Heart Healthy Habits Linked to Cancer Prevention

Research shows association between being heart healthy and staying cancer-free

Are you doing your best to live a heart-healthy lifestyle? If so, you have a lower chance of developing cancer, too. A recent 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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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.

About the study

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.

According to the research: 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.

seven cloudThe seven metrics for heart health

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.

Make these a part of your prevention plan:

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1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

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6. Keep blood pressure down. Hypertension is the most significant risk factor for heart disease and it puts a strain on your kidneys.

7. Don’t smoke. Smoking damages the entire circulatory system and increases your risk for coronary heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysms and blood clots.

“It is very reassuring that reducing cardiovascular risk factors also leads to reduced risk of cancer,” says Benico Barzilai, MD, Section Head of Clinical Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic. “As a clinician, one always worries that some of our therapies could increase cancer risk. This study indicates that reduction in blood pressure, weight and cholesterol combined with eliminating cigarette smoking reduces cancer risk as well.”

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