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Study: Heart-healthy lifestyle also lowers cancer risk


Following designated steps to reduce risk of heart disease can also help prevent cancer, according to a study.

The finding, announced by the American Heart Association, centered on the Life’s Simple 7 goals for heart health. Life’s Simple 7 is promoted by the AHA .

“We were gratified to know adherence to the Life’s Simple 7 goals was also associated with reduced incidence of cancer,” Laura J. Rasmussen-Torvik, PhD, an assistant professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and lead author of the study, said in a news release. “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%, compared with participants who met none of the factors, according to a report published March 18 on the website of the journal Circulation. Meeting four factors led to a 33% risk reduction and one or two to a 21% reduction.

Life’s Simple 7 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 and not smoking.

When smoking status was not considered, participants who met five or six of the remaining six factors had a 25% 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 the researchers did not 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.

A link to a PDF of the study is available at


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