Week of April 30, 2012
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

AICR HealthTalk
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: I've decided to stop being such a couch potato and start a walking program. Do I need to see my doctor first?

A: Congratulations on a wise decision! Spending 30 to 60 minutes a day walking can have a major effect in reducing risk of health problems, with cancer, diabetes and heart disease only the most obvious. The vital message here: don't let advice to check with your doctor before becoming more active steer you away from that goal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Doing activity that requires moderate effort is safe for most people. But if you have a chronic health condition such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, or other symptoms be sure to talk with your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you." If you are 70 or older, a call or visit with your doctor first is always a good bet. Check this list widely used by fitness professionals called the PAR-Q (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire).

Q: Foods that fight inflammation are supposed to be so healthy. But what exactly is inflammation?

A: The redness you see when you hit your thumb with a hammer or get a splinter is a sign of inflammation, the body's normal response to injury or infection. Increased blood flow to the area brings white blood cells and proteins to attack or damage intruding bacteria. The inflammation that signals a health issue is chronic, low-grade inflammation, which seems to damage body tissues in ways that promote development of chronic disease. For example, inflammatory cells have been found in the fatty plaque that builds up in blood vessels and leads to heart disease. And inflammation seems to cause cell changes that result in our body's inability to respond to insulin appropriately, increasing risk of type 2 diabetes. Inflammation may also promote cancer development by damaging our genes, increasing cell turnover and increasing development of blood vessels that allow cancer cells to grow and spread. The good news is that many of the same basic lifestyle choices that we already know promote overall health seem to decrease development of chronic inflammation. Excess body fat releases proteins that travel throughout the body promoting inflammation, so reaching and maintaining a healthy weight shows major effects on reducing inflammation. Avoid tobacco; be physically active in some way every day; and eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Including fish (especially fatty fish like salmon) and walnuts for omega-3 fat is helpful. In the past, there was some thought that polyunsaturated rich vegetable oils (corn, safflower, soybean, and sunflower) worked against the inflammation-fighting effects of omega-3 fats, but that has been disproven; monounsaturated rich vegetable oils such as olive oil and canola oil are both excellent choices.

Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

We have contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. Find evidence-based tools and information for lowering cancer risk, including AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention, at


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