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Healthy Heart Lifestyle Reduces Cancer Risk

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A study has found that people who follow the American Heart Association’s heart health guidelines have a 51% lower risk of developing cancer, including breast cancer, than people who don’t follow those guidelines.

The study was published online on March 18, 2013 by the journal Circulation. Read the abstract of “Ideal Cardiovascular Health is Inversely Associated with Incident Cancer: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study.”

The American Heart Association’s guide to heart health has seven goals:

  • not smoking
  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a healthy body weight
  • eating a healthy diet
  • maintaining a healthy cholesterol level
  • maintaining a healthy blood pressure
  • maintaining a healthy blood sugar level

The researchers looked at information from 13,253 people age 45 to 64 in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. The study had between 17 and 19 years of follow-up.

The more heart health goals people maintained, the lower their risk of cancer. Compared to people who maintained none of the goals, people who:

  • maintained six or seven goals had a 51% lower risk of cancer
  • maintained five goals had a 39% lower risk of cancer
  • maintained four goals had a 33% lower risk of cancer
  • maintained three goals had a 26% lower risk of cancer
  • maintained one or two goals had a 21% lower risk of cancer

While only about 3% of the people in the study maintained six or seven of the goals, it’s good to know that sticking to just one or two of the goals can help reduce your risk of cancer.

And while aiming to meet all seven goals is ideal, if you’re going to pick a few to start, the researchers found that smoking seems to have the biggest effect on cancer risk. People who maintained three heart health goals, one of which WASN’T smoking, had only a 2% lower risk of cancer compared to a 25% lower risk of cancer for people who maintained three goals, one of which WAS smoking. The risk of cancer for people who maintained five goals dropped from 39% when smoking was one of the goals to 25% when smoking wasn’t one of the maintained goals.

Doing all that you can do to keep your breast cancer risk as low as it can be makes good sense. Not smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight are steps you can take to control several risk factors. You can learn much more about breast cancer risk and other steps you can take to minimize your risk in the Lower Your Risk section.

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