April 28, 2015
The Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program held an event at the U.S. Capitol in March for National Nutrition Month to focus on the important role that lifestyle factors, such as a healthy diet, exercise, social support and the environment play in reducing one’s risk for cancer.
Representative Richard Neal, dean of the Massachusetts delegation introduced keynote speaker (and his constituent) Dr. Lisa Nelson, a primary care physician and Director of Medical Education for the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. Congressman Neal noted the crucial need for access to cancer screening and information on healthy lifestyle habits in order to reduce the risk for all chronic illnesses.
Dr. Nelson spoke to a room of Members of Congress and Congressional Spouses, stating that “how we live, how we move, what we are exposed to, what we eat, and how we feel, all have an impact on our cancer risk.” She began the session by illustrating that a person’s health falls along a broad spectrum composed of numerous factors rather than simple extremes of wellbeing or illness. She explained that when individuals make lifestyle decisions that support the prevention of chronic illnesses including cancer, they move along that health spectrum towards holistic wellness. Dr. Nelson delved into two key areas of prevention in particular— nutrition and exercise—and explained how to implement practical health changes into busy lives.
Healthy food choices were at the forefront of Dr. Nelson’s discussion. She stated that “food has bioactive* components that can act like medicine to our bodies.” She advised incorporating healthy eating habits into the diet gradually, choosing one small improvement each day. These changes include removing excess sugar, selecting whole grains, avoiding processed meals, and embracing foods that look the same on the plate as they do in nature. Dr. Nelson promoted the positive message that, “it’s never too late to make lifestyle changes that can have a huge impact on your health.”
In the sedentary workforce of today Dr. Nelson also encouraged regular exercise most days of the week. Her routine includes walking whenever possible and a consistent yoga practice. She encourages people to find a way to build fitness into their lives so that it is enjoyable and contributes to overall physical and mental wellbeing.
As a physician, Dr. Nelson provided cutting-edge scientific data to support her message. Excess weight and obesity have become the norm for many Americans over the past few decades. As a result the risk of chronic disease, including cancer, has elevated significantly in this country. Dr. Nelson’s message has never been more timely or important. Although it may not always be simple, health lifestyle choices such as eating whole foods and finding time to build fitness into daily routines can significantly improve the quality and longevity of one’s life.
The presentation was followed by a lively discussion with questions about how to implement healthy eating into everyday lives, how to interest children in healthy eating and how to reduce excess sugar diets while still satisfying a sweet tooth. Dr. Nelson ensured attendees that she is a devoted fan of dark chocolate which is rich in antioxidants and low in added sugar.
This informative seminar was attended by a group of 20 Congressional spouses and Members of Congress including Debbie Dingell, Jim McGovern, Richard Neal, and Rick Nolan.
Due to overwhelming interest in the lifestyle matters seminar, the session was videotaped and will be posted to the Congressional Families and Prevent Cancer Foundation website shortly. Please share, post, and tweet the life-changing information from this 90 minute session.
*having an effect on or eliciting a response from living tissue