Heart-healthy lifestyle also reduces cancer risk

March 18, 2013 Categories: Heart News

Study Highlights:

  • Following the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 steps for a healthy heart also reduces cancer risk.
  • Meeting six or seven of the health factors can cut cancer risk in half.
  • The benefits are cumulative, with cancer risk decreasing for each additional factor met.

EMBARGOED UNTIL 3 p.m. CT/4 p.m. ET, Monday, March 18, 2013
DALLAS, March 18, 2013 — Following the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 steps to reduce your risk for heart disease can also help prevent cancer, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

“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, an assistant professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and lead author of the study. “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.”

Adhering to six or seven of the factors reduced the risk of cancer by 51 percent, compared with participants who met none of the factors. Meeting four factors led to a 33 percent risk reduction and one or two 21 percent.

Life’s Simple 7 is part of the association’s My Life Check campaign that advises Americans to adhere to seven factors 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

When smoking status was not considered, participants who met five or six of the remaining six factors had a 25 percent lower cancer risk than those who met none.

“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.”

Participants included 13,253 white and African-American men and women in the ongoing Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, launched in 1987 in four U.S. communities. Participants were interviewed and examined at the start of the study to determine which health factors they met or followed.

About 20 years later, the researchers reviewed cancer registries and hospital records and determined that 2,880 of the participants ended up with cancer, primarily of the lung, colon or rectum, prostate and breast.

Non-melanoma skin cancers were not considered, and researchers didn’t look at cancer risk factor changes over time.

 “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,” Rasmussen-Torvik said.

Co-authors are: Christina M. Shay, Ph.D., M.A.; Judith G. Abramson, M.D., M.S.C.I.; Christopher A. Friedrich, M.D., Ph.D.; Jennifer A. Nettleton, Ph.D.; Anna E. Prizment, Ph.D., M.P.H.; and Aaron R. Folsom, M.D., M.P.H.

To find out where you stand with Life’s Simple 7, take the My Life Check assessment.

Everyday Choices, a collaborative effort of the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Diabetes Association, has information and resources to help you make healthier choices to reduce your risk of these chronic diseases.

Follow @HeartNews on Twitter for the latest heart and stroke news.

For science updates from the journal Circulation, follow @CircAHA.

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Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association’s policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content.  Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

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