BOSTON, Mass. — Living a heart healthy lifestyle is a great way to avoid cardiovascular disease — the world’s leading killer. Now, researchers say there may be an added benefit, reducing your overall risk of getting cancer. A team from Massachusetts General Hospital finds people with good heart health have the lowest risk of future cancers, while those with a less healthy heart could be at higher risk.
Managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar, getting active, eating better, losing weight, and quitting smoking all appear to lower the risk of future cancers.
“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,” study author Dr. Emily Lau says in a university release.
In the community-based study, researchers looked at possible links between cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer among participants. They discovered traditional CVD risk factors also have independent links to a higher risk of developing cancer. These include old age, being male, and smoking. In addition, results reveal more stress markers on the heart can also predict higher cancer risk among patients.
A heart attack doesn’t automatically increase the odds for cancer
Surprisingly, participants with a history of heart disease before the study, or those who had a heart attack or heart failure after joining, did not have an increased risk of developing cancers. Meanwhile, those with ideal cardiovascular health at the start of the study had a lower risk of future cancers.
The research included data from more than 20,000 people in two large and long-term health studies, the Framingham Heart Study and the Prevention of Renal and Vascular End-Stage Disease Study. Each participant was also free of cancer at the beginning of the review.
The study also included information on lab-proven cancers that occurred during the course of the investigation and CVD risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Researchers examined cardiovascular markers for CVD and Life’s Simple 7 cardiovascular health score. This is a patient-reported measure of heart-healthy lifestyles by the American Heart Association.
Researchers discovered that each five-percent increase in the estimated ten-year cardiovascular risk score connects to a 16-percent increase in risk for cancer. Additionally, people in the highest third of natriuretic peptide levels had a 40-percent greater chance of developing cancer in comparison to people in the lowest third.
People with CVD at baseline and those who had a cardiovascular event (heart or stroke) during the study did not develop a higher risk of cancer. Those who most closely adhered to the AHA recommendations during the review had lower risks for cancer later on.
The findings appear in the journal JACC: CardioOncology.
SWNS writer Laura Sharman contributed to this report.