You can't change your family medical history, which may put you at increased risk for chronic disease, heart disease, or cancer. But you can fight back against such conditions by altering your lifestyle, particularly your diet.
Nutrition is a critical component to promoting good health, and if certain diseases run in your family, you'll want to make your diet as preventive as possible.
Here's food for thought on dietary changes that can help you prevent several serious health conditions.
Curb breast cancer
The National Cancer Institute estimates that one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. To reduce your risk:
Limit alcohol. Having more than one drink a day for women has been associated with an increased risk for breast cancer.
Watch calories. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your breast cancer risk.
Combat colon cancer
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. To reduce your risk:
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Include whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, and barley in your diet.
Limit red meat. Diets high in red meat have been associated with an increased risk for colon cancer. To eat less meat, think of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as the entrée at meals, and meat as the side dish.
Drink moderately, if at all. Alcohol has been associated with an increased risk for colon cancer, so if you drink, do so in moderation.
Beat heart disease
Heart disease is the number one killer of American men and women. To reduce your risk:
Consume only enough calories to maintain a healthy weight.
Fill up on fiber. The American Heart Association recommends consuming 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. To add fiber to your diet, eat oatmeal or other whole-grain cereals for breakfast and opt for whole-grain bread instead of white bread. Have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Keep your diet low in fat. This means fat should make up no more than 30 percent of your daily calories. And of the fats you do consume, avoid those that are solid at room temperature, such as butter and margarine. They're high in unhealthy saturated or trans fat. Instead, use unsaturated fat, such as canola or olive oil, whenever possible.
At least 79 million Americans have prediabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
To prevent or delay the onset of diabetes if you have prediabetes or if type 2 diabetes runs in your family, maintain a healthy weight (body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9) by cutting calories and exercising. Being at a normal weight is the most important thing you can do to prevent type 2 diabetes.