Annual Updated Health Issue:

Seven Changes You Can Make to Save Your Life

(plus a chance to win $25,000)

DISCLAIMER: Before I begin any comments about health, I am required by law to make a disclaimer:  “The following comments are not meant to diagnose or treat any disease, nor have they been approved by the FDA.”

Here are seven changes you can make to save your life or extend it! You or a family member may be concerned about the “big two” killers (cancer and Alzheimer’s). The first change will reduce your risk of cancer.  A recent study shows that…

The Research

In the news recently, there was a study that said there is some randomness to getting cancer. This study got quite a bit of publicity when it said the majority of cancer is just “bad luck” (Tomasetti & Vogelstein, 2015).

But a careful reading of the study showed they used a very select few tissue samples (31) and it excludes the most common cancers like breast and prostate cancer. The study is too small to generalize their data. Many highly renowned researchers have already denounced the study. Do not buy into this; it was not generalizable science.

Truthfully, there is some bad luck, but not much. The majority of all cancers are preventable. In fact the heritability of most cancers is between 5 and 10%. That’s why you want to focus on environmental factors.

If you think the “heritability” percentages are WAY too low, consider this. Girls often (but not always) grow up in the same house as their mother. They eat the same foods, breathe the same air, and get exposed to the same molds, toxins and noise stress. They might use the same cleaning products (bleaches, sprays, toxins, pastes, creams, etc.), the same personal care products (cream, hair color, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.) and they can take on similar beliefs and attitudes. In short, females are immersed in their mom’s environment. This (shared and sometimes toxic environment) is the real reason why breast cancer has been very tough to prevent and treat, not the heritability factor.

Prevention is the way to go for many reasons. Typical cancer treatments are expensive and often painful. The established treatments, “cut, poison, and burn” or, in more polite lingo, “surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation” are common. The best-selling cancer drugs are Rituxan, Avastin, Herceptin, Gleevec, Celgene and AbbVie. All have side effects. Let us see if we can do some prevention.

This year, more than 1 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer, a disease commonly believed to be preventable. Cancers arise daily in the body.  Fortunately, through a quite normal process of cell mutation, cells are mostly kept in check through the activity of our immune systems. Most of us fear cancer, but the contribution of genetic factors and environmental factors towards cancer risk is surprising.

Most cancers (depending on which type) have a shockingly low 2–10% heritability. For example, ladies did you know that the heritability of breast cancer is a shockingly low 1.8% from your mother? The real risk areas are those pesky environmental factors (Anand, et al., 2008). Let’s see what can be done.

Seven Changes to Save Your Life

1. Eat more of the foods packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants include enzymes or other organic substances, such as sunlight, vitamin or food sources that are capable of counteracting the damaging effects of oxidation.

Focus on Superfoods, which reduce damage or repair damage from harmful free radicals. Choose any foods from the following groups. If you dislike five of them, eat the ones you do like. To get any value at all, eat something from these groups 4-5 days a week. Eating these once a month is a joke; you’re kidding yourself if you think your body will make changes from one broccoli serving a month!

Here’s the list of anti-oxidants: sweet potatoes, watermelon, colored berries like blueberries (frozen is OK), cold water (NOT farm raised) fatty fish – like salmon, colorful vegetables (such as peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, etc.), green tea, olive oil, coffee, dark chocolate (60-65% is best), plain Greek yogurt, mangos and papayas. If you like fish, eat fresh (not hormone filled large farm raised)! If you like pork or red meat, eat more from the healthier range-fed animals.

Plus, folic acid is known to reduce cancer risks. That includes the following dark greens, in order: spinach, collard, turnip and mustard greens, broccoli and asparagus, papaya, beans, peas, lentils and avocado  (Willett, 2000). When you slowly reduce, and then eliminate the products made by humans (chips, cookies, breads, candies, etc.) and focus on nature-made foods, health often improves.

Cook your foods with oxidation in mind. You’ve heard of “free radicals.” They are mostly bad (with some good). For example, free radicals contribute to the heart being able to pump more blood in stress-filled situations. But, too much stress and free radicals are very bad for you.

Free radicals play a fundamental role in the development of cancer. When you cook above 320 degrees, the high heat (grilling, frying or smoking) produces carcinogens, damages the protein content and oxidizes fats. Each of these increase body inflammation and bump up free radicals. You just bumped up your chances for cancer.  Use high heat sparingly; a couple times a month may be okay.

2. Put fewer toxic products into (or on) your body. Please, please, start reading the labels of what you put into your body. The products that absolutely MUST be safe for your body are the ones that you either ingest or put on your skin regularly. This means PAY attention to the ingredients that interact with your body, especially shampoo, conditioner, hair coloring products, deodorant, face cleaning products, soaps and makeup products.

One time usage does not put you at risk. But using a dangerous underarm deodorant 3 inches from your breasts, or a risky shampoo for forty years is a higher-risk behavior. It’s time to learn about risky ingredients.

For starters, avoid the “Parabens.” They’re a family of chemicals used in various personal-care products and have long been linked to cancer. They disrupt estrogen function. As an alternative, buy from the companies Arm & Hammer (“Essentials Natural Deodorant”) and Tom’s (Natural Deodorant and toothpaste) who both sell healthy products. You’ve just started to lower your risks!

3. Eat less of the “slow risk” foods. You won’t die from these this week, but over the long haul, these are terrible. Three of the worst offenders are “the whites.” They are white sugar, white rice, and white bread (all are “high glycemic index” foods). They raise your blood sugar levels and you produce extra insulin in the pancreas. An example of a known dietary cancer risk is diabetes (Anand, Nath & Saraswathy, 2014).  Change your diet and you can change your life.

Most products you buy with more than five ingredients are suspect. Any product that has ingredients that you can’t pronounce is suspect. I often get asked, “Don’t you ever eat junk food, like chips?” Sure, some are pretty decent. I like Fritos corn chips (corn, salt and oil) and a few other brands of chips are also healthy. Do you think healthier foods are expensive? They are. A better question to ask is, “How much does it cost you to miss just ONE day (or week or month) of your life?” Stick with the healthier foods.

4. Reduce exposure to risk detection devices. This caution includes mammograms (take every 3-5 years, not annually to reduce risk), prostrate screening (once every 5-7 years), dental X-ray screening (take once every 2-3 years) and airport X-rays (less is better).

Those who profit from them typically defend all of these tests, but the science is NOT entirely clear on the safety when the process is used often. That’s why I reduce the amount of radiation in my body as much as possible. When traveling though airports, if I’ve got an extra few moments, they can pat me down. Better to be safe than sorry.

5. Move your body. Researchers have long linked exercise with lower breast cancer risk for women past menopause, believing it works partly by lowering their estrogen levels. Higher estrogen levels can raise breast cancer risk.

If it’s 1-3 floors at a hotel, take the stairs down to the lobby. If you have to park an extra thirty seconds from the store entrance, embrace the walk. At home, I swim or surf 6 days a week. I get out in the yard to do gardening and so does my wife.

If you are a member of a gym, work out 3-6 days a week. If you are not a member, find something you love to do and do it daily. These activity requests are meant to nag you. Your body was designed to move!

6. Talk back to the voice in your head. Learn to manage your self-talk. If the voice in your head is replaying stressful conversations, redirect it to another more productive conversation. There are many reasons why certain people become stressed or even depressed. Just one of them is their inner conversations that get them worked up into a stressed state.

Most people think of depression as a medical condition or disease. Another point of view is that it’s a symptom that something’s “off” or “wrong” in your life.
When I hear people tell me about the voice in their head that replays stressful conversations or creates new ones, I ask the question, “And who is directing that voice in the head?” You are!

Change the conversation to something more inspiring, optimistic and empowering. You are the driver of your bus. You are not a victim of the “inner voice.” If the voice is counter-productive, don’t feed it; redirect it elsewhere.

7. Get your Vitamin D. This is a miracle factor for health. It supports your immune system to enhance protection. Vitamin D supports normal muscle production and strength, and a lack of the vitamin leads to muscle weakness, a reduced range of motion, and increased physical frailty.

When I’m not traveling, I still try to get 10-15 min, a day of sunshine. There’s no risk of skin cancer at that short exposure and a HUGE upside. The Vitamin D factor helps facilitate healing from illnesses and helps metabolize the potassium and calcium needed for strong bones.

The most common cause of skin cancer is the sun. Most people think they’re doing a better job for themselves by using a higher numbered sunscreen. But the higher the number, the more risk you’re taking with toxic chemicals.

That higher SPF is also a waste of money… Sunscreens with SPF 8 block 87% of UVB rays (the ones that burn your skin). SPF 30 blocks 97%. SPF 100 sunscreens block 99%. In any case, read the ingredients on what you buy.

Most of the 500 most popular sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer. Consumer Reports Magazine said that only 39 of the 500 products they examined were considered safe and effective to use. Some sunscreen ingredients (anything with oxybenzone, benzophenone, octocrylene, or octyl methoxycinnamate) may be potentially carcinogenic or have other health risks. Read the label: avoid personal care products with retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone.

Get 10-20 minutes of sun a day, if possible. Vitamin D is good for you. BUT, if you want to stay out longer, do intervals of sun, then shade. The product I buy (Amazon) and use is: Beyond Coastal Active Sunscreen SPF 34. Please do not buy and use cheap products that may increase cancer risk. If you want to save money, save it on something besides your life!

Breakthroughs in 2016

Two recent cancer breakthroughs are Proton Beam therapy and immunotherapy. There are now five ways to treat cancer: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.

The last one, immunotherapy, use antibodies – proteins that match up to other proteins with great specificity. The new treatments do not directly attack cancerous cells, but instead unleash the immune system on them. While this is new, it is highly effective.

This therapy harnesses the immune system to battle tumors. Scientists have thought for decades that such an approach to cancer therapy should be possible, but it has been incredibly difficult to make it work. Now, many oncologists say we have turned a corner, because two different techniques are helping a subset of patients.

One involves antibodies that “release a brake” on T cells, giving them the power to tackle tumors. Another involves genetically modifying an individual’s T cells outside the body so that they are better able to target cancer, and then reinfusing them back into the body so they can fight the carcinogenic cells.

The FDA has approved several antibody–drug conjugates for the treatment of patients with cancer, including:

  • ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla®) for the treatment of some types of breast cancer
  • brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris®) for Hodgkin lymphoma and a type of non-Hodgkin T-cell lymphoma
  • ibritumomab tiuxetan (Zevalin®) for a type of non-Hodgkin B-cell lymphoma

The other treatment is a targeted therapy using a Proton beam.

The newer proton beam radiation treatments are far safer, and far more precise. Unlike x-rays, proton beams can be targeted at your most vital areas.

The advantage of proton treatment is that the doctor can precisely control where the proton releases the bulk of its cancer-fighting energy. When the proton beam hits its target, it does not go through it like x-rays. It stops right at the tumor. So the beams miss your brain. And your heart. And your bladder. The organs that keep you alive. Proton therapy may also be used to treat these cancers:

  • Central nervous system cancers, including chordoma, chondrosarcoma, and malignant meningioma
  • Eye cancer, including uveal melanoma or choroidal melanoma
  • Head and neck cancers, including nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer and some nasopharyngeal cancers
  • Lung cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Spinal and pelvic sarcomas, which are cancers that occur in the soft-tissue and bone
  • Noncancerous brain tumors

As a result, a much higher dose of radiation can be given to the patient, meaning a faster treatment schedule, and a much higher quality of life. And tens of thousands of people across the country who have already received proton beam therapy have reported incredible results.

While proton therapy has been most widely used in the treatment of prostate cancer, it can also be used to treat lung cancer, pediatric tumors and cancers of the head and neck. Using protons to treat pediatric cancers, for example, is considered effective by many practitioners.

“A new generation of treatments offers new possibilities. The new approaches often use antibodies – proteins that match up to other proteins with great specificity. The new treatments do not directly attack cancerous cells, but instead unleash the immune system on them.”

In other words, the latest development in the war on cancer is a treatment called immunotherapy.

Simply put, immunotherapy “activates” certain parts of your immune system to fight disease. According to the American Cancer Society, this is done in two ways:

One, stimulating your immune system to work harder or smarter to attack cancer cells.

Or, two, giving your immune system certain components, like man-made immune system proteins, to fight cancer cells.

Proton beams are the new disruptive technology in the fight against cancer.

Right now, it makes up less than 1% of all cancer treatments…

Yet it’s far more precise, can be used to deliver a higher, more effective dose of radiation, all with little to no side effects – in other words, tremendously superior to standard x-ray radiation.

“The insurance companies care about cost and cure rate, not quality of life! If you have been diagnosed with cancer and have been told that surgery is the best answer, think twice… there are often other choices.

“All of the top 10 cancer centers in the U.S. have proton therapy or are developing a center, which shows they believe in it,”

No. 1: Pancreatic cancer.  What you can do: Know the warning signs and see a doctor if you experience abdominal or back pain, unexplained weight loss, digestive problems, light-colored stools, or jaundice.

Chronic alcohol consumption — more than one drink a day for women and more than two drinks a day for men over an extended period of time — can increase the risk for pancreatitis and cancer. Diets heavy on processed red meats have also been linked to the disease, while eating five services of vegetables daily can help prevent it.

No. 2: Liver cancer. What you can do: Because obesity is a prime risk factor for liver cancer, your best defense is to maintain a healthy weight by eating balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and keeping belly fat to a minimum. You should also limit alcohol consumption and your intake of sugary foods, which increase your risk for obesity, diabetes, fatty liver, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.

Chronic hepatitis is also a known risk factor for this form of cancer, so make sure you have a hep B vaccine. You should also tell a doctor if you experience fatigue, anemia, abdominal pain, jaundice, unexplained weight loss, or digestive problems.

No. 3: Brain cancer. What you can do: Be aware that about half of people who have brain tumors report unusual headaches — those that may wake you at night or in the morning — among the first signs.

Other potential warning signs: nausea, vomiting, vision or balance problems, tingling in the arms or legs, personality changes, seizures, or extreme fatigue. Reduce risk for brain cancer by limiting exposure to CT scans and keep mobile devices just a bit away from your brain when held near your head.

No. 4: Esophageal cancer. What you can do: Treat reflux (consult a doctor for an appropriate remedy), quit smoking, and limit consumption of foods that have high acid content.

The opposite foods, those more alkaline, are leafy green vegetables; learn to enjoy them more. If you don’t like those, consider taking sodium potassium bicarbonate supplements.  Be aware that chronic acid reflux — can lead to cancer. Those over 50 suffering from long-term heartburn, throat-burn, coughing, or hoarseness should get a nasal esophagoscopy, which allows a doctor to view the esophagus. Among the warning signs: chest pain, difficulty swallowing, hiccups, sudden unexplained weight loss, and chronic pneumonia.

No. 5: Skin cancer. What you can do: Check your skin for irregular moles, growths, and patches. Make sure to limit your sun exposure (15 minutes at a time) and apply safe sunscreen (see suggestions above) liberally and regularly when your are outdoors — particularly if you are light-skinned or have blonde or red hair, which increases skin cancer risk. See a dermatologist regularly for a skin examination, particularly if you had serious sunburns as a child.

Merck has also gone to market status, with US approval of Keytruda for patients with advanced melanoma who are not responding to other drugs. There are three problems with these new drugs: the need for companion diagnostics, the need for proof of extended survival in patients, and high cost.

No. 6 Leukemia (Myelogenous leukemia) is exceedingly difficult to treat. But a new breakthrough happened in 2014. Myelogenous leukemia (CML) is a cancer resulting from gene translocation (genes which do not stay put) a disease fatal within about five years until the development of Gleevec (from Novartis), which increases mean survival in CML patients to more than 20 years.

No. 7 Lung Cancer. Lung cancer is one of the world’s deadliest diseases, But it is about to get better treatments. There’s a new wave of ‘immune checkpoint inhibitor’ (ICI) drugs, which focus cancer treatment by awakening the body’s own immune system to fight it.

Typically, cancer evades defeat by your body’s immune system by hiding—they use a variety of ‘cloaking’ mechanisms. But two new immunotherapy drugs (expected to get approved this year) will block these mechanisms, allowing your own immune system to identify cancer cell and destroy them. They should be commercially available shortly.

No. 8 Breast and Ovarian Cancer. Evidence now suggests that Vitamin D plays a role in stopping cancer development and growth (Raimondi, Johansson, Maisonneuve, Gandini, 2009). One study showed women could slash the risk of breast cancer in half by getting enough Vitamin D.

New developments suggest some drugs that may help. For starters, a new drug, Salumetinib, is showing promise against low-grade ovarian tumors that have been very difficult to treat.  Anastrozole can reduce the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women who are at high risk of the disease.

Summary

Today, doctors can use an analysis of the genetic characteristics of the specific cancer that is present in the patient, and the patient’s genome and customize an individualized treatment.

This engineers the patient’s own immune response so that it specifically targets the cancer that has attacked the patient. Today, that procedure is slow, expensive and not guaranteed.  But it is promising.

Cancer prevention requires serious lifestyle commitments to healthy living. Those changes include smoking cessation, increased ingestion of fruits and vegetables, moderate-low use of alcohol, caloric restriction, sufficient exercise, avoidance of over-exposure to sunlight, minimal meat consumption, use of whole grains, and use of vaccinations, Get enough Vitamin D, avoid toxic personal care products and get regular check-ups with fewer radiation doses.

Do you think those suggestions are too expensive? How much would having cancer cost you? Do you think exercise, eating better and Vitamin D takes up too much time? If you get cancer, how much of your time is spent trying to heal?

Practical Applications

While some of the suggestions above may not be new, every one is backed by solid science. I enjoy good health and never, ever take it for granted. I have the immune system of one much younger than myself. Why? What you see on the list above, are things that I also pay attention to, and actually do most of the “preventions” every day.

I take 60-80 flights a year, but travel does not make anyone sick; a weak immune system does. I work extra hard to manage my health and I constantly work to maintain my immune system. The plan is working so far; I’ve been sick maybe one or two days in ten years.

How?

I do follow the suggestions that I make; it’s my life hanging in the balance. Even if you only made one change a month or even one per year, you’ll move yourself to greater health.

Which change were you thinking of making? When?

Your partner in learning,

Eric Jensen
President, CEO, Jensen Learning Corp

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Citations:

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Anand S, Nath B, Saraswathy R. (2014). Diabetes–increased risk for cancers through chromosomal aberrations? Asian Pac J Cancer Prev.15, 4571-3.
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Daniel C Andersson, Jérémy Fauconnier, Takashi Yamada, Alain Lacampagne, Shi-Jin Zhang, Abram Katz & Håkan Westerblad. (2011). Mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species contributes to the beta-adrenergic stimulation of mouse cardiomycytes. The Journal of Physiology, DOI.
Dallal CM, Brinton LA, Matthews CE, Lissowska J, Peplonska B, Hartman TJ, Gierach GL. (2012) Accelerometer-based measures of active and sedentary behavior in relation to breast cancer risk. Breast Cancer Res Treat.134, 1279-90.
Ferrarini L, Pellegrini N, Mazzeo T, Miglio C, Galati S, Milano F, Rossi C, Buschini A. (2011) Anti-proliferative activity and chemoprotective effects towards DNA oxidative damage of fresh and cooked Brassicaceae. Br J Nutr. Nov 17:1-9.
Giovannucci E. (2009).Vitamin D and Cancer Incidence in the Harvard Cohorts. Ann Epidemiol. 19:84-88.
Harvey PW. (2003) Parabens, oestrogenicity, underarm cosmetics and breast cancer: a perspective on a hypothesis. J Appl Toxicol. Sep-Oct;23(5):285-8.
Höffken K. (2004) A warming by the German Cancer Society. Risk of breast cancer caused by deoderant sprays containing paraben?
MMW Fortschr Med. Feb 12;146(7):13.
Lappe JM, Travers-Gustafson D, Davies KM, Recker RR, Heaney RP. (2007) Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr.;85:1586-1591.
Martorano LM, Stork CJ, Li YV. (2010) UV irradiation-induced zinc dissociation from commercial zinc oxide sunscreen and its action in human epidermal keratinocytes. J Cosmet Dermatol. Dec;9(4):276-86.
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One Comment

  1. This is a great article, Mr.Jensen. Physical health certainly effects mental health.
    As a retired educator and author, I “eat up” learning activities and health that maintains that learning. I have always been interested in how the brain works, helping us and students learn.

    Someday, I would like to be able to attend one of your seminars, especially in San Antonio where I have children. Hopefully, I will interest more publishers in my articles to help parents know HOW to help their children–SUPPORTING SUPER STUDENTS.

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