This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
Underwires, sports bras and hormone changes can cause breasts to go through a lot, often leaving them at the bottom of our self-care list.
If you're looking to show those breasts a little love, we have a few tips and tricks to help care for your girls.
Practice self-care all over
One under-utilized but beneficial way to care for your breasts is with the help of a tissue massage. As the breasts are part of the lymphatic system that moves toxins out of the body, they are are prone to blockages and tenderness — especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
When there is a blockage, whether from tight clothing, or stress, a massage can help with stress relief, improving circulation, and releasing pain and breast tenderness. Using moisturizer or gentle massage oils to make sure the skin on your breasts are taken care of is important, so make sure to moisturize daily and use SPF when that area is likely to be exposed.
The right bra is key
While bras are often considered an essential part of any wardrobe, there is some debate on whether wearing a bra for a long period of time or wearing underwire bras can be harmful to your health. Although the evidence is slim, it could still be worth incorporating massages in addition to finding a comfortable and well fitting bra.
An ill fitting bra can cause the ligaments of your breasts to overstretch, leading to premature sagging. Since around 80 per cent of the support from a bra comes from the band around your chest, you want to make sure that area fits well without feeling too loose or too tight.
If you are choosing a bra with a wire, you'll want to make sure that it sits on the ribs without digging in or drooping. Ideally, you should also be able to put two fingers under the bra straps and the centre of the bra should while the body of the bra sits flat on your chest. Some top recommendations for comfort and support include styles from brands like Coobie and Knix, or Harper Wilde for those with fuller breasts.
Don't forget about breast exams
Breast exams can be a controversial topic, as some experts like the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care doesn’t recommend doing self-exams for women ages 40 to 74 who aren't at high risk for breast cancer. Their argument states that they may result in unnecessary interventions and biopsies.
Either way, self exams are a good way to get to know your breasts and tissue, which can help you stay informed in the event of any changes that may warrant a trip to the doctor.
There are multiple ways to accomplish the task, but According to Dr. Melinda Wu, a general practitioner in oncology at the Women's College Hospital Breast Centre in Toronto, a "lawnmowing" pattern is one common method.
"[It's a] type of pattern when you go from the collarbone to the underside of the breast, come back up next to it and go down, [making] vertical strips," she shared with Yahoo Canada.
In addition to looking out for lumps and bumps, skin dimpling, skin resembling an orange peel or sudden changes in nipple discharge are all symptoms to be on the lookout for. Roughly a week after your menstrual cycle is the ideal time to perform a self breast exam, which helps to rule out changes that may be due to hormonal fluctuations.
Add in some aerobic exercise
Lifestyle factors play a huge role in how our body functions, and exercise is one of the best ways to ensure your health and longevity. A study in Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention showed that 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week actually lowered bio markers that indicate a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
If you live in a cold climate or a smaller home, it may take some creativity to incorporate aerobic exercise into your fitness routine. High intensity interval training, also known as HIIT exercises, or a space-saving treadmill are both good options to get started.
Make vitamin D part of your daily routine
While it may not seem like an obvious connection, certain foods can also play a part when it comes to breast health. According to a study from Marshall University done in mice, it's thought that walnuts might help keep breast cancer tumours at bay.
Along with food, vitamins and supplements can also support breast health. The University of California estimates that 350,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented worldwide by increasing intake of vitamin D3, particularly in countries north of the equator.
In addition to a healthy diet and spending 10 - 15 minutes outside daily, incorporating a daily vitamin D supplement in the winter is an easy way to boost levels of this essential nutrient.