We all come in different shapes and sizes, and many of us gain and lose weight at various times in our lives. The benefits of being a healthier weight are well worth the effort. Not only does weight loss increase energy and improve well-being, but it reduces the risk of breast cancer and other diseases.
If you’ve tried to lose weight and keep it off, you’ll know that it isn’t easy—and often gets harder as you age. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation offers you facts to inform you and practical tips to motivate you to gain or maintain a healthier body weight.
Body weight and breast cancer risk
Research shows that women with a higher body weight may have a higher risk of breast cancer. Excess weight gained during adulthood increases the risk of breast cancer later in life, even more so after menopause.
This connection is thought to be caused by exposure to greater levels of the hormone estrogen, which is linked to the development of breast cancer. After menopause, most of the body's estrogen is produced in fat tissue, so a woman who carries more weight is exposed to more of the hormone.
Are you a healthy weight? Know your BMI
Measuring Body Mass Index (BMI) is one way of assessing your weight and its possible affects on your health. BMI is a measure of weight that takes your height into account.
BMI can be an important indicator of whether your weight is putting your health at risk. Experts consider a healthy BMI to be in the range of 18.5–25 if you are under 65 years of age, while a BMI of 20–27 is a healthy range if you are 65 years of age and over.
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to find tools to help you calculate your own BMI.
Small changes: big impact
Being a healthier weight throughout life may be one of the most important ways you can protect yourself against breast cancer. It may also be one of the most challenging.
For most adults, a reduction of just 50 to 100 calories per day may be enough to prevent gradual weight gain. You can cut 100 calories from your diet with one less plain bagel, chocolate chip cookie or café latte – or by drinking water instead of a can of soda. Research shows that the most effective way to lose weight—and keep it off—is by working at it slowly and surely. If you wish to gain a healthier body weight, losing 5 to 10 per cent of your total weight can have significant health benefits.
If you are trying to lose weight: be patient, set yourself realistic goals and prepare to make it a long-term commitment.
Body Shape: are you an apple or a pear?
Even if your BMI is within the healthy range, your waist circumference is another important health indicator. Excess weight around the waist and upper body (an 'apple' body shape) is associated with greater health risks than weight in the hip and thigh area (a 'pear' body shape).
A waist circumference of 88 cm, or 35 inches, or more in women is linked with an increased risk of many health problems, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
If you’d like to reach or maintain a healthier weight, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation encourages you to speak to a health care provider, including a dietician, nutritionist or naturopath, about the best approach for you.
Health Canada. Canadian Guidelines for Body Weight Classification in Adults. Accessed July 31, 2011.
Health Canada. 2008. Nutrient Value of Some Common Foods.
Heart & Stroke Foundation. Healthy Habits Healthy Weight: A Practical Guide to Weight Management.: Accessed July 31, 2011.
National Cancer Institute. Obesity and Cancer: Questions and Answers. Accessed July 31, 2011.
World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. In Washington DC: AICR, 2007. Accessed July 31, 2011.