The first step in promoting good breast health is knowing your normal.
Breasts come in all shapes and sizes and can change in many ways throughout the course of your lifetime – through puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, and aging. But even from month to month your breasts may feel differently due to your menstrual cycle. The more aware you become of your breasts’ unique and changing characteristics, the easier it will be for you to pick up on something that needs to be examined.
Breast health isn’t something you should just think about during your annual checkup – instead, make sure your breasts get the attention they deserve every day. Proactively taking care of them is easy and should be part of your overall health regimen.
Breast Health Tips
Here are some simple things you can do to promote breast health. (The girls will thank you!)
The Right Bra Matters.
Most women are not wearing a bra that fits properly so lymphatic drainage is impeded, interfering with cellular health. Have a bra expert measure you, especially if you have recently gained or lost weight, had a baby, or have been breastfeeding. A bra without underwire support allows for less pressure on the breasts when exercising, it’s important to wear a sports bra. Repeated bouncing and movement can cause your breasts to stretch and sag and it can also cause pain. The best choice is a sports bra that compresses and encapsulates your breasts to combat both up & down and side to side movements.
Eating fresh, whole foods – as close to their natural form as possible – will help you avoid estrogen-like compounds found in food packaging plastics, additives, canned foods/drinks and soy products, which have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Some great “clean” choices include: broccoli, beans, plums, walnuts and salmon. A high-fat diet can encourage the body to produce too much estrogen, so stick to a low fat diet by decreasing consumption of meat and dairy products.
Drink more water.
Everyone knows there are tons of benefits to staying hydrated. But you should know that coffee, tea, soft drinks, wine, and beer all contain methylxanthines – chemicals that trigger the increased production of stress hormones. These hormones are linked to breast lumps and tenderness, and studies show that reducing or eliminating such drinks – and replacing them with good old H2O – can diminish symptoms.
Smoking has been linked to a variety of chronic health problems. Women who smoke have a 30% higher risk of breast cancer than women who never smoked.
Give yourself a massage.
Breasts benefit from proper circulation and what is called “tissue mobilization” for optimum health – a regular self-massage can increase circulation and help break up fibrous tissue. Try 50-100 light circular motions in each direction over the breast tissue and gently rub over the entire breast and underarm area to circulate the lymph glands and restore the flow of energy.
- Push-ups: Traditional or with knees bent, push-ups use your bodyweight as resistance to strengthen the chest. You can also do this against a wall.
- Palm press: Feel the pressure in your pectoral muscle when you press palms together and hold five-seconds. Repeat 10+ times.
Breastfeeding has been shown to have numerous long-term benefits to mothers including optimizing metabolic function, less risk of osteoporosis, and less risk of reproductive cancers.
Stand up straight.
Hunching your shoulders can lead to a loss of flexibility in the chest muscles resulting in sagging over time. Stand and walk straighter – you get the added benefit of breasts that instantly look bigger and perkier.
Perform routine breast self-exams (BSE).
Self-examination takes just a few minutes and can be a critical step in maintaining breast health. The best time to perform a BSE is after your period when swelling and tenderness are at a minimum.
If you’re over 40, make sure to schedule mammograms annually.
While most breast changes are benign, you should call your doctor if you notice nipple discharge, rashes, lumps, thickening of the skin, changes in size or shape of your breasts, inversion of the nipple or pain in the breast or armpit areas.
If you have breast tenderness, swelling, aches and heaviness with your menstrual cycle, you might have fibrocystic breast condition—a very common condition which affects approximately 50% of women during childbearing years. While you may have always accepted this discomfort as normal, it no longer has to interfere with your daily activities.