Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every 36 seconds, someone in the United States dies of heart disease. And the second biggest killer? Cancer, of course.
We know a lot about how to prevent heart disease through diet and lifestyle changes. Cancer, though, is still largely a mystery to us.
But what if you could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak? What if you could adopt lifestyle changes that not only would prevent heart disease but would protect you from getting cancer in the future?
Recent research says that you can do just that.
Low risk for heart disease points to lower cancer risk
Two researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have shown that following a heart-healthy lifestyle is associated with a lower risk of cancer — and that doing the opposite is associated with a higher risk for both heart disease and cancer.
“We found an association between a heart-healthy lifestyle and a lower risk of cancer, and the opposite is true: that a less heart-healthy lifestyle is also associated with higher risk of cancer, but we can’t prove that there is causation in this epidemiologic study,” says Dr. Emily Lau.
Both Dr. Lau and Dr. Jennifer Ho are from the Division of Cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Their study evaluated data from 20,305 participants in the Framingham Heart Study and the Prevention of Renal and Vascular End-Stage Disease (PREVEND) Study.
Cardiovascular risk was determined in several ways.
First, a ten-year atherosclerotic (ASCVD) risk score was calculated for each participant. The ASCVD Risk Estimator was developed by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.
The research team also looked for levels of natriuretic peptides. These strings of amino acids are markers of stress on the heart.
Each 5 percent increase in the estimated 10-year ASCVD risk score was associated with a 16 percent increase in risk for cancer.
People with the highest third of natriuretic peptide levels had a 40 percent greater risk of developing cancer than those in the lowest third.
Prevent more than just cancer
Dr. Lau and Dr. Ho also found that those people who had already been following the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple Seven (LS7) protocol when they entered the study had the lowest risk of future cancers.
The LS7 assessment is based on an individual’s status in seven areas:
- not smoking
- regular physical activity
- healthy diet
- maintaining a normal weight
- controlling cholesterol
- controlling blood pressure
- controlling blood glucose levels
These recommendations probably don’t surprise you. But you may be surprised to learn that, by following them, you can lower your odds of having eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma.
Wondering how to get started on a healthier lifestyle that will save you from these two major killers? Your diet is always a good place to begin.
Here you’ll find Dr. Mark Wiley’s 20 best foods for a strong heart.
And here, Virginia Tims-Lawson gives you the scoop on the latest improvements to the already heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.
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Cardiovascular Risk Factors Are Associated With Future Cancer — American College of Cardiology journals
Double benefits for heart-healthy lifestyle — The Harvard Gazette