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Love Your Colon

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Follow these 10 tips to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.

LoveyourColonColorectal cancer doesn’t get as much attention as other cancers, but it should — it’s the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. Luckily, you can reduce your chances of developing colorectal cancer by taking the right steps to minimize risk factors.

1. Get tested.
At age 50 (or age 45 for African Americans), start getting regular colorectal cancer screenings. Depending on the test, this could be every one, three, five or 10 years. Finding and removing polyps early is your best chance for cancer prevention.

2. Know your family history.
If you have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, consider getting tested earlier and more often.

3. Be physically active.
Regular physical activity doesn’t mean hitting the gym every day. Aim for five to 10-minute slots of activity totaling at least 30 minutes per day. Activities can be exercise-based, such as lifting weights, brisk walking or cycling, or they can include dancing, gardening or moderately physical housework.

4. Watch your weight.
Being overweight or obese is a key risk factor. Adjust your diet and exercise habits where needed to trim off unhealthy body fat. Weight can vary based on factors like height and bone structure, so find out your BMI (body mass index), and keep it between 18.5 and 24.9.

5. Trim the belly fat.
Even at a healthy weight, excess belly fat increases your risk. But instead of piling on ab workouts, focus on training your entire body — such as through aerobic exercises (like walking and swimming) — which is more effective.

6. Up your fiber intake.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, every 10 grams of fiber reduces your risk of colorectal cancer by 10 percent. A variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts contain fiber, so add plenty of these to your daily regimen: split peas, lentils, black beans, lima beans, artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, raspberries, blackberries and avocados, to name a few.

7. Cut out red and processed meats.
Limit red meat to five or six small cooked portions per week, and avoid processed meats, like hot dogs, sausage and (gasp!) bacon.

8. Moderate your drinking, or avoid it altogether.
Even low levels of alcohol can increase your risk, so, if you drink, do so in moderation: two drinks per day for men and one per day for ladies.

9. Kick the smoking habit.
Quitting smoking reduces the risk for a number of chronic illnesses, including colorectal cancer.

10. Go for garlic.
Studies suggest that you can reduce your risk with a diet that’s relatively high in garlic intake. Wait 10 to 15 minutes after chopping garlic before cooking to activate its healthy properties.

By following these steps, you can show your colon some love and minimize your risk for chronic health problems.