Focus on your health as part of you New Year Resolutions

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The New Year is the time for making resolutions and Cancer Focus Northern Ireland is encouraging everyone to make a few small changes to benefit you and your family, improve your health and help lower your risk of cancer.

In Northern Ireland over 12,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every year and one in three people will develop cancer during their lifetime. However, many cancers can be prevented, so there’s no better time to make the switch to a healthier lifestyle.

Most people who make New Year resolutions break them before Valentine’s Day – often because the emphasis is on denying yourself and trying to do too much too soon. Rather than focus all your energies and trying to turn your life around in January, why not ring in the changes gradually throughout the year?

Here are Cancer Focus NI’s handy hints and tips for each month

January – Focus on Nutrition. Be a healthy weight. As the amount of fat in the body increases, so does the chance of certain cancers. Eat fruit, vegetables, grains and pulses. Limit foods high in sugar, salt or fat, avoid processed meat and limit red meat.

February – Increase your Exercise. Take 30 minutes vigorous exercise or 60 minutes moderate activity each day. Do things you enjoy - take the stairs, walk to your local shop or go for a brisk walk during lunch break. You could get ready for the Belfast Marathon in May and enter the marathon, fun run or nine mile walk. It’s a great way to exercise and you could raise sponsorship money for Cancer Focus at the same time. There’s also the Belfast half marathon in September.

March – Stop Smoking. Stopping smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and lower your risk of cancer. Plan to quit and you’ll be more successful, so make a note of No Smoking Day on March 9. Smokers can greatly increase their chances of success if they use a stop smoking service and tips such as those provided by Cancer Focus NI.

April – Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. Stick to those New Year resolutions of a healthy diet, increased exercise and no smoking and you’ll lower your risk of bowel cancer. If you’re between 60 and 74 use the bowel cancer screening service when you’re called.

May – Take Care in the Sun. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland. Avoid too much sun, especially for children. Seek shade, cover up and use sun protection. Do not use sunbeds.

June – Men’s Health. The Cancer Focus NI Man Van visits workplaces, leisure centres and sports clubs everywhere, raising awareness of the positive impact that small changes can make to physical and mental health. The charity’s Male Quick Fit team check weight and body mass and give tailored advice to encourage men to set their own goals for a healthier lifestyle.

July – Limit Alcohol. If you drink alcohol of any type, limit your intake. Not drinking alcohol is better for cancer prevention.

August - Early Detection. Cancer can be more effectively treated if it is detected early so keep a check on any changes to your body. These may include:

- loss of appetite

- difficulty swallowing

- extreme tiredness

- unexplained weight loss

- persistent cough

- change in bowel habits

- changes to a mole

September - Encourage your Children to make Healthy Lifestyle Choices. Start the new school term with a spring in your step and encourage children to get exercise by cycling or walking to school. Many lifelong eating habits are formed in early childhood so pack a healthy lunchbox with plenty of fruit and veg. Ensure your children take part in the vaccination programme for human papillomavirus (HPV).

October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Cancer Focus NI encourages women to check their breasts regularly. A lump may be the most commonly recognised early symptom of breast cancer but other symptoms can include:

Any dent, puckering or dimpling of your breasts

Thickening under the skin of your breasts or armpit

Changes in size or shape of the breast

Veins which stand out more than usual

Any change in the position of your nipples – pulled inwards or pointing in a different direction

Any discharge or bleeding from your nipples

A rash on your nipple

Any discomfort or pain in your breasts that is different from normal

Any new change in sensation in your breasts

If you are between 50-70 years of age, don’t forget to take up your breast screening invitation. If you’re over 70, contact your local screening centre for an appointment.

November - Take Care Using Harmful Substances. Protect yourself in your workplace or home and follow health and safety instructions.

December - Celebrate Your Successes. Congratulations – you’ve made positive changes to your lifestyle, taking cancer prevention into your own hands.

Reflect on the changes you’ve made and the rewards that will last a lifetime!

For more information visit www.cancerfocusni.org

Talk to your doctor early if you have any health concerns and if you’re worried about cancer, call the Cancer Focus NI Helpline on 0800 783 3339 (Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm) or email helpline@cancerfocusni.org