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Protecting Your Heart May Also Protect Against Cancer

Update Date: Mar 19, 2013 11:42 AM EDT

It seems that what's good for the heart is good for the fight against cancer. A recent study found that protecting the heart against conditions like heart disease also lowered by half the risk of cancer.

According to ABC News, the American Heart Association developed seven relatively simple steps that were intended to reduce deaths from heart attacks and strokes by 20 percent. The plan, developed in 2010, was supposed to reach its goals by 2020. The steps are as follows:

1.    Get physical. 150 minutes a week - or 30-minute sessions five days a week - are considered optimal.

2.   Keep your weight healthy. People are considered overweight if their body mass index is above 25.

3.   Eat healthy. Lowering your intake of salt, sugar, trans-fats and saturated fats is a good place to start.

4.   Manage your cholesterol. Healthy cholesterol is under 200 milligrams per deciliter.

5.   Keep your blood pressure low. Healthy blood pressure is below 120/80.

6.   Maintain a healthy blood sugar level. By avoiding soda and candy, fasting blood sugar level can remain under 100.

7.   Quit smoking.

The researchers, from Northwestern University, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, analyzed decades of data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. In total, they looked at health records of over 13,000 patients between the years of 1987 and 2006.

The effects of the plan were cumulative, and some were more important than others. For example, if patients continued to smoke, their risk for cancer and heart problems was greater than patients who did not. People who followed six or more of the steps found that they had a 51 percent lower risk of cancer. People who followed four steps saw their chance of cancer reduce by 33 percent, while people who followed one or two had a 21 percent reduced chance.

According to Health Day, the correlation exists because health is holistic. For a long time, doctors had prescribed one set of rules to avoid heart diseases and one set of rules to lower the risk of cancer. "This never made sense," Dr. David Katz, from the Yale University Prevention Research Center, said to Health Day. "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."

The study was published in the journal Circulation.

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