Seven healthy lifestyle tips recommended by heart experts reduce not only the
risk of heart disease but also cancer, a new study finds.
Adopting all seven of the factors from the American Heart Association can
reduce the risk of developing cancer by more than 50%. Moreover, the benefits
are cumulative, with cancer risk declining with each additional recommendation
followed, the researchers said.
"These findings aren't surprising, given that many elements, like having a
healthy diet, exercising and not smoking, are known to reduce the risk of
cancer," said lead researcher Laura Rasmussen-Torvik, an assistant professor in
the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School
of Medicine, in Chicago.
"We thought it was important to demonstrate that adherence to these goals as
a whole is significantly associated with a lower risk of cancer," she said.
The healthy habits are as follows:
- Being physically active
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a healthful diet
- Keeping cholesterol under control
- Lowering blood pressure
- Keeping blood sugar in check
- Not smoking
"Health is, inescapably, holistic," said Dr David Katz, director of the Yale
University Prevention Research Center. "It would come as little comfort to any
of us to hear at the end of a visit to our doctor that the good news was we
didn't have heart disease if the bad news was we had cancer. Health means, at
least, the absence of all serious disease, and the presence of vitality."
For too long, science has suggested eating one way to avoid heart disease,
another to avoid diabetes, and a third to avoid cancer, Katz said.
"This never made sense," he said. "Take good care of your body by exercising
it, feeding it well and sparing it exposures to such toxins as tobacco, and it
is far more likely to take good care of you, sparing you heart disease and
cancer, not to mention other chronic diseases."
How the study was done
To see the effects of living healthy on the risk for cancer,
Rasmussen-Torvik's team collected data on more than 13 000 men and women who
took part in an ongoing four-community study of arteriosclerosis (hardening of
the arteries), which began in 1987.
At the start of the study, all of the participants were asked about their
lifestyles and which healthy habits they followed. Twenty years later, almost 3
000 people had developed cancer - mostly lung, prostate, breast, and colon or
Those who followed six or seven of the healthy factors saw a 51% lower risk
of cancer than those who didn't follow any, the researchers found.
For those who followed four factors, there was a 33% lower risk for cancer
and for those who followed one or two, there was a 21% lower risk, the
If "not smoking" was removed from the mix of heart-healthy behaviours, the
association between heart-healthy factors and lower cancer risk was
Rasmussen-Torvik said she hopes these findings will help doctors in their
efforts to encourage patients to follow the recommendations and also provide
extra motivation for their patients.
For more suggestions on healthy living, visit the US Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.