine offered to write about healthy habits to start in your 20’s. What a perfect and timely article to have on Pink Ribbon Runner.
Katie started her blog, Kaybee Lives to help young adults simplify their lives and focus energy on things that really matter. She provides useful and relevant information to help you grow and live life to the fullest. She blogs about balancing life and developing healthy habits. Her subscribers receive weekly self-care tips, positive news, reminders and other fun things.
So, please welcome Katie as our guest writer on Pink Ribbon Runner.
9 Healthy Habits to Start in Your 20’s to Prevent Cancer
While it is not widely talked about in the media, cancer is impacting the lives of people in their 20’s and 30’s more often than ever. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent or cure cancer in anyone, there are some lifestyle habits you can develop to give your body the best chance of fighting early developing cancerous cells itself. Here are nine healthy habits to start in your 20’s to prevent cancer.
Where previously, people in their early adult years were thought of as invincible, we are seeing much more evidence that this just isn’t true anymore. More people are facing a cancer diagnosis in their 20’s and 30’s than in generations before. It is even more important than ever to develop these healthy habits to start in your 20’s as preventive medicine.
Scientific studies are starting to pick up on this increasing trend. In a recent study of cancer trends in the US, researchers reported a 39% increase in the rate of cancer diagnoses for people aged 15 to 39 years old when comparing the years between 1973 and 2015.
Developing healthy habits in your 20’s and continuing them throughout your life could help reduce your risk of developing cancer or other chronic health conditions as you age. Plus, these habits will help you look and feel younger and be more energetic! Who doesn’t want that!
1. Include Colorful Fruits and Veggies in Your Diet
Fruits and veggies are nutritional powerhouses. They provide the following tools to help keep your body healthy:
- Fiber may not be an exciting topic, but it is hugely important to your health. It reduces inflammation in the body, lowers risk for disease, aids in digestive health, and increases absorption of nutrients. You can read more depth on this topic in this post all about fiber!
- Antioxidants are found in most fruits and veggies. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals that can damage cell DNA and lead to an increased cancer risk. These little damage fighters come in different varieties and are often tied to the bright colors of different fruits and veggies.
- Most fruits and veggies are lower in calories per cup than other food types containing carbohydrates, fats and proteins. This allows you to eat enough to feel full, while having a reduced calorie diet which can help you maintain a healthy weight.
It is ok to start slow with this habit. Get into the routine to eat ½ of your plate in veggies for dinner each night. I usually split that into two different kinds of veggies with each meal to keep it interesting. Once you have that mastered, add in a fresh fruit snack each morning, and a fresh veggie snack each afternoon.
2. Practice Regular Self-Care Starting in Your 20’s
While many self-care activities do not directly reduce your cancer risk, regular self-care is key in preventing chronic or acute stress which can cause damage to your immune system.
Daily or chronic stress causes an increase in free radicals which cause damage to your cells. This damage can be repaired by your body, with the help of antioxidants, the repair does not return your cells to perfect original condition. The more damage to your cells, the higher likelihood that those cells will become cancerous.
By taking time out of your busy day to do yoga, meditate, read a book, or go on a walk around the block, you can lower the damage causing stress and anxiety that is such a huge part of our lives today. If you need self-care ideas, you can find 75 ideas in my post here.
Self-care is not a one and done fix. It needs to be an ongoing habit.
3. Discuss Vitamins and Other Supplements with Your Doctor
According to a study of nearly 15,000 middle aged and older men for 11 years taking a daily multivitamin may lower the risk of cancer by approximately 8%. Researchers surmise that the wide variety of vitamins and minerals found in multivitamins can supplement and fill any nutrient gaps found in your healthy diet.
The unique needs of each person makes adding vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and other supplements a complex process. Many of these can have interactions with other medicines and treatments. There are so many different opinions and products available in this area, it is best to talk to your doctor to learn how to best include a vitamin supplement in your life.
One vitamin you can get without eating or taking any supplement is vitamin D. It is often referred to as the Sunshine Vitamin, because you can get all you need from exposing your skin to sunshine and letting your body create it. There are huge benefits from getting the proper amount of vitamin D and you can read more about it here. Now, go spend five minutes outside and get this habit started!
“The time to build your future is in your teenage years and your 20s, but equally, in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.”
– Lukasz Laniecki –
4. Practice Self-Kindness in Your 20’s and Beyond
Repeated toxic, self deprecating, or negative thoughts can cause the same free radical damaging effects in your body as chronic stress. Having compassionate or kind thoughts towards yourself can prevent this damage to your physical body, and will also have huge emotional wellness impacts.
Some ways to practice a habit of self-kindness include writing a gratitude journal, taking a mindful walk, or repeating encouraging and uplifting affirmations. Pick one that speaks to you and start it this week!
If self-kindness is difficult for you, I found this book on self-compassion to be incredibly helpful as I learned about self-kindness. I always had a harsh critical inner voice, through my younger years and have taken intentional effort the past three years to work on treating myself with the same kindness I would treat a friend with. It has been a difficult journey, and I am not at the end (yet!), but this book has helped me tremendously.
5. Eat Real Food to Lower Risk of Cancer
This habit goes deeper than eating your fruits and veggies. By keeping your diet full of real, minimally processed foods, you are able to better ensure that the fuel for your body is helping you be healthier rather than aiding in your health problems.
By starting with whole foods, rather than boxed mixes or prepared foods you will know exactly what is included in your meal. A boxed Mac and cheese mix may have 20 different ingredients, but the roasted butternut squash I had with dinner last night had four (squash, olive oil, salt, and pepper), and I was in control of all of them.
Examples of cancer fighting real foods that can be added include organic fruits and veggies, whole grain rice or other carbs, lean wild or free range protein, lentils and other pulse’s, and healthy plant based fats.
Depending on your current diet, this may be a huge change in your life. Don’t get overwhelmed and throw away all of your food! Start slowly by replacing food items you use up with less processed or healthier alternatives and within a couple of months you will have made big changes to your diet.
6. Be Active and Include Yoga Practice
Movement and muscle development is critical in keeping your body healthy. Any sort of regular, strenuous exercise is beneficial to keeping you strong and preventing weight gain. Especially if you have a sedentary job that requires you to sit during the day, having a daily exercise habit is vital.
If you are not sure where to begin with starting a physical activity routine, there are a ton of resources available. This post will help you with finding activities you enjoy and incorporating them into your daily life. If you are struggling with your motivation to go out and be active, this post is just what you need to hear!
Now, why did I call out Yoga specifically? Yoga focuses on many different body based practices including body flexibility, breathing control, and calming your mind and inner voice. These practices apply to this activity habit, but they also provide the tools needed to build the self-kindness and self-care habits as well. The cancer fighting benefits of yoga are many and powerful!
7. Drink Enough Water Daily in Your 20’s
Water has so many functions and uses in the body. It is amazing! Drinking water allows toxins to be flushed from your system. If these toxins were allowed to build up, it would cause cell damage and which increases the chance a damaged cell could become cancerous.
Water also is crucial to the functioning of the brain and cardiovascular systems in your body. When you are dehydrated, it causes parts of your body to work harder to maintain function while other areas struggle to keep up.
Staying well hydrated will increase your energy, improve many different body functions, and improve your skin’s radiance. All this from a simple glass of water!
If you don’t have a plan in place to ensure you are drinking water throughout the day, let’s add that habit in place! Here is additional information about the benefits of water and some guidelines on how much to drink daily.
8. Get Enough Quality Sleep in Your 20’s
Quality sleep allows your body to properly rest, and rejuvenate. Part of the work your body is doing while you are sleeping, is to repair and replace old cells in your body. If this process is interrupted or incomplete, then your cells will age, immunity will decrease, and you could be at a higher risk for cancer and other diseases.
More and more people are struggling with their quality of sleep these days. Low quality sleep can come in many forms, struggling to fall asleep, waking frequently throughout the night, or waking early and being unable to fall asleep.
While sleeping seems easy, getting high quality sleep to allow your body to rejuvenate can be complex. This post has 10 science based tips to help ensure your sleep is restful and uninterrupted so your body can do it’s work.
Start on this habit by setting regular times to go to bed and wake up that allow you to get 8 hours of sleep daily.
“To ensure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.”
– William Londen –
9. Reduce Chronic Stress with Margin in Your Life
One of the key causes of chronic stress is the frantic, overly scheduled pace of so many people’s lives today. When your day is spent sprinting through life from the moment you wake up, to when you drop exhausted into bed at the end of the day, there is going to be unseen damage to your body over the long term.
By having blank space or margin in your life, you can use the time to actively reduce stress and include healthy habits (like all of these habits we are talking about today!). These healthy habits will reduce the damage your body is sustaining which can increase your risk for cancer.
I know creating margin in your life is easier said than done, but it is critical to allow you time to rest and engage in these healthy habits to start in your 20’s. A great place to start learning about adding margin is this post I wrote which has great tips and practical ways to “schedule” margin into your life.
To start this habit, make an appointment on your calendar next week for 30 minutes of “you time” and stick to it!
I know this was a lot of information on healthy habits to start in your 20’s to prevent cancer! Don’t be overwhelmed by it all!
You don’t have to add all of these habits immediately. Start with one, then add a second and so on. These habits are not magic cures, they are long term strategies to increase your body’s ability to heal damage and reduce your risk of developing cancer.
A great book I read recently was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In this, she started 12 new habits related to happiness, one a month, for a year. You could do something similar and pick new healthy habits to start in your 20’s once a month for a year.
If you have additional questions or want more information on the habits discussed here, there are a ton more posts here that cover all areas of cancer awareness and overall health! Check out the blog to learn more about these topics!