Health

DR SARAH MEADE: I'm a brain cancer specialist, and here's what I eat and do every day to slash my risk of getting the disease


Brain tumours kill more children and adults under 40 than any other type of cancer in the UK. 

More than 12,000 Brits are given the devastating news they have this cancer every year, with only one in 10 expected to survive to see the next decade. 

But experts say just a few lifestyle changes could help reduce your chances of getting the disease. 

Watching what you eat, how you sleep and managing stress are just of things brain cancer specialists themselves follow in a bid to keep their grey matter in top shape. 

Here, Dr Sara Meade, consultant clinical neuro-oncologist at The Harborne Hospital in Birmingham, part of HCA Healthcare, tells MailOnline what healthy habits she prioritises to keep her brain healthy. 

Dr Sara Meade, consultant clinical neuro-oncologist at The Harborne Hospital in Birmingham , part of HCA Healthcare

Dr Sara Meade, consultant clinical neuro-oncologist at The Harborne Hospital in Birmingham , part of HCA Healthcare

Getting outside in the fresh air and exercising 

Making sure to include a walk with the family or a refreshing swim is always a top priority for Dr Meade. 

She believes that doing enjoyable activities that also keep you fit and healthy are vital for your brain health.

‘Every day, I make it a point to do something I enjoy for my own physical and mental health,’ she told this website. 

‘This could be going for a swim, which is my favourite hobby for fitness and well-being, taking a walk with my family, the dog, or a friend, or even something as simple as stepping out of the clinical area for 20 minutes to get a coffee with a colleague.

‘Engaging in activities that bring joy helps reduce stress and promotes a positive outlook on life. In turn, this helps maintain good physical and mental health.’

Being active and a healthy weight can give your immune system a boost, she says.

Keeping your immune system in top form can help perform better it is function of spotting and dealing with cells which could go on to become cancer, according to Cancer Research UK (CRUK). 

The charity also highlights that being active reduces inflammation which, if left unchecked, can cause our cells to divide more often, increasing cancer risk. 

‘Although there is not a specific brain cancer risk to not being active, it’s applicable to reducing risk of all cancer generally,’ Dr Meade stresses.  

Doing enjoyable activities that also keep you fit and healthy are also vital for your brain health

Doing enjoyable activities that also keep you fit and healthy are also vital for your brain health

Enjoying a balanced and healthy diet

Eating plenty of healthy foods not only keeps your body fit and healthy, but your mind as well. 

‘Healthy eating is a cornerstone of maintaining good health,’ Dr Meade said. 

‘I believe in the principle of moderation and making good food choices most of the time to keep a healthy balance,’ she added. 

‘A balanced diet helps provide us with the necessary nutrients for the body and brain to function optimally and supports overall well-being. 

‘This habit ensures I have the energy and focus needed in day-to-day life.’

Oily fish is an important source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health. 

Plus, eating more fruit and vegetables and less fatty and sugary food will help you maintain a healthy weight overall. 

However, although a healthy and balanced diet can help to reduce your risk of cancer, Dr Meade said it is unlikely there is a single food that will definitely cut your risk. 

‘There is no strong evidence base that you need to eat a specific thing to avoid brain cancer, it’s all about eating well and maintaining normal weight for general health,’ Dr Meade said.  

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of 13 types of cancer, including Meningioma (a type of brain tumour), according to CRUK. 

One reason for this is because being too fat causes the level of growth hormones in the body to rise, which then causes cells to divide more often. 

Each of these additional divisions represents another potential chance for cancer cells to appear, increasing the risk of getting the disease. 

Another factor increasing risk is that immune cells are attracted to areas of the body where there are lots of fat cells. 

This can then cause an inflammation spike in these areas which, as previously highlighted, causes cells to divide quicker, increasing the risk of cancer forming.

Eating more fruit and vegetables and less fatty and sugary food will help you maintain a healthy weight

Eating more fruit and vegetables and less fatty and sugary food will help you maintain a healthy weight

Getting enough shut eye every night

A quality dose of shut eye can do wonders for our brain health. 

‘We all function better with a healthy sleep pattern,’ Dr Meade said. 

‘While everyone’s sleep needs are slightly different when it comes to length of sleep, good quality sleep is crucial for a healthy mind and maintaining cognitive function. 

‘I prioritise getting enough sleep each night to ensure I am well-rested and can perform at my best both professionally and personally.’

A healthy adult should sleep for around 7 to 9 hours a night, but age and health can change how much sleep we need, according to the NHS. 

Long stretches of bad sleep can have a negative impact on everyone’s mental wellbeing and also influence the choices they make. 

In the short term it can also make us feel down, be more irritable with others, eat more and have difficulty concentrating. 

A healthy adult should sleep for around 7 to 9 hours a night, but age and health can impact how much sleep we need, the NHS says

A healthy adult should sleep for around 7 to 9 hours a night, but age and health can impact how much sleep we need, the NHS says

But over the long term not getting enough sleep has also been linked to greater ‘wear and tear’ on our cells. 

This type of cellular disruption is thought to increase the risk of cancerous tumours.

A 2019 study found people who work night shifts have 30 per cent more damage to their DNA compared to those who work normal hours.

In this study, researchers from the University of Hong Kong looked at around 50 doctors from two local hospitals, half of whom had to work during the night and only got two to four hours of sleep. The rest got seven or more. 

Another study suggests that fragmented sleep can trigger types of inflammation that promotes tumour growth and progression. But this 2014 University of Chicago study was done on mice, not people. 

But a 2021 study on people aged over 50 years, found there was a higher cancer risk in those who rated their sleep quality as ‘intermate’ or ‘poor’. 

However, Dr Meade said more research is needed to confirm if a lack of good quality sleep can directly increase your risk of cancer.

But, she added that ensuring you get enough good quality sleep can’t hurt and that those who don’t get enough shut eye may also have other lifestyle factors, like a poor diet, which could increase their cancer risk. 

She said: ‘Those with poor sleep hygiene can often be overweight, have a poor diet, have poor working patterns, so often it all goes hand in hand.

‘It can lead to poor judgment, impaired decision making. After a bad nights sleep you might lean on things you wouldn’t normally like bad diet choices.’

Keeping stress in balance

Staying oragnised and keeping a good work-life balance is key to maintaining a healthy mind, according to Dr Meade. 

‘Daily planning and prioritisation are essential for ensuring a healthy balance between work and personal life,’ she said.

‘Each day, I plan ahead to manage my responsibilities effectively. This habit helps me stay organised, reduce stress, and maintain a balance that supports my overall well-being.’

‘Everyone will have different daily habits and routines that work for them, but these are the habits that I find help boost my mental wellbeing.’

There is some evidence that giving your mental wellbeing a boost and cutting down stress, could also reduce your risk of cancer

There is some evidence that giving your mental wellbeing a boost and cutting down stress, could also reduce your risk of cancer

There is also some evidence that giving your mental wellbeing a boost and cutting down stress, could also reduce your risk of cancer. 

One paper in 2022 suggested there could be a connection between the body’s exposure to cortisol, the stress hormone, and cancer.

And another study in February this year suggested that being stressed out causes cancers to grow and spread.

Although stress hasn’t been directly linked to the disease, long periods of stress have been linked to high blood pressure and depression, according to the NHS

It can also be harder to maintain a healthy lifestyle, such as not smoking and drinking, during stressful situations. These habits can lead to an increased cancer risk, warns CRUK. 

However, the charity says there is not enough evidence to show ‘those who are more stressed are more likely to get cancer’. 

Although there is no direct link Dr Meade argues managing your stress levels will, overall, help you have a better ‘quality of life’.  

‘It’s all about giving ourselves the best chance. A lot of us can’t control whether we will or won’t get brain cancer in our lives,’ she said.

‘For the vast majority of people there is nothing they have done wrong in their lives to cause it, brain cancer is very often very random and sporadic. But it’s about giving yourself the best chance of longevity and quality of life.’



READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.