Heart Disease and Cancer

Cancer survivors may have a higher risk of heart disease than people who never had cancer. In patients who have had cancer, men’s predicted heart age is 8.5 years older than their actual age, and women’s predicted heart age is 6.5 years older (on average). (Source: CDC)

February is American Heart Month and provides the opportunity to discuss the link between heart disease and cancer – the top two causes of death in America. They may seem very different, but they have more in common than one might think. Apart from a second cancer, heart disease is the main cause of lifetime illness and death in cancer survivors. The risk of death because of heart disease is eight times higher in cancer survivors as compared with the general population. (Source: American Cancer Society)

Certain lifestyle habits may increase the risk of both cancer and heart disease, and some research has shown that heart disease may increase the risk of developing cancer.

Overlapping Risk Factors

For years, doctors have known that some lifestyle habits may increase chances of developing both heart disease and certain types of cancer. They are:

  • Poor nutrition habits
  • Sedentary lifestyle or lack of exercise
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking

Cancer survivors may also be more likely to get heart disease for other reasons. Many cancer treatments damage the heart. Some kinds of cancer may raise heart disease risk. A possible side effect of some cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation, is that they may cause damage to the heart as they eradicate cancer.

It is key for cancer patients to be educated on the risks to their heart after cancer treatments so they can work with their doctors to live heart healthy lives as cancer survivors.

Check out these resources

Protect Your Heart During Cancer Treatment | American Cancer Society
Heart Problems | American Society of Clinical Oncology
What Does Heart Disease Have to Do with Breast Cancer? (Video) | American Heart Association
Cardiovascular Disease in Breast Cancer | Cancer Therapy Advisor
Heart Health and Cancer | National Foundation for Cancer Research
Million Hearts 2027 | Health & Human Services
Healthy Eating | American Heart Association
How to Eat for Heart-Health and Cancer Prevention | American Institute for Cancer Research
7 Strategies to Live a Heart Healthy Lifestyle | CDC

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