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Not only does eating a heart-healthy diet help to reduce heart disease risk, it can also help to prevent cancer, according to a study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.[1]

Following the American Heart Association's “Life's Simple 7” steps, which are recommended guidelines for keeping the heart healthy, also was associated with a reduction in the incidence of cancer, says Laura Rasmussen-Torvik, PhD, an assistant professor at Chicago's Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study. Adherence to 6 or 7 of these steps was found to reduce cancer risk by 51% compared with individuals who adhered to none of the steps. Adhering to 4 factors led to a 33% risk reduction, whereas meeting 1 or 2 of the steps led to a 21% reduction in cancer risk.

Life's Simple 7 recommends the following to maintain a healthy heart:

  • Be physically active.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
  • Keep blood pressure down.
  • Regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Do not smoke.

The study involved 13,253 white and African American men and women participating in the ongoing Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, which was launched in 1987 in 4 US communities. Participants were interviewed at the beginning of the study to determine which factors they met. Approximately 20 years later, researchers reviewed cancer registries and hospital records and found that 2880 people had been diagnosed with cancer, primarily of the lung, colon or rectum, prostate, and breast.

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  • 1
    Rasumussen-Torvik LJ , Shay CM , Abramson JG , et al. Ideal cardiovascular health is inversely associated with incident cancer: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Circulation. 2013;127:1270-1275.