Heart Group Outlines Seven Simple Rules To Avoid Risk Of Cancer
March 19, 2013

Heart Group Outlines Seven Simple Rules To Avoid Risk Of Cancer

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

It is common knowledge that in order to live a healthier life we need to be active, eat right and avoid smoking. But a new study is taking common knowledge a step farther, or better yet several steps farther, to promote the idea of a healthier life, which includes a significant reduction in the risk of an early death.

Publishing the study in the journal Circulation, the American Heart Association (AHA) has established seven healthy lifestyle choices that can help cut down the risk of dying from heart disease by as much as 50 percent.

These Life´s Simple 7 lifestyles choices are part of the AHA´s My Life Check campaign that advises Americans to adhere to the following factors for a healthier heart:

  • Being physically active
  • Keeping a healthy weight
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining healthy cholesterol
  • Keeping blood pressure down
  • Regulating blood sugar levels
  • Not smoking

While the list was initially compiled for a healthy heart life, the factors also play a significant role in reducing the risk of developing and/or dying from cancer. And the effects are cumulative, with cancer risk declining with each additional lifestyle choice followed, according to the study.

Adhering to just one or two of the healthy recommendations leads to a 21 percent reduction in the risk of cancer, while meeting four of the choices can lead to a 33 percent reduction. Following six or seven equals a 51 percent reduction in the risk of dying from the disease.

"We were gratified to know adherence to the Life's Simple 7 goals was also associated with reduced incidence of cancer," said Laura J. Rasmussen-Torvik, an assistant professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and lead author of the study. "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."

When the researchers did not factor in smoking, those who met five or six of the remaining six factors had a 25 percent lower risk of developing cancer than those who met none of the choices. After factoring in smoking, that reduction in risk doubled for those who met all lifestyle choices.

"Quitting smoking is very important, but there are other factors you need to be aware of if you want to live a healthy life," said Rasmussen-Torvik.

The research included 13,253 white and African-American men and women who were part of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study launched in 1987. Participants were interviewed and examined at the start of the study to determine which, if any, of the seven healthy factors they had met or followed.

After nearly 20 years, the researchers reviewed cancer registries and hospital records and found that 2,880 of the original 13,253 participants ended up with lung, colon, prostate or breast cancer. The researchers did not consider other types of cancers including non-melanoma skin cancers, nor did they 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 in a statement.

"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," he told Steven Reinberg of US News.

Doctors used to suggest one way of eating to avoid heart disease, another way to avoid diabetes, and a third to reduce the risk of cancer, according to Katz. But "this never made sense.”

"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," he added.

The Life´s Simple 7 study follows another recent report in The Lancet warning Britons that their toxic lifestyles are leading to an increasing number of people dying early from alcohol and drug abuse — with the current generation at the highest risk of suffering more years of debilitating illness in old age compared to earlier generations.

That report showed that despite significant advances in cancer screening, immunization, and a wide-scale smoking ban, life expectancy is not increasing as fast in Briton compared to other nations.

But the latest research, along with other relatively new studies, is showing that it is never too late to make lifestyle changes.

German researchers announced last month that quitting smoking in middle age or beyond still has significant health benefits. Even lifelong smokers who quit later in life experienced a 40 percent reduction in the risk of heart attack and stroke within just five years.

According to Mail Online, a Canadian study published earlier this year showed that people who give up smoking by the age of 44 can live nearly as long as those who never smoked.

Apart from smoking, other research has showed that spending too much time sitting is also dangerous to health.

Researchers from Kansas State University warned that office workers could be risking their health and life just by sitting at their desk. They found that those who spend more than four hours per day sitting down are at a greater risk of chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Those sitting for six hours or more were significantly more likely to have diabetes.

And researchers from Leicester University last month recommended that people at high risk of developing diabetes may be able to escape the condition by cutting the time they spend sitting down by 90 minutes every day.