A premature death is considered to be a loss of life before the age of 75 according to America's Health Rankings. While early deaths happen for various reasons, many can be prevented, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated. "Each year, nearly 900,000 Americans die prematurely from the five leading causes of death – yet 20 percent to 40 percent of the deaths from each cause could be prevented." The CDC said, "The five leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and unintentional injuries." With that said: Life doesn't need to be cut short. Living a healthy lifestyle, getting annual check ups and keeping a positive outlook all help prolong our time here. In addition, here's a few ways to help avoid a premature death according to experts Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Maintaining a Healthy Immune System
Dr. S. Adam Ramin, MD, urologic surgeon and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles says, "The immune system is our first line of defense against cancerous cells. Long before a particular type of cancer has grown and multiplied enough times to become detectable by blood tests, imaging, or screening tools, the cancer had initially started with a tiny microscopically sized colony of individual cells. This small population of cancer cells are not detectable by even modern methods of cancer screening. However the amazing human body's immune system is capable of identifying and mounting a strike force against these unwanted mutant cells. By maintaining a healthy vibrant immune system, we give our own bodies a fighting chance at irradiating the cancer cells at their infancy. How do we promote a healthy immune system?
Reduce stress and declutter our minds. Let go of petty unimportant matters from your thoughts.
Eat fresh healthy foods and avoid high fat diets.
Eat immune boosting fruits and vegetables such as berries, beets, celery, carrots, pomegranates.
Maintain a healthy weight and avoid obesity. This reduces inflammation in the body. inflammation is thought to be a leading cause of cancer through altering the immune system.
Exercise daily or live an active life: no need to go to the gym. Spend more time walking rather than driving; spend more time standing rather than sitting; take the stairs rather than elevators going up and down; flex your abdominal muscles every chance you get, such as while sitting, bending, and driving."
Stop Eating Processed Foods
Dr. Ramin explains, "Foods that are treated with preservatives and are found in a can, a box, or prepared to last a long time may cause cancer. The preservative products and treatment of these foods with heat/radiation may alter their natural chemical makeup. This in turn may contribute to formation of products in our digestive system that cause DNA mutations and eventually cancer."
Don't Avoid a Mammogram
Dr. Carmen Echols, MD certified Family Medicine Physician says, "Although 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in the United States, early detection plays a key role in prognosis and survival. The earlier the detection, the better the outcome, because the cancer is detected at an earlier stage. Additionally, Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with more aggressive breast cancer and more advanced staged breast cancer than their White and Hispanic counterparts; they are also diagnosed at earlier ages as well. Therefore, it is absolutely important to get a mammogram as soon as you are able to based on your age and family history of breast cancer."
Get a Colonoscopy
"The recommended age for colon cancer screening is 45 years old," Dr. Echols states. "Some people avoid the colonoscopy because they dread the required bowel prep process before the procedure. Still, other people avoid getting a colonoscopy because they have regular bowel movements or do not see blood in their stool, and feel it is unnecessary. However, someone can still have precancerous cells or blood in their stool that they are not able to see with the naked eye. A colonoscopy is a procedure that combines diagnosis, prevention and treatment. If there are any polyps found during a colonoscopy, they are removed and sent for biopsy to determine if they are cancerous or not. If precancerous cells are found, then you may need to get a colonoscopy more often than if non cancerous cells were found. Like with breast cancer, when you start colon cancer screening can also be impacted by your age and family history."
Genetic Counseling and Possible Testing Depending Upon Risk and Family History
Dr. Steve Vasilev MD, quadruple board certified integrative gynecologic oncologist and medical director of Integrative Gynecologic Oncology at Providence Saint John's Health Center and Professor at Saint John's Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, CA recommends, "Strongly consider getting genetic counseling if you have cancer, have a family history of cancer or are at high risk based on ancestry, such as the case in Ashkenazi Jewish women. Based on this counseling a determination is made regarding whether or not genetic testing is required and what to do depending upon the results. The most widely known test is for mutations of the BRCA gene and its relationship with ovarian, breast, uterine and prostate cancer. These are not the only mutations that are available for testing and the list is growing. In some situations, like that of Angelina Jolie, testing results may even lead to considering prophylactic removal of breast tissue, Fallopian tubes and ovaries. This is highly individualized and is usually not recommended until childbearing is complete at approximately age 40 and depends upon your personal history of cancer, family history and the exact type of gene mutation.
It's important to avoid genetic testing that may be commercially available prematurely (e.g. self-testing sent in assays) but not well worked out yet in terms of meaning. This can lead to unnecessary worry about test results that are questionable or tests that may increase risk of cancer but for which there are no good screening or prevention strategies."
Don't Have Misconceptions About Lung Cancer. It Can Happen to Anyone.
Dr. Mark Dylewski, Chief of Thoracic Surgery with Miami Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida states, "One of the biggest issues is that many people believe that lung cancer occurs as a result of bad habits, such as smoking. So many people believe that it is an acquired illness and that if people do not smoke, lung cancer will not happen. Unfortunately, about 17% of lung cancer that occurs in the US occurs in non-smokers. So lung cancer is not always a smoker's disease. I believe tobacco is probably one of the worst things someone can put into their body. It contributes to so many other cancers and other illnesses we see everyday such as hypertension, stroke, coronary artery disease, etc. Lung cancers that occur in nonsmokers usually tend to occur in females between the age of 50 – 70 years old. We see lung cancer, unrelated to tobacco use, increasing year after year in non-smokers. There may be environmental triggers or secondary exposure leading to this such as chemicals or environmental toxins. If you have a family history of lung cancer, particularly if the family member was a non- smoker, that is important. This would imply that related family members may be at risk for lung cancer, and this should prompt them to talk to their primary care physician about lung cancer screening. My recommendation would be for patients to ask their doctor if they are at risk for developing lung cancer and if screening should be part of their routine. Most patients are familiar with breast cancer and prostate cancer screenings, but not so much with lung cancer. If someone has ever smoked, you should ask your primary doctor or contact a screening program. They can best provide insight into which patients are best candidates for lung cancer screening."
Protect Yourself from the Sun
According to Dr. Naiara Braghiroli, Chief of Skin Cancer and Pigmented Lesions Clinic at Miami Cancer Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida, "Approximately 75% of skin cancers diagnosed in people of color are in areas that are not exposed to the sun, such as the palms of the hands, nail beds, soles of the feet, inside the mouth and/or the genitalia area. Due to the locations of these skin cancers, there is a higher mortality rate for people of color as diagnosis is often delayed. As such, self-exams are extremely important. It's important to conduct a self-exam at least once a month, using a mirror and, if possible, have a partner help you, paying close attention to areas not exposed to the sun, looking for new black/brown areas, asymmetrical moles, open wounds that don't heal and old scars that develop open wounds. In addition to self-examinations, be sure to visit your dermatologist annually to potentially catch any areas you might have missed. Early detection is key in curing melanoma, so if you find an unusual spot, mole or skin area, it's critical to see your dermatologist right away.
It's also important to know your family history when it comes to skin cancer. Each individual with a first-degree relative diagnosed with melanoma has a 50% greater chance of developing melanoma in the future than those without a family history of the disease. Additional risk factors to be mindful of are having a lot of moles, scars from a previous trauma and chronic/open wounds. Those who have HPV, an autoimmune disease or who are immunosuppressed are also at greater risk."
Don't Expose Yourself to COVID
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.