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Having a Healthy Heart Reduces Cancer Risk, Too

A new study shows that people who adhere to ideal levels of cardiovascular health metrics as defined by the American Heart Association (AHA) are less likely to develop cancer. Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago found that people who achieved goals for six or seven of the AHA metrics reduce their risk of cancer by half compared with those who met no goals. The study was recently published online in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

In 2010 AHA developed as part of its “2020 Initiative,” a definition of ideal cardiovascular health, whose goal was to improve the heart health of all Americans by 20% and reduce death from heart disease and stroke by 20%. They defined ideal cardiovascular health according to seven factors, including smoking, obesity, physical activity, dietary intake, blood pressure, blood sugar and total cholesterol levels.

The investigators used data from the Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities (ARIC) study which included more than 13,000 participants with nearly 20 years of follow-up. Participants reported having no history of cancer at the beginning of the study, and had a mean age of 54 years.

Their analysis showed that less than 3% of the participants adhered to all seven health parameters and this was linked to a 51% risk of developing cancer. In general, they observed that the risk of having cancer became greater when participants maintained fewer health goals. They also observed that smoking was significantly linked to a higher risk for cancer, even in those who maintained more health goals. However, they also found that the incidence of prostate cancer increased with a larger number of health metrics achieved.

The authors believe that their results suggest that the AHA must partner with cancer and other chronic disease advocacy groups to promote the 2020 initiative to reduce the incidence of heart disease as well as other chronic diseases.


Kaiser, C. Heart-Healthy Living Cuts Cancer Risk. MedPage Today.

Posted in: Cancer, Cancer Prevention, News Briefs

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