STRONGer Than Cancer
Living a Healthy Life
What is Cancer? What are the Signs and Symptoms? What is my Risk for getting Cancer?
How can I prevent myself from getting Cancer?
Let me help you…
First, I want to begin by stating that, to date, there has not yet been found a cure for cancer. Cancer is a disease that the best doctors and scientists in the world are still trying to truly understand to better help care for those with it. This article is not meant to give false hope that a new discovery has been found or to argue against qualified medical professionals on how to treat cancer of any kind. This article is merely a helpful guideline for both those with and without cancer to better understand how to decrease its negative effects and prevent it from ever occurring to you.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a disease where your body’s affected cells grow rapidly, randomly and without control blocking normal cell growth. This continuous growth forms into what is known as a tumor, or group of continuously growing cells. These cells can break off of the tumor and spread to other areas of the body adding to the damage created by this unforgiving disease. Tumors are also dangerous, because they affect the cells around them and start to modify the functions within the body’s systems to where they no longer can do their job properly. If the cells within a system cannot perform their job, then the system breaks down and that body part no longer functions. Imagine if that was your lungs, bones or digestive system (colon). If any one of those systems no longer functions then we will soon be brought to the harsh reality of cancer.
The truth is, we all already have cancer. We are all born with cancerous cells within our bodies. If we did not we would not be alive. Cancer is just a continuous growth of cells that can get out of control if triggered. That is why we see cancer occur at all stages of life, such as in children. We all have cancer cells. Though many of us will live a long healthy life without ever experiencing its devastation at work. Why, is simply unknown, but we can speculate that it is due to the cancerous cells being triggered by a combination of unhealthy living, heredity and old age.
Signs and Symptoms:
Before continuing, here are some common signs and symptoms that may help you determine if someone has cancer.
- Unexpected Weight Loss
- Prolonged Fever
- Fatigue- felt often
- Pains- that are reoccurring or in specific common cancer sites
- Skin Changes
- Change in Bowel Habits or Bladder Function
- Sores that Don’t Heal
- Lumps or Thickening of Skin
- Prolonged Illness
*Cancer Basics 2016 http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancerbasics/index
Often times many of these signs and symptoms need to be felt to indicate the possibility of increased cancer activity. If you are ever concerned that you may have cancer it is imperative that you see your doctor right away and thoroughly explain your reasons for speculation.
For more information on Cancer go to: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/
The risk for getting cancer among US citizens is relatively high, but there is still hopeful news. In the US, the risk for getting cancer for males is 42% and 37.5% for females. Of those with cancer, 86% are over the age of 50. Of those with cancer, ~70% survive, and are able to live complete lives. Also, it is estimated that 1.7 million people in the US will get cancer in 2016 (Cancer Basics 2016). Though these numbers can be scary, they also can be improved. This is because the best treatment for cancer is PREVENTION through living a HEALTHY LIFESTYLE.
Prevention is the best treatment for cancer, and healthy living is the best way to prevent cancer, as well as other illnesses. Again, we are all born with cancerous cells within our body and the more triggers, or “bad habits”, we give these cancerous cells the more likely they are to become destructive. So by avoiding a number of bad habits we can greatly decrease our chances of ever triggering these cancer cells from growing out of control. Here are some ways to avoid triggering cancer:
- No Smoking or Inhalants
- Little to no Alcohol with NO binge drinking
- Avoid Allergens
- No Gluten (Barley, Rye, Oats, Wheat or Spelt)
- Limit Dairy After Puberty
- Avoid Processed Foods
- Decrease Stress
- Avoid Supplemental Anti-Oxidants
- Added Sugar
- Daily Protein <1.5g/lb of Bodyweight
These are some basic ways found to help prevent cancer as well as many other forms of illness, including diabetes, internal organ failures, or common sicknesses. Of course though, to be healthy enough to prevent illnesses you must have a combination of exercise, a good diet and the avoidance of “bad habits” such as those listed above.
Maintaining a Healthy Body
We know that we need to be healthy, but how do we know if we are healthy or not? The answer to that question varies because it is very individualistic. “Healthy” is an opinioned term meaning that something may seem “healthy” to one individual and “unhealthy” to another, but the definition is unclear. Knowing this, here are some physical guidelines that can help you better determine if you have a healthy amount of exercise and body composition:
Moderate Intensity (40-60% VO2 Max) 30 Min. /Day ≥ 5 Days/Week
Vigorous Intensity (60-85% VO2 Max) 20 Min. /Day ≥ 3 Days/Week
A Combination of These Two
*ACSM Guidelines (2014)
These are the physical activity minimums presented by the American College of Sports Medicine for an individual to obtain the physiological benefits of exercise required to not be considered sedentary, or without exercise. First of all, I know that often people do not know their VO2 Max, or the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use at one time during exercise, so let me make it more simple for you. Moderate intensity is a pace that you can maintain for an extended period of time but is intense enough that you cannot maintain a conversation during the exercise. Think of it as between a 4-6 difficulty on a 1-10 scale (10 being the hardest thing you have ever done and 1 being just above rest, such as standing). Vigorous intensity is a near maximal intensity where you are working at a rate in which you may need to stop and do multiple bouts within the given time. Usually this exercise lasts only 3-7 minutes per bout and is between a 6-8.5 on a scale of 1-10, the same as stated above.
Now why do we care about VO2 Max and meeting the exercise minimums, suggested by ACSM? We care because it has been shown that an increase in VO2 Max, also suggesting an increase in heart efficiency, decreases the rate of all-cause mortality. That means that the more efficient you are at exercising, the better chance you have to avoid all causes of death by cardiac (heart) instances, illness and disease. This of course does not guarantee that you will not have something like a heart attack or cancer occur, but it greatly decreases your chances.
Another way to decrease your all-cause mortality and prevent illness is through maintaining a healthy body composition. This is what the ACSM gives as basic guidelines for body composition:
ACSM Body Composition Guidelines
Body Mass Index- BMI 18.5-25 kg/m2 = Normal Risk
2 = Increased Risk
25-30 kg/m2 = Increased Risk
>30 kg/m2 = Extreme Risk
BMI = Bodyweight (kg)/ Height2 (m) 1 kg = 2.204 lbs. 1 m = 3.28 ft.
Waist Circumference Males < 80 cm or
A circumference measurement around the largest area of your stomach, or just below the naval.
*ACSM Guidelines (2014)
By bettering your body composition you can also live a healthier life, as you will place less stress on your body’s systems allowing them to function optimally. Both of these measurements present the same risk whether your mass is made from fat or muscle tissue. The stress on the heart may even be greater in those with increased muscle beyond the normal measurements, because muscle tissue has blood vessels and must be maintained. This puts an increased stress on the heart to function at a higher rate at all times. So whether you are out of the guidelines in either direction or have what some consider more “healthy” tissue, there is still the same risk associated.
The Bottom Line
A lot is still unknown about Cancer, but we are all born with the potential for it to occur. This is why we see children with cancer though they have done nothing to trigger these uncontrolled growth responses. We do not know why they occur, and they can happen to anybody. Even the most elite athletes can obtain cancer, such as Lance Armstrong. He was a world class athlete and had multiple cancers, but he also survived them all. He is a great example that cancer can be overcome, yet the best treatment for cancer is still prevention. Many people can prevent cancer, along with other illnesses, just by taking care of their body’s. If you live a lifestyle where you do not care for your body then you cannot expect it to be able to protect you when you need it most. Just by taking a little bit of time to exercise, eat clean and avoid bad habits, you can greatly decrease your chances of ever getting a life threatening illness. Then you can feel better and be there for the people and things that you love. So I suggest that you choose to challenge yourself to make a better life for yourself and those around you by taking action. I know it is not always easy and many of us already do way too much, but we have to put ourselves first sometimes to better be able to help others. That can be as simple as just being there for them in the future and placing the stress of possibly preventable illnesses on them. So take action and be different today, because tomorrow may be too late.
I wish you the best of luck and remember to keep getting STRONGer!
Cancer Basics. (2016). Retrieved from
Wilkins. Williams, L. (2014). ACSM’s Guidelines For Exercise Testing and Prescription. American College of Sports Medicine. Ninth Edition. [text]
Strength to you,
The STRONGer Coach- Ryan Mathias, CPT
Owner and Creator
Start your Training NOW: What Level Am I?
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