We are nearly to the end of my 7-Day Prescription for Healthier Breasts. My 7-day plan is a great way to start taking action based on the knowledge we have gained over the first half of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.


Day 6 is the day to reduce your stress.

A new study shows that mild to moderate stressful events seem to have a cumulative negative effect over time. Younger women who experience two or more severely stressful life events, such as losing a parent, going through a divorce, losing a job, or severe illness, have an increased risk for developing breast cancer by 62% [1]. In the same study, women with depression were more likely to have breast cancer. In contrast, the study also found that women with a "general feeling of happiness and optimism" had a 25% lower risk of having been diagnosed with breast cancer. A recent University of Pittsburgh study found that women with optimistic attitudes had an almost 10% reduced risk of developing heart disease, the #1 killer of women and men, compared to their pessimistic counterparts [2].

Stress is a disease-causing killer.

Stress can even cause us to overeat and store more belly fat (which produces more estrogen hormone). Chemical messengers in our brain called “neurotransmitters” respond to food intake by affecting our emotions, cravings, and appetites. For example, the messenger “serotonin” controls feelings of satisfaction and happiness. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, decreased energy, and increased appetite. Stress can deplete serotonin, which may account for why we have food cravings when we are experiencing tense or difficult times in our lives. Some researchers estimate that 75 to 90% of all doctor visits are related to stress [3]. Unchecked stress levels increase stress hormone levels like “cortisol.”

Long-term consequences of uncontrolled stress include a very dirty laundry list:
    • Overeating, leading to excessive fat
    • Poor, quickly aging skin
    • Headaches
    • Bad memory
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Ulcers and other digestive problems
    • High blood pressure
    • Chest pains
    • Fatigue
    • Depression
    • Diabetes
    • Decreased muscle tissue
    • Bone loss
    • Poor immune function
    • Anxiety
    • Sleep disorders
    • Reduced immune function
    • Poorer DNA repair

Reducing stress isn’t simple. It requires identifying the major and minor causes of your stress, and then making tough, often life-altering decisions. If there are situations that can’t be changed, then your only choice is to balance the stress by creating more leisure and relaxation time. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Some stress-reducing strategies that I’ve found effective over the years are:
    • Seek spiritual help and guidance.
    • Find a trusted friend to discuss your situation.
    • Instead of letting stress kidnap your emotions, take control by making a list. Carefully consider what you can do to either change your circumstances, or adjust your attitude so it won’t sabotage your thoughts.
    • Play your favorite music every day. Music has power to soothe your soul. When is the last time you put your favorite music on and turned it up?
    • Get plenty of sleep—a tired mind is troubled.

If your stress is severe, seek medical help.

Tomorrow… Day 7…


1. Peled R, Carmil D, Siboni-Samocha O, Shoham-Vardi I. Breast cancer, psychological distress and life events among young women. BMC Cancer 2008; 8:245.

2. Tindle HA, Chang YF, Kuller LH, Manson JE, Robinson JG, Rosal MC, Siegle GJ, Matthews KA. Optimism, cynical hostility, and incident coronary heart disease and mortality in the Women’s Health Initiative. Circulation 2009; 120:656 – 662.

3. American Institute of Stress. URL: http://www.stress.org/

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