Are you doing your best to live a heart-healthy lifestyle? If so, you have a lower chance of developing cancer, too. A study by the American Heart Association (AHA) found that people practicing healthy heart habits had a significantly lower chance of developing cancer—a 38-percent lower risk, to be exact.
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“This is great news for all of us,” says A. Marc Gillinov, MD, cardiac surgeon in Cleveland Clinic’s Heart & Vascular Institute. “Research continues to confirm that you can control your health. By following a few simple strategies, we can dramatically reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.”
Heart disease and cancer are the top two causes of death for people in the United States. For a long time, it has been known that healthy behaviors are good for our overall health, but knowing that there is a relation between heart and cancer risk factors is novel.
The study by AHA spanned 13 years and followed more than 13,000 healthy individuals. Participants were measured using the seven heart health “metrics” and were tracked for any cancer that developed during that time. Researchers found that the more “ideal” metric factors people had, the less likely they were to develop cancer.
What does the research say?
Compared to people who had none of the seven factors, having just one reduced the risk of cancer by 20 percent. Three factors lowered the risk of cancer by 22 percent; and five to seven pushed the risk down 38 percent. According to AHA, these are the seven metrics for heart health – and now we know, these same metrics make it less likely to be diagnosed with cancer.
- Be active. When adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five times a week, they can lower risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
- Keep a healthy weight. Too much fat, especially around the waist, raises your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. About two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese.
- Eat a healthy diet. A diet high in whole-grain fiber, lean proteins and colorful fruits and vegetables and low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars can greatly improve health.
- Keep safe blood sugar levels. Protect your vital organs and reduce consumption of simple sugars that are found in soda, candy and sugary desserts. If you have diabetes, this can cause blood sugar to rise to dangerous levels, damaging the heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves over time.
- Manage your cholesterol. When you have too much “bad” LDL cholesterol, plaque can form in veins and arteries, which can cause heart attack and strokes.
- Keep blood pressure down. Hypertension is the most significant risk factor for heart disease and it puts a strain on your kidneys.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking damages the entire circulatory system and increases your risk for coronary heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysms and blood clots.
Speaking at a recent AHA event, physicians were hopeful that their patients would be even more motivated to live healthy if they knew they could avoid heart disease and cancer at the same time.
Dr. Gillinov adds, “Incorporating these seven strategies into your life will make you feel better and live longer.”