21 March 2013
People who follow a lifestyle that is beneficial to their heart also have a reduced cancer risk, according to a new study that suggests the same measures can be beneficial in preventing the onset of both conditions.
Research in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation claims that following seven main steps is the key to substantially lowering the risk of developing heart disease.
These steps - labelled 'Life's Simple 7' by the AHA - include being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight at all times.
The next key component of the plan is following a healthy diet, which ties in to another step - maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
Keeping blood pressure down is important, according to the plan, as well as regulating blood sugar levels.
The seventh and final step is not to smoke; adhering to this can not only reduce heart risk, but a multitude of illnesses and diseases, the AHA notes.
Though these measures have long been advocated as effective means of boosting heart health and lowering the chances of suffering a heart attack or other cardiac problem, a new study has found that following the steps also has a major impact on cancer risk.
Research led by Laura Rasmussen-Torvik, assistant professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, looked at 13,253 people whose health was monitored for 20 years through a review of cancer registries and hospital records.
In total, 2,880 of the participants were eventually diagnosed with cancer, though non-melanoma skin cancer was not factored in and scientists ignored changes in cancer risk factor over time.
The experts found that adhering to six or seven of the factors in the Life's Simple 7 index reduced the risk of cancer by 51 per cent, compared to people who followed none of the measures.
Meeting four of the seven factors was found to reduce risk by 33 per cent, while meeting one or two factors lowered risk by 21 per cent, indicating that any form of adherence to the plan could be beneficial.
When smoking was removed from analysis, people who met five or six of the remaining six factors had a 25 per cent lower risk of developing cancer, Ms Rasmussen-Torvik explained.
"We were gratified to know adherence to the Life's Simple 7 goals was also associated with reduced incidence of cancer. 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," she added.
The key is to promoting a "comprehensive health message", the study leader said, noting that although quitting smoking is very important, there are other factors that people need to be aware of if they want to protect against the onset of serious diseases.
According to Ms Rasmussen-Torvik, the research highlights that overall health can be boosted by focusing on just a few key factors.
"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," she concluded.
Posted by Edward Bartel
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