How a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk

20 Aug 2021

Living an unhealthy lifestyle affects overall health and wellbeing and may increase the risk of several types of cancer. The good news is you can change some of these to reduce your cancer risks. This includes your diet, how much alcohol you drink, smoking and exercise.

There are four things you can do to improve your lifestyle: 

Healthy lifestyle tip 1: Exercise regularly 

‘We are what we eat’ and the more fruits and vegetables you include in your diet, the better you are going to feel and the healthier you are likely to be long term. Better yet – fruit and vegetables are low in fat and calories and can help keep your weight under control. 

Limit intake of foods high in saturated fat (and salt) such as many biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies, processed meats, commercial burgers, pizza, fried foods, potato chips, crisps, and other savoury snacks. Also limit intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars such as confectionary, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, energy and sports drinks

Replace high-fat foods which contain predominantly saturated fats such as butter, cream, cooking margarine, coconut and palm oil with foods which contain predominantly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as oils, spreads, nut butters/pastes and avocado. But how much is enough good food? Here’s a handy guide:

1 serve of fruit =

  • 2 pieces of small sized fruit (such as apricots, plums and kiwifruit)
  • 1 piece of medium sized fruit (such as an apple or orange)
  • I cup of fruit salad or canned fruit pieces in natural juice 

1 serve of vegetables =

  • Half cup of cooked vegetables
  • 1 cup of salad
  • Half cup of legumes (lentils or chickpeas)

1 serve of meat or fish =

  • A piece the size of the palm of your hand

For more information on having a healthy lifestyle, healthy eating, hints and tips and interesting articles, check out Pink Hope’s health and wellbeing blogs.

Healthy lifestyle tip 2: Drink less alcohol

Do you know how many alcoholic drinks you have each day? Alcohol is a group 1 carcinogen – it’s converted into a toxic chemical that damages your DNA and increases your risk of mouth, throat, oesophagus, bowel, liver and female breast cancer. And it doesn’t matter what type of alcohol you drink, your cancer risk is the same whether it’s beer, wine, cider or spirits.

The Australian guidelines advise to reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week. We shouldn’t have any more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. The less you drink, the lower your risk of harm from alcohol. 

Sometimes it’s hard to know what a standard drink actually looks like. We’ve included information to help take the guesswork out of choosing what to drink.

One standard drink =

  • 285 ml of beer (one glass of beer)
  • 100 ml of wine (one small glass of wine)
  • 30 ml of spirits (one measure of spirits)

Essentially, one standard drink in Australia contains 10 grams of alcohol. All bottles, cans and casks of alcohol have to say on the label the number of standard drinks they contain.                      

Be aware of what makes up a standard drink. Note how many drinks you’ve had. Try alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones like sparkling or plain water. Choose low-alcohol beer and/or wine and always eat some healthy food when you drink alcohol.

Use water to quench your thirst and sip alcoholic drinks slowly and offer to be the designated driver when you go out.

Healthy lifestyle tip 3: Exercise regularly

Being physically active is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle. There are many advantages to physical activity. Doing regular exercise can reduce the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Australian adults should try to be active most days, preferably every day. It’s advised each week, adults should do either:

  • 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as a brisk walk, golf, mowing the lawn or swimming
  • 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity physical activity, such as jogging, aerobics, fast cycling, soccer or netball, or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activities.

When you start getting active, you’ll notice how much of an impact it makes on your overall health, wellbeing, and happiness. Finding it hard to incorporate movement into your everyday life? Book in regular exercise with your friends, you are less likely to ‘sleep in’ when you’ve made a commitment to a friend to meet them for a walk at 6.20am or an early class at the gym. Walk instead of driving to the shops or dropping the kids off to school.

Get off public transport one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way. Spring clean your house with vigorous vacuuming and mowing the lawn. Wear a pedometer – this nifty gadget counts your steps – aim for 10 000 per day. It’s amazing how competitive you can become when you challenge your friends or workmates to a step comp!

Healthy lifestyle tip 4: Quit Smoking

It’s never too late to quit smoking. Smoking is one of the largest causes of preventable disease and death in Australia. The statistics are frightening – more than 10,000 Australians are diagnosed with smoking-related cancer every year. Don’t join them – give up smoking today. Do you smoke within 30 minutes of waking or more than 10 – 15 cigarettes a day? If you do there is a high chance you are addicted to smoking. But there is support available to help you quit – you don’t have to do it alone. Your GP and QUITLINE on 13 78 48 can offer support to help you give up smoking. 

Two out of three lifetime smokers die from a disease caused by smoking. Quitting smoking today could save your life. You will also feel so much better and reduce your chance of 18 different cancers, heart disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, stroke, type 2 diabetes, asthma and more. Even if you don’t smoke it’s also important to avoid breathing in other people’s cigarette smoke which can increase your risk of cancer.


If you’re looking to quit, tell your friends, family and workmates you are going to quit smoking, and start thinking of yourself as a ‘non-smoker’. Check in with your GP and ask for practical advice and support, call the Quitline on 13 7848 (13 QUIT) and ask for a free Quit pack. There are many strategies for quitting, Quitline, quit apps, gum, medication, and/or cold turkey. Choose the one that suits your lifestyle for the best chance of success.