Tag Archives: cancer

When you need it most, exercise can help. In fact, it may save your life!

Regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health. A lower risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers are among a long list of positive health effects of exercise. Lesser known benefits include improved mental health, cognitive function, and greater feelings of wellbeing. Exercise is essential for development of children, maintaining health in adults, and can even reverse some of the effects of aging.

Despite these clear benefits, many people do not participate in regular exercise until they have a medical condition, like a heart attack or cancer, that motivates them to start.  This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

usca-cardiac-rehab

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The not-so-sweet truth about sugar and your health.

You are probably aware that eating too much sugar is bad for your health. Excessive sugar intake causes hormonal changes and inflammation that can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. For decades an emphasis was placed on lowering fat intake, especially saturated fat and cholesterol, to reduce the risk of obesity and heart disease.

Unfortunately, much of this advice was misguided and while fat intake went down, sugar consumption in processed and prepared food increased. This is now seen as a primary cause of the current obesity and diabetes epidemic. The impact of sugar on health and steps you can take to reduce sugar intake are the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

Sugar cubes

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Exercise, when you need it most

Regular exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health. A lower risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers are among a long list of positive health effects of exercise. Lesser known benefits include improved mental health, cognitive function, and greater feelings of wellbeing. Exercise is essential for development of children, maintaining health in adults, and can even reverse some of the effects of aging.

Despite these clear benefits, many people do not participate in regular exercise until they have a medical condition, like a heart attack or cancer, that motivates them to start.  This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

usca-cardiac-rehab


It is well-known that people who exercise have a lower risk of heart attack and improved survival if they do have one. While immediate treatment of a heart attack using medications and surgery is critical, the truth is that the long-term outcomes are largely based on what happens next. Traditionally, heart disease patients were told to rest and not stress their hearts, a belief that many still hold today. Now we know that exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation programs are key to improving heart health and preventing future complications.

Most cardiac rehabilitation programs include several phases that include monitored exercise, education about nutrition, weight control, stress management, proper medication use, and psychosocial wellbeing. The benefits of cardiac rehabilitation are well-established through research and practice. In fact, many patients credit cardiac rehabilitation with saving their lives, even if they had bypass surgery. Despite this, less than a third of patients who are eligible for cardiac rehabilitation actually attend a program.

Exercise is also known to reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, including breast, colon, bladder, lung, kidney, and endometrial cancers. This is due to the fact that exercise causes changes at the cellular and hormonal level that result in reduced inflammation and improved immune system function. Regular physical activity can also improve survival and reduce the risk of recurrence of cancer.

In addition to helping reduce the risk of cancer development and recurrence, regular exercise can help you handle cancer treatment better. To be sure, cancer treatment can lead to extreme physical consequences including loss of weight, muscle mass, strength, and endurance. At least some of this is due to more time resting and less time being active, the effects of which occur within days and get worse over time.

The fitter you are when you begin treatment, the fitter you will be at the end because you have “saved” more strength and endurance in your fitness bank. You simply have more you can lose before you get to a point at which you can’t complete your normal activities. And post-cancer exercise programs are becoming more common as a way to help women recover from cancer treatment and rebuild strength, endurance, and feelings of wellbeing.

Another benefit of cardiac rehabilitation and cancer exercise programs is the support from other heart attack and cancer survivors. Combined with support from medical professionals, family, and friends, these groups become an essential resource for information, comfort, and encouragement.

If you or someone you know has had a heart attack, heart surgery, or a cancer diagnosis, encourage them to ask their doctor about an appropriate exercise program—it is likely to be the best way to improve quality of life. In our area, there is a cardiac rehabilitation program based at the USC Aiken Wellness Center as well as at several hospitals in Augusta. There is also an exercise program for cancer survivors called Livestrong at the YMCAs in Aiken, North Augusta, and Augusta.


Nutrition, exercise, and health information can be confusing. 
But it doesn't have to be that way.
What can I help you with?
 drbrianparr@gmail.com | http://twitter.com/drbrianparr

Exercise and cancer prevention and treatment.

Exercise has broad and significant health benefits, making it among the most important healthy behaviors you can adopt. These benefits include improved muscular strength and endurance, stronger bones, and better cardiovascular system function. Exercise is also essential for maintaining a healthier body weight and body composition and improving metabolic health through blood glucose and lipid regulation.

But exercise causes changes at the cellular and hormonal levels that have even broader effects. Among these is a reduction in inflammation, which has long been linked to a lower risk of heart attack. Accumulating research suggests that reduced inflammation and improved immune system function may be an important way in which exercise reduces the risk of cancer. The role of exercise in cancer prevention and treatment is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

cancer exercise group


While we typically associate the immune system with communicable diseases like cold or flu, our immune system plays an important role in the body’s defense against cancer. Conditions like obesity, poor nutrition, and a sedentary lifestyle can promote chronic inflammation. Among other negative effects, inflammation can interfere with the normal functioning of the immune system. This impairs your cells’ natural cancer-fighting capacity, making it more likely that cancer will develop and spread. Exercise can reverse the immune system damage caused by chronic inflammation, reducing the risk of cancer development and progression as well as making it less likely you will become sick from a cold or flu.

The idea that exercise can reduce the risk of cancer isn’t new. I have written previously about the fact that regular physical activity can lower breast cancer risk by as much as 30%, improve survival, and reduce the risk of recurrence. A recent study confirms that high levels of physical activity can significantly lower the risk of breast cancer along with many other common types including colon, bladder, lung, kidney, and endometrial cancers.

In addition to helping reduce the risk of cancer development and recurrence, regular exercise can help you handle cancer treatment better. To be sure, cancer treatment can lead to extreme physical consequences including losses in weight, muscle mass, strength, and endurance. At least some of this is due to more time resting and less time being active, the effects of which occur within days and get worse over time.

You may have noticed this as weakness and fatigue after spending a few days in bed with the flu. Muscle strength declines at a rate of over 1% per day of bed rest, and can be 50% lower following as little as three weeks. That reduction in strength could limit a person who was already deconditioned to a point where he or she would have difficulty completing the most basic activities of daily living. Bed rest can also reduce bone density, exposing patients to a greater risk of fracture.

The fitter you are when you begin treatment, the fitter you will be at the end because you have “saved” more strength and endurance in your fitness bank. You simply have more you can lose before you get to a point at which you can’t complete your normal activities. In fact, maintaining physical activity is a key component of cancer treatment. And post-cancer exercise programs are becoming more common as a way to help women recover from cancer treatment and rebuild strength, endurance, and feelings of wellbeing.

The best approach is to be active now to reduce your risk of cancer (and many other chronic diseases) and build strong muscles and bones to help you successfully handle any cancer treatment or periods of other illness you may encounter later.


Nutrition, exercise, and health information can be confusing. 
But it doesn't have to be that way.
What can I help you with?
 drbrianparr@gmail.com | http://twitter.com/drbrianparr

Go Nuts (again)!

My Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week is about the health benefits of nuts. It is  a follow-up to a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago. This isn’t new, of course, since nut consumption has been recommended as a part of a healthy diet for years.

What is new is a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine that shows that nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. The people who ate nuts every day got the biggest benefits.

That doesn’t mean that simply adding nuts to an unhealthy lifestyle will have some magical influence on health. In fact, the people in the study who ate the most nuts were also likely to do other healthy things like eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise, and not smoke.

The most practical advice is to eat nuts as a replacement for other snacks or to add nuts to salads and other dishes. While specific types of nuts have different health benefits, the recent study suggests that all nuts, including peanuts, are beneficial.

Go Nuts!

A new study suggests that going nuts is good for your health. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week, the study shows that regular nut consumption is associated with a lower risk of death from many leading causes of death, including heart disease and cancer. (If you aren’t motivated to read a journal article, this video will give you the key points from the study.)

The reduction of risk was greater with more frequent nut consumption. For example, the risk of death from all causes was 11% lower among men and women who consumed nuts once per week and 20% lower among those who consumed nuts seven or more times per week. 

This is level of nut consumption could be met by a common recommendation to consume 1–1.5 ounces of nuts as a snack every day.

One thing to keep in mind is that the health benefits of nut consumption might be due to other positive lifestyle factors that go along with greater nut consumption. Indeed, the authors noted that, “As compared with participants who consumed nuts less frequently, those who consumed nuts more frequently were leaner, less likely to smoke, more likely to exercise, and more likely to use multi-vitamin supplements; they also consumed more fruits and vegetables and drank more alcohol.” Although these other factors were controlled for in the study, common sense suggests that the reduction in risk is due to a combination of beneficial health behaviors.

This is an important point. A person who eats in unhealthy diet, is sedentary, and smokes is unlikely to realize the  health benefits of increasing nut consumption. Achieving the full benefits of nut consumption also certainly means adopting other healthy behaviors.

This is good news! Eating more nuts is a relatively easy dietary change to make. And as this study shows, it can lead to a reduced risk of death from some common diseases. So…go nuts!