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Healthy Heart Habits Cut Cancer Risk, Study

Apr 2nd, 2013

Healthy Heart HabitsBy now, you surely know that eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and controlling your cholesterol levels can help keep your heart in top shape. But did you know that these healthy heart habits can also cut your cancer risk?

According to researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine (NUFSM) in Chicago, individuals who live by the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” steps for a healthy heart helps reduce your cancer risk by as much as 51 percent. They also found that benefits accrue to those who take even a few of the steps, with cancer risk going down with each added heart-healthy activity.

“We were gratified to know adherence to the Life’s Simple 7 goals was also associated with reduced incidence of cancer,” said Laura J. Rasmussen-Torvik lead author and assistant professor at NUFSM in Chicago. “This can help health professionals provide a clear, consistent message about the most important things people can do to protect their health and lower their overall risk for chronic diseases.”

Life’s Simple 7 recommends the following steps for a healthy heart:

  • Being physically active.
  • Keeping a healthy weight.
  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
  • Keeping blood pressure down.
  • Regulating blood sugar levels.
  • Not smoking.

The study, published in the AHA journal Circulation, analyzed health records of more than 13,000 white and African-American men and women participating in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. At the start of the program, participants were asked and examined to determine which health factors they possessed.

Twenty years later, researchers looked at the cancer registries and hospital records and found that 2,880 of the participants developed various types of cancers including breast, colon, and lung. The team found that participants who stuck to six or seven of the “Simple 7” factors cut their risk of cancer by 51 percent compared with participants who met none of the factors. Those who met four factors led to a 33 percent risk reduction while those who met one or two criteria reduced their risk by 21 percent.

“We’re trying to help promote a comprehensive health message,” Rasmussen-Torvik said. “Quitting smoking is very important, but there are other factors you need to be aware of if you want to live a healthy life.

“This adds to the strong body of literature suggesting that it’s never too late to change, and that if you make changes like quitting smoking and improving your diet, you can reduce your risk for both cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

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