5 Elements of a Healthy Plate

5 Elements of a Healthy Plate

March is National Nutrition Month where everyone is encouraged to learn how to make informed food choices and develop healthy eating habits. On your plate, you want to include healthy foods from all the food groups. According to the US Department of Agriculture, there are 5 elements that should be included on your plate:

Number 1. Fruits
The fruit group can consist of any fruits that are fresh, canned, frozen or dried. Fruits are great natural sources of important nutrients such as fiber, Vitamin C and potassium which are vital for your health. There are plenty of options to choose from such as apples, bananas, berries, plums, peaches, grapes oranges and more!

Number 2. Vegetables
The vegetable group can be eaten raw or cooked and can be fresh, frozen, canned or dried. Vegetables are great natural sources of important nutrients such as Vitamin A, folic acid and potassium. Vegetables come in a wide range of colors and types ranging from spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, carrots, peas, and different kinds of beans (ie. lima, soy and kidney).

Number 3. Grains
The grain food group can consists of food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal or another cereal grains. Grains are great sources of nutrients such as Vitamin B, iron and fiber. The most common grains include bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, oatmeal and my personal favorite- popcorn.

Number 4. Protein
Protein can consist of animal products such as meat, poultry, eggs and seafood. Other plant-based proteins can include beans, peas and nuts. Protein foods are a great source of nutrients such as Vitamin B, zinc and magnesium.

Number 5. Dairy
The dairy food group can include items such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Diary products are important to have strong and healthy bones, and to get nutrients such as calcium and Vitamin D. The most dairy products contain a sugar called lactose. For those who have a lactose allergy or sensitivity, there are other plant-based milk products such as almond, rice coconut or oat. There are also other foods that have calcium and Vitamin D such as leafy greens, canned fish and soy products.

In honor of National Nutrition Month, I encourage you to try and include these five elements onto your plate each and every day. I also encourage you to include at least one new healthy recipe each week. From there, try to increase the number of healthy meals you prepare.

Looking for recipe ideas so that you can eat a variety of nutritious foods everyday? Check out my Wellness Recipe Guides that are available to download here.

Let’s make developing healthy eating habits something that can last not only for the month, but for a lifetime!

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To learn more about Dance to Wellness, group fitness classes or other services offered, please contact us to discover your options.

7 Ways to Keep Your Immune System Healthy

7 Ways to Keep Your Immune System Healthy

The immune system is our body’s defense against germs. The most common germs that can enter our body can include bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and toxins. Although not all germs are dangerous, some can make you very sick leading to a number of illnesses such as strep throat, pneumonia, chicken pox, influenza, ringworm, yeast infections and more.

At a time when the Flu Season is at its height, plus with COVID-19 still a threat worldwide, having a healthy and strong immune system is even more crucial.

Here is a list of 7 things you can do to keep your immune system healthy:

1. Wash Your Hands
Properly washing your hands with soap and water is on the easiest and most effective ways to prevent germs from entering your body and spreading them on surfaces and other people. Think about the number of things you touch everyday with your hands. It is important to make sure your hands are clean. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC), recommends wet, lather, scrub for at least 20 seconds, rinse and dry.

If soap is not available, the CDC mentions that you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

2. Disinfect Surfaces
Even when your home looks clean, there could still be many unseen germs. The average household or workplace is home to many species of bacteria and fungi that we often touch without knowing it. Surface cleaners can remove dirt and stains, but only EPA-registered disinfectants have been found to kill germs during cleaning. Since we are exposed to these germs on a daily basis, the CDC recommends that you disinfect surfaces on a regular basis.

3. Manage Stress
If you find yourself anxious or worried about something, your body is producing hormones. These hormones can suppress your immune system. This makes the immune system not work as well as it can, leading you to more likely get sick. Do your best to keep your stress levels down by doing activities such as Yoga, meditation, meaningful interactions with loved ones and don’t forget to laugh!

4. Catch Those Z’s
Sleep is actually on of the best natural immune system boosters. During sleep, your body is able to rest and repair itself. Without enough sleep, it weakens your body’s ability to fight off germs. A study from the scholarly journal Sleep, found that people who get adequate sleep each night (7-8 hours), are four times less likely to get sick than those who didn’t.

5. Get Moving
Regular physical exercise can help improve blood circulation which includes cells such as antibodies and white blood cells (part of the immune system). While you exercise, you may sweat, and that is one of the many ways our bodies get rid of toxins. While the CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week, you should always speak with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program.

With your doctor’s approval, feel free to check out my calendar for a schedule a virtual LIVE fitness classes on zoom offered every week. Classes range from Pilates, Zumba, Ballet and Stretching. Click here or visit https://dancetowellness.org/calendar/ for more information.

6. Stock Up on Vitamins
There are many vitamins our bodies need to be healthy. There are certain ones that are particularly important to support your immune system. The most common vitamin being Vitamin C, that is known for its antioxidants. Other vitamins include Zinc, Vitamins A and E.

7. Eat a Healthy Diet
The foods that we eat, often affect our bodies. When we make sure we have the proper nutrients, it supports our body’s ability to be healthy. Having a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help keep your immune system going strong. Some immune-healthy ingredients include citrus fruits, red bell peppers, ginger, turmeric, poultry (ie. chicken), and yogurt.

Looking for recipe ideas to boost your immune system, check out my Immune Health Support Recipe Guide here.

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To learn more about Dance to Wellness, group fitness classes or other services offered, please contact us to discover your options.

5 Elements of a Well-Rounded Fitness Plan

5 Elements of a Well-Rounded Fitness Plan

sWhether you are looking to take your first steps in fitness or wanting to take your exercise goals to the next level, you may have a few questions about what your personal exercise plan should look like. You may be wondering what kind(s) of exercises should I be doing?

The goal is to have a well-rounded exercise routine. But what does that look like? All fitness plans should include the following five elements:

Number 1. Aerobic Activity
Aerobic exercise (also known as cardio exercise) is about increasing your heart rate. This helps to support the health of your heart and lungs. Some examples can include walking, jogging, biking, swimming, house chores, or (my personal favorite) dancing.

Number 2. Strength Training
Strength training is about increasing your muscle strength and endurance. This helps to improve your ability to do activities of daily living (ADL) and extends your independence as you get older. When doing strength training exercises, you can include using equipment such as small hand weights or resistance bands/tubes. You can also perform other exercises such as leg squats and push-ups.

Number 3. Core Exercises
Your core consists of muscles of your stomach (abdomen aka abs), the lower back and pelvis. When building up this muscle group, you are helping to train and build your muscles in a way that allows the body to move more efficiently. Some exercise examples can include planks, bridges, crunches, sit-ups and movements found in a Pilates class.

Number 4. Balance Practice
Balance exercises are ones that strengthen your core area to help you stay upright. The benefits of balance exercises include improving stability, increasing fall reaction time, decreasing your risk of falling, and decreasing your risk of injury as a result of a fall. Examples of exercises include balancing on one leg, heel-toe walk (like you are walking on a tightrope) and fitness formats such as Tai Chi and Yoga.

Number 5. Stretching
Stretching is important and should be done at the end of every workout to prevent injury. Therefore, this is not the part of your workout you will want to skip. The purpose is to relax the body and help it return to pre-exercise conditions. The benefits of stretching include increasing your flexibility, improve/maintain full range of motion of the joints, improve your posture and decrease muscle tension. Some major muscle groups that are important to stretch include your hamstrings, chest, shoulders, arms, quads and back.

Before doing any form of exercise, please consult your physician or physical therapist for a consultation to discuss what kinds of exercise (if any) are appropriate for you at this current moment. You must be medically cleared to workout.

Once you have received the “OK” to exercise from your doctor, you will want to create a plan of action that works for you. Be sure to include the elements of a well-rounded fitness plan that are listed above. These don’t have to be integrated into one workout. You can spread them out throughout the week.

If you are looking to create a more well-rounded exercise plan or looking for personalized workouts, sign up for my Wellness Development program. This 12-week program is perfect for those looking to lose weight, build strength, prepare for an event, begin exercising or take your fitness training to the next level. Book a FREE consultation today!

For more information, please visit: https://dancetowellness.org/wellness-development/ 

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To learn more about Dance to Wellness, group fitness classes or other services offered, please contact us to discover your options.

3 Things That Happen When We Don’t Exercise

3 Things That Happen When We Don’t Exercise

Research supports the claims about the benefits of exercise to your health. Doctors recommend that it is needed. In my previous blog post, I talk about 4 Reasons Why We Should Exercise if you haven’t already checked it out. However, we often focus on the benefits of exercise, and don’t really talk about what happens when we don’t exercise. What happens when we don’t stay physically active? There are a number of things that can happen, but let’s look at 3 Things That Can Happen When We Don’t Exercise:

Number 1: Muscle loss

Muscle atrophy is the medical term loss of muscle tissue. This can be brought on because of an injury, a pre-existing illness or poor nutrition. However, one of the biggest factors is attributed to long periods of inactivity. You may have heard the saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” This can be applied to our muscles- if you don’t use them, we lose them. When we don’t incorporate exercise as part of our daily routine, it can lead to a loss of muscle strength, low blood circulation, which can lead to a loss of independence in our older years.

Number 2: Bone loss

Exercise is important to maintain strong and healthy bones. A lack of physical inactivity can affect our bones, especially as we age. Bones are considered to be a living tissue. This means that it changes in response to the amount of force continually placed on them. When we don’t exercise, we are not regularly placing force on the bones, causing them to become weak and brittle. This in return can lead to bones being more susceptible to fractures and breaks from falls and other bone related diseases such as osteopenia and osteoporosis.

To learn more about bone health, please check out my previous blog post about bone diseases.

Number 3: Increased Joint Pain

When we don’t exercise, we put ourselves at a higher risk of gaining excess weight. As a result, this puts more pressure on our joints. This in return makes it harder for the joint to support movement of the body making the joints to become stiff. When the joints are stiff, it makes it uncomfortable to move around, which can also lead to, muscle loss.

From whichever angle we try to look at things, exercise plays a major role in our lives. By looking at these few consequences of physical inactivity, I hope it will trigger you to start considering a fitness plan. If you don’t know where to start in your fitness journey, consider learning more about my Wellness Development program.

You can ease on into working out in a way that makes sense for you and your lifestyle. If you are looking to take the next step in your workouts, the Wellness Development program can also help you take a look at where you are and assist you to reach your goals.

For more information, schedule a FREE discovery call to see if the program is a right fir for you.

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To learn more about Dance to Wellness, group fitness classes or other services offered, please contact us to discover your options.

4 Reasons Why We Exercise

4 Reasons Why We Exercise

There are several things to consider when it comes to the elements of healthy living such as attending all routine doctor’s visits, maintaining a nutritious diet, and regular physical activity. In order to achieve and sustain good health, physical activity is a core component for staying healthy. Therefore, it should not be left out of the equation. Regular exercise is particularly important as we get older.

There are a number of benefits one can gain from participating in a fitness program, especially during the senior years. Here are 4 reasons why it is good to exercise:

Number 1: Exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight

Weight varies on different factors such as, age, gender and height. However, research has shown that being overweight or obese can increase your risk of a number of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and more severe health events such as a heart attack. Eating a proper diet needs to be accompanied by physical activity for it to serve its purpose. Of course, this is not to downplay the role of healthy eating in weight management, but your diet needs the support of physical activity in order to maintain and sustain a healthy weight.

Number 2: Exercise lowers your risk for chronic health conditions

As we get older, we are at an increased risk for a number of health concerns. These health conditions can include certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis and osteoporosis to name but a few. These health conditions can lead to on-going pain that may slow our day-to-day life activities. However, when we incorporate physical activity into our daily routine, this helps us manage the pain in a way that traditional medicine may not be able to.

Number 3: Exercise improves your stamina

Stamina is about having the capacity to sustain prolonged physical activity or having the endurance to keep going. It can be very frustrating when you don’t have the energy to keep up with your young kids or grand-kids or constantly having to take breaks when walking up a flight of stairs. But when we commit to a workout routine, these and other tasks can become a walk in the park. Exercise helps to better circulate oxygen throughout the body. This in turns boost your energy level and increases your stamina.

Number 4: Exercise is fun

Exercise can be a great social aspect of your day. It is always more fun to attend a class (whether physically or virtually) with a friend. It can be great way to make new friends. You may notice that there are a few folks who also consistently attend the same class every week. It can create a number of inside jokes as well. Not to mention you can request the DJ to play your favorite workout song and break out those Zumba or Jazzercise dance routines with your friends on the dance floor. Physical and exercise activity is an invaluable asset of healthy living.

We all have our reasons for working out, these are just but a few. What is your reason? Fill in the blank: “I work out because ……………” and tag us on Facebook @dancetowellness with your response.

You can also join the Dance to Wellness Facebook Group and connect with a community of others who can support your fitness goals. Remember that consistency is the key and that every step counts.

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To learn more about Dance to Wellness, group fitness classes or other services offered, please contact us to discover your options.

Support for Caregivers

Support for Caregivers

Caregiving can seem like a long laundry list of things that can be overwhelming. In my Caregiving Tips 101 post, I talked about some things to consider as a caregiver. If you haven’t already, please check it out here. Because it is not an easy task and comes with responsibilities, in the long run it can result in a range of emotions. The emotional toll can break even the most resilient of us. Going through all the steps to make sure things are in order can result in a number of challenges and feelings such as:

– Stress
– Feeling emotionally drained
– Financial strain (there are a number of unexpected out of pocket expenses)
– Depression
– Physical pain
– Fatigue
– Not managing one’s health (i.e. physically or mentally)

Taking care of yourself should be a priority, because you need to be your best self in order to be able to take care of your loved one. If you cannot take care of yourself then chances of you taking care of someone else is very minimal. The above feelings are natural but you don’t have to go through it alone. There are a number of programs and services to aid you along the way. Don’t be shy in taking advantage of these programs because they are there to help us.

Below is a list of some caregiver support programs. Please note that this list is not meant to be exhaustive but these are some resources that I have come to know about and use it in my own personal caregiving journey:

  • Paid Family Leave: State such as New York, California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oregon, Connecticut, Washington and New Jersey have paid family and medical leave. This is for those who wish to take a paid leave of absence of from work to take care of a loved one with a serious health condition. Please note that the number of paid weeks and paid benefits varies from state to state.
  • Respite Care: As a caregiver, you are often juggling a multiple of responsibilities involving the care of your loved one. However, although caregiving can seem like a full-time job in itself, most still have other life responsibilities. These can include work, a family, raising kids, volunteer work, among others. As much as you may feel the need to do/handle everything on your own, remember you need the break! Here are a number of respite care options available such as:

    – Part-time Home Aid/Companion
    – Adult Day Care Center
    – Overnight Stays at a Nursing Facility

  • Support Groups: Caregiving is a huge undertaking and it can be nice to have a group of others who can relate to you. You can find a support group near you or online (i.e. Facebook) where you can connect with others who can relate to how you feel and the challenges you are going through.

To learn more about these and other programs, contact your local department of health or aging, a home care agency or a patient advocacy organization.

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For more about these class formats, group fitness classes or other services offered, please contact us to discover your options.

Caregiving Tips 101

Caregiving Tips 101

The role of caregiving can be a huge responsibility. Your plate can be full of many things think and talk about. There are many things to put into place to take care of a loved one while also honoring their wishes. It can be a bit overwhelming at times. However, it is important to understand the many caregiving responsibilities and things to have in place for yourself and your loved ones.

I have broken down the caregiving responsibilities into five main categories, they include:

Legal/Estate– This involves taking responsibility in making sure that the person’s wishes and assets are protected and honored. Some of the question to put into consideration include:

  • Is there a living will in place the event you or a loved one cannot make or express your/their wishes?
  • Is there a will that outlines the direction on how to handle your estate after you or your loved one has passed on?
  • Who is listed as the Power of Attorney to make any legal decisions that are needed?
  • Who is listed as the Healthcare Proxy to make health and medical decisions on behalf of the patient (whether that is you or a loved one)?
  • What kind of money accounts do you or your loved one have and who is listed as a beneficiary?

Financial– This includes managing finances, paying for the funeral and other final expenses. Some questions to consider can be:

  • Is there a life insurance policy? If so, with what company and how do you file a claim once a loved one has passed on?
  • How are you paying for medical care, is it Medicare, Medicaid or a long-term insurance policy?
  • Do you or your loved one have pension or Social Security benefits? Who qualifies for survivor benefits once you or your loved one has passed on?

Medical: This involves knowing the medical state of yourself or your loved one. Some consideration questions include;

  • Do you have a list of current medications and their dosage?
  • Do you know the family medical history?
  • Do you have a list of current doctors and medical providers?

Housing– This is about prepping the home for safety as we age. Some things to consider

  • What home modifications are needed to get in and around the house? Ramp? Stair lift? Railings for the couch, toilet, tub or bed?

Care options– This is about asking where does one want to receive care? Some questions to ask can include:

  • What are the pros and cons of receiving care at home verses in an assisted living facility or a nursing facility?
  • How do you transition from one place of care to another?

This information is coming from a place of care and personal experience. I am sharing not because I am an expert. I am navigating this process myself and wanted to share what has come up for me. As you move forward with the abovementioned items, I recommend you to consult an estate attorney, financial advisor and a patient advocate. They are trained professionals who can help you explore your options and make the best decisions for you.

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To learn more about Dance to Wellness, group fitness classes or other services offered, please contact us to discover your options.

Lifting Up Our Caregivers

Lifting Up Our Caregivers

November marks the celebration of National Caregivers’ Month. It is a time to recognize, give praise and support to those who dedicate their time to caring for others. You are the heroes the world needs to know of, but get very little (if any) recognition.

But who is a caregiver? This is anyone who steps up to care for a friend, a family member or a neighbor that they feel responsible for. A caregiver may or may not be related to the person. Most caregivers tend to be the spouse, parent, child, friend or neighbor of the person who is in need of care. The most common caregiver is a family member who takes care of their loved ones without any payment. A professional caregiver (also known as a home aide) is one who is hired via an agency to care for a recipient. In either situation, the caregiver can give medical and/or non-medical assistance. Someone may step into the role of a caregiver for a few weeks, a few months and even up to few years.

The person in need of care can range from someone who is chronically ill, disabled or an aging adult. The level of care can range from minimal support to 24/7. This will depend on who and the condition they are in. According to the American Society on Aging, there are more than 65 million people in the US who provide care for a loved one. Some of the tasks of a caregiver can include medical care such as transportation to doctor’s appointments, picking up and making sure all medications are taken at the appropriate time. They can provide assistance with daily living activities such as bathing and going to the bathroom. Other duties can include financial management, house chores and meal preparation. Many in the process of taking care of a loved one, do not realize that they are playing the role of a caregiver. Most of them feel that they are supposed to do it because that is what you do for someone you love- you take care of them! For that very reason, there are very many caregivers who are unpaid, many who are balancing work/full-time job in addition to caring for their loved one.

As a result of the many things involved in being a caregiver, many go through mental and physical fatigue. This being the case, it is a huge undertaking being a caregiver which should not be minimalized. Caring for a person whether its family or a neighbor is not an easy task by any means. It takes heart, compassion, love and most importantly, it takes patience.

I want to bring awareness to the needs of this community as someone who is a caregiver and is a supporter for all their hard work! Happy National Caregivers’ Month!

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Support Resources for Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors

Support Resources for Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors

Imagine receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, going through the treatment process and moving on. It sounds like a simple 1-2-3 process, but it is no easy task. This can all take a toll on us physically, mentally and emotionally. The desire to go back to our ‘normal’ way of life can at times overwhelm us. This can bring about range of emotions such as shock, fear, sadness and sometimes even anger. All this has been found to be a coping mechanism for cancer patients, but no one has to go through it all alone.

Did you know that there are a number of support services available to you and your loved ones to help you get through this difficult time. These are all out here because you matter! These services can include, but aren’t limited to:

Support Groups: A support group is a safe space to share your feelings and expand your personal network. And in the process, you can learn how to cope with the emotional issues associated with the diagnosis and the treatment process. Groups meet regularly (ie. monthly or a weekly basis). Most support groups are tailored to individuals of a particular age, race/ethnicity, gender or the recovery stage.

Financial Assistance: The costs for breast cancer care can quickly add up and become a financial burden on the patient, their family or friends. Medical bills can pile up from right, left and center from each doctor of each department you will deal with along the way as well as all the medications. Particularly for those in the US, not all medical care expenses are covered by your health insurance provider. Any balances are up to the patient to cover. However, there are a number of non-profit organizations, hospitals and financial counselors who can help provide any needed financial aid and guidance you may need.

Transportation: Depending on where you live, you may need to travel to get access to health care. Lack of available and reliable transportation can be a huge barrier between you and the care you need. Many community based organizations provide patients with free transportation to and from the treatment facility. This can be done through volunteer drivers, ride sharing programs (i.e. Uber and Lyft) or church groups.

Exercise Programs: Physical activity is very vital for our well-being. It is also now becoming an integral part in cancer recovery. You can work with a cancer fitness specialist who is knowledgeable with exercise training that is safe during and after cancer treatment.

Wigs and Head-coverings: A common side effect of cancer treatment is hair loss. This process can cause fear and increase insecurities amongst the cancer patients. However, I encourage you to remember that this is only temporary and that your hair will grow back. In the meantime, feel free to wear a wig, a head scarf, a hat or anything that will make you comfortable.

For more information on these options and many more, speak to your hospital’s patient care navigator or social worker.

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Nutrition for Breast Cancer Health

Nutrition for Breast Cancer Health

Nutrition and healthy eating is an essential component for our overall well being. The components of a nutrient-dense diet is particularly important when it comes to our breast health. It can help to reduce your risk of breast cancer and its chances of reoccurrence. To speak further on the topic of cancer and nutrition, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gina DeLuca.

Gina DeLuca is a Registered Dietitian for NYU Langone Health Perlmutter Cancer Center at Winthrop Hospital. She provides outpatient oncology nutrition care to patients, individually and in groups, on prevention-, treatment-, and survivorship-related topics. Gina received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from New York University and completed her Dietetic Internship at Massachusetts General Hospital prior to becoming a Registered Dietitian. Gina is currently pursuing specialized certification in oncology nutrition.

Q: What are the benefits of a well-nutritious diet for your overall well-being?

A: There are so many benefits! These include optimal physical and mental health, increased energy and strength, immune support, and prevention of chronic disease.

Q: Why is nutrition particularly important in breast health?

A: Healthful nutrition supports breast health to decrease inflammation, as chronic inflammation can create an environment that potentially increases breast cancer risk.

Q: What are some nutrients that our body needs to support our breast health during cancer treatment?

A: Adequate, though not excessive, protein intake is essential to support healthy, non-cancer cells during cancer treatment. Lean plant-based protein, if digestively tolerable, is encouraged as it provides an array of nutrients, including fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, which are plant compounds with beneficial effects. Plant-based protein can be used to replace protein sources that contain cholesterol, saturated fat, excess sodium, and added refined sugars and starches. It’s important to keep in mind that the treatment phase for each cancer patient is a unique chapter in that person’s cancer journey, and each patient tolerates treatment in unique ways. With that in mind, I focus on optimizing our patients during that time by collaborating with them to maximize nutritional intakes based on individual food preferences, all foods being potentially inclusive.

Adequate water and non-caffeinated fluid intake is especially essential during treatment as it maintains proper hydration and reduces potential toxicities/side effects from treatment modalities, such as chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Q: What are some foods that are good for breast cancer patients? And why?

A: The “prudent and healthy” diet pattern that includes vegetables, fruits, fish, poultry, whole grains, low-fat dairy products has shown to decrease cancer risk, and this applies to breast cancer risk as well. These foods offer lean protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics, and phytochemicals. In particular, cruciferous vegetables–broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, turnips, cabbages, brussels sprouts, and leafy greens including kale, bok choy, and arugula–as well as garlic, onions, and apples, have shown to offer an especially protective effect against breast cancer due to their particular phytochemicals.

Q: What are some foods we should limit when it comes to breast cancer prevention? And why?

A: Our Western, so-called “unhealthy” diet pattern, contains concerning components prevalent in many common foods. Processed meat, excessive red meat from non-organic sources, and excessive high-fat dairy products contain saturated fat. Saturated fat, processed meat, and alcohol have been shown to increase breast cancer risk and should be avoided. In addition, consumption of refined grains, flours, and sugar can cause a hormonal response involving excessive insulin–hyperinsulinemia–and refined oils provide hydrogenated/trans-fats which can cause inflammation. Therefore, refined grains/flours, refined sugars, and refined oils should be avoided to reduce or eliminate risk for inflammation caused, or made worse, by hyperinsulinemia.

Q: What are some nutrition tips to consider when meal planning/meal prepping for breast cancer patients?

A: The “plate method” is visual tool for maintaining focus on the types of foods and portion sizes to consume at meals, with half of a 9-inch plate to contain non-starchy vegetables and/or salad, and the remaining quarters to contain lean protein and whole grains, respectively. A fruit serving and a dairy serving can be provided on the side for nutritional balance to compliment this plate. I encourage a diet pattern that includes a “rainbow” of colored foods that provide a wide array of protective phytochemicals for disease prevention. These lead to a whole-foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet pattern, and within that, I especially appreciate the “flexitarian” creative approach to eating. This is a foundation of plant-based whole foods where either animal or plant protein source can be included, i.e. “flexed,” based on a person’s food preferences and nutritional needs. It’s perfect for those who may not be able to consume a solely plant-based diet but can still reap many of the benefits of it and maintain necessary protein intake.

Q: How did you get into the field of cancer nutrition?

A: I am so grateful for the opportunities that have come my way! My assigned undergraduate fieldwork experience was in oncology nutrition, and my love for this area of our dietetics field began there. That experience was enhanced by the outpatient oncology rotation in my dietetic internship, which was complemented by a food service rotation in the cafe that stood adjacent to the outpatient cancer center. My post-internship position in acute care was a natural next step as my focus there was largely dedicated to inpatient oncology care. Though my favorite position thus far is my current one in outpatient oncology care at Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Winthrop Hospital. I love being part of our multidisciplinary teams, across various diagnoses, caring for patients whom we are fortunate to help in preparing for treatment, undergoing treatment, and readjusting post-treatment. We also develop and provide resources for cancer prevention within our community. It is very rewarding to help so many people along the continuum of cancer prevention, treatment, and survivorship.

Q: What are some of your favorite recipes you like to share with your clients?

A: The American Cancer Society offers numerous recipes, and their cookbooks are very user-friendly. Registered Dietitians Barbara Grant and Colleen Doyle and food columnist/cookbook author Jeanne Besser do an amazing job at creating many of these references. I especially enlighten patients to look at cancer-nutrition cookbook recipes by Holly Clegg and Rebecca Katz, as well as Cook For Your Life founder Ann Ogden Gaffney.

Q: Do you have any resources you would like to share?

A: Absolutely! These include (though are certainly not limited to):

  • American Institute for Cancer Research
  • National Cancer Institute
  • American Cancer Society–especially the recently released 2020 American Cancer Society Guidelines for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics–Oncology Nutrition Dietetics Practice Group

References (for this piece) include:

Cardiovascular Disease and Breast Cancer: Where These Entities Intersect: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association (American Heart Association Circulation journal, February 2018)

Dietary Guidelines for Breast Cancer Patients: A Critical Review (Advances in Nutrition journal, July 2017)

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To learn more about Dance to Wellness, group fitness classes or other services offered, please contact us to discover your options.

Benefits of Exercise During Breast Cancer Treatment

Benefits of Exercise During Breast Cancer Treatment

Upon receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, you should first start out by talking to your doctor about the various options for treatment. During your conversation, it is important to know the goal of the treatment and any side effects that can happen as a result of the procedure. This will help you to make the best decision for you when developing your treatment plan.

Common treatment options for breast cancer can include:

  • Surgery: to remove the cancerous tissue
  • Radiation therapy: to remove any remaining cancerous tissue after surgery
  • Chemotherapy: a drug treatment to kill any fast-growing cancer cells

Although these treatments can help stop or slow down the growth of cancer cells in the body, there are a number of side effects one may experience. Some common side effects include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue (feeling tired most of the time)
  • Lymphedema (the buildup of lymph fluid in the body that can cause swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, hands or arms)
  • Neuropathy (the damage of nerves- particularly in the feet- causing tingling and numbness)
  • Cognitive issues (difficulty remembering things or concentrating)

When dealing with these side effects, one of the best things you can do is participate in a gentle exercise program. One fitness program I want to highlight is Moving for Life (MFL). Moving for Life is a dance exercise class that was carefully designed to address the needs of those dealing with cancer and the side effects often accompanied during and after treatment. Founded by Dr. Martha Eddy, the program is based on somatic movement education that focuses on the listening and paying attention of body cues. This in turn, enhances safety and healing through self-awareness and body knowledge.

During a class, it begins with an easy breath-based warm up, some aerobic movements (cardio) to increase the heart rate, resistance training to build strength and increase range of motion, sequence challenges for the brain, and ending with a relaxing stretch. This fitness program has been endorsed by surgeons, oncologists and exercise experts across the US. The program is perfect for anyone regardless of fitness level.

Some of the amazing benefits of exercise during breast cancer treatment include:

  • Increased stamina
  • More energy- relieves fatigue
  • Increase range of motion
  • Helps to maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduces swelling

I am passionate about this work and am a certified cancer exercise specialist through this organization. I have been teaching this class for a number of years and can attest to the benefits of the work.

For more information, visit www.movingforlife.org

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For more about these class formats, group fitness classes or other services offered, please contact us to discover your options.

The Truth About Breast Cancer

The Truth About Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual campaign to call attention and increase the awareness of breast cancer disease that takes place every month of October. But what is breast cancer? Breast cancer is the result of changes in the breast tissue that divide at uncontrollable rates, in turn causing a lump or mass to form. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the US.

According to the American Cancer Society, The death rate of breast cancer patients has fallen by 40% between 1989 and 2017. Statistics by breastcancer.org indicates that 1 in every 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime; 1 in 39 will die. As of January 2020, there are more than 3.5 million women with a history of breast cancer. This includes patients currently in treatment and survivors who have completed their treatment.

The American Cancer Society has estimated that there will be 1,806,950 new cases and 605,520 cancer deaths this year (2020) alone. This is approximately, 4,950 new cases and 4,950 deaths every day. Although not as common, breast cancer can affect men as well. Early diagnosis can reduce one’s risk of dying from breast cancer. Early signs can be detected by a mammography screening (or an x-ray of the breast.)

The goal of the mammogram is to spot any tumors or breast abnormalities to detect cancer before the signs and symptoms become noticeable. While there is no exact age to start screening due to different risk factors, most people begin screening around the age of 40. Common signs of breast cancer include a change in the shape or feel of the nipple and/or nipple discharge.

Common risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Use of post-menopausal hormones
  • Family history
  • Age
  • Alcohol consumption.

There are 4 stages of breast cancer. The stages alert us of the size of the tumor and where it is located. The treatment depending on the stage and personal preferences can include:

  • Surgery: to remove cancerous tissues
  • Radiation therapy: to remove remaining cancerous tissues after surgery
  • Chemotherapy: drug treatment aimed to kill fast growing cancer cells

Breast cancer affects our lives from the patient, survivor, family member and caregivers. I encourage you to speak to your healthcare provider if you believe you have any symptoms or have an increased risk. Here, time is on our side. The earlier it can be diagnosed, the better.

However, if you are formally diagnosed with breast cancer, make sure you have a good understanding of the type of breast cancer you have, where it is located in the event it has spread to other areas, what stage is the cancer in, and your chances of survival. This will help you to make the best decisions in terms of your treatment.

When developing a treatment plan, make sure you know what your treatment options are, the goal of the treatment, how long it will last, its side’s effects, and what are chances of a recurrence.

Staying on top of the health of our breast is important. If you or a loved one has been affected by breast cancer in any way, please share the knowledge and join the movement to find a cure! We are in this together!

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To learn more about Dance to Wellness, group fitness classes or other services offered, please contact us to discover your options.