Cancer and Heart Disease May Go Hand-in-Hand
In a recent issue, I dealt with how you can improve your odds against breast cancer. That applies to many other cancers as well. But what if you are a cancer survivor? Then there's another risk to know about and act upon - heart disease. Whether or not you've had cancer, you should still read this because cancer and heart disease are closely intertwined, and women are especially at risk. You, or someone you know, may need to know this information.
Did you know that having cancer could predispose you to heart disease, the number one killer? I have friends who have survived both breast cancer and heart disease. At first, I thought that was a strange coincidence, but then my friend, Catherine, who is a breast cancer survivor twice over, mentioned that chemotherapy drugs affect the heart. Talk about a one-two punch!
Further research indicated that cancer survivors are more likely to face heart and other cardiovascular diseases because chemotherapy and radiotherapy tend to be toxic to the heart muscle and other organs; they kill cancer cells and other cells as well. While the numbers seen to date are small, the potential future risk is large. Here's one article, written in plain English rather than med-speak, that talks about findings from a research study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology . Other research shows that cancer patients treated with chemotherapy face increased risk for blood clots, and therefore strokes, the number three killer.
Women who have been treated for breast cancer may be at even higher risk because the treatment takes place so close to the heart.
It's worth noting that some solutions may be coming. The new ExAblate system, which was just approved by the FDA for treating non-cancerous uterine fibroids, is currently in clinical trials for treating breast and other cancers. It combines magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound, potentially making it a more heart-friendly treatment for cancers and other tumors. (For more information, see the Healthy Living News.)
So what can you do to minimize heart disease risk following cancer? I wish I could tell you that I'd found a whole body of concrete scientific evidence proving how cancer survivors can avoid heart disease, but sadly that's not the case. It's such a new area that we're just starting to see the correlation. Logically, however, cancer survivors should minimize their risk factors, just like everyone else.
Forty per cent of us will die of heart disease or stroke; that's twice all cancers combined, largely because more and more people are surviving cancer. We will lose ten times as many women to heart disease and stroke as to breast cancer. It's been proven that diabetics have several times the risk of getting heart disease as the general populace; I believe we may soon see the same for cancer survivors. If you've had chemotherapy or radiotherapy, you're probably at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
As a heart survivor, I created my own HEART Program to avoid having further heart disease. This program can help anyone decrease the risk of heart disease by eliminating lifestyle-related risk factors.
What can you do to decrease your risk? First, eliminate your risk factors, to the extent possible. Do you smoke? That's one of the most significant risk factors, so QUIT NOW. A friend had open-heart surgery last year due to smoking, and she was only 42 years old. Avoid second-hand smoke, too.
Other significant risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history, being overweight, inactivity, and stress. What can you do to eliminate these risk factors? You can't change your family history, but you can get control of your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, activity level, and stress by using the following quick tips taken from my HEART Program.
1) Eat right: Eat a diet low in bad fats, but that does include the good fats. (This is one of the secrets to my 85-pound weight loss.) Fruits, vegetables, and fiber are vital, so it may be prudent for you to avoid low-carb diets. My HEART Program includes foods that have a protective effect against cancer and heart disease.These simple tips from the HEART Program can help you make permanent changes that can lead to a long, healthy life. With the holidays approaching, these tips are even more important. Your health is your number one priority! Start now to take better care of yourself.