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American Heart Health Month: 8 Tips to Take Care of Your Heart & Reduce Your Cancer Risk

Keri Tidwell

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When you’re planning a little romance with your sweetheart this month, don’t neglect your own “heart” health. February is also American Heart Health Month — the perfect time of year to make lifestyle changes that not only improve heart health, but also reduce colon cancer risk.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women in the U.S., and colon cancer is the third most common cancer. According to a study released in The Journal of the American Medical Association, there is an apparent link between the two (Source: WebMD). Both share similar risk factors including smoking and diabetes as well as obesity and high cholesterol, and people with heart disease appear to be more susceptible to colon cancer. While there may be a genetic link between heart disease and colon cancer, lifestyle choices including diet and exercise can also play a role in one’s susceptibility to either or both diseases.

Here are some tips to help you and your loved one take a step or two in the right direction:

  1. Get screened. Regular screenings beginning at age 50 (younger if there’s a family history) are the most effective way to detect and treat polyps before they turn into colon cancer. Consult your doctor for the best screening option for you.
  2. Quit smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. including cancer and heart disease. If you or your loved one smokes, there’s no better time than the present to stop.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight. Excess body fat, especially around the middle, has been linked to an increased risk in both heart disease and colon cancer. Watch your portion sizes, and choose lean proteins over fatty foods.
  4. Get physically active. Exercise reduces blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels as well as inflammation while lowering weight and improving insulin resistance. Start small and aim for 10 minutes of movement every day. Work slowly towards consistent moderate exercise for 30 minutes each day.
  5. Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol consumption has been linked to colon cancer. If you must drink, be aware of the serving size you’re imbibing, and limit intake to 2 standard drinks per day for men, and 1 for women.
  6. Cut back on processed foods and red meats. Processed foods generally are high in sugar and sodium, both of which can lead to heart disease and cancer. Processed meats include hot dogs, bacon, sausage, and deli meats. Instead of these cancer-causing foods, opt for chicken breast, fish, turkey, beans, and lentils.
  7. Take your vitamins. Recent research has shown that a Vitamin D and calcium supplement can help protect against both heart disease and colon cancer. Aim for 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day of calcium and about 1,000 IU per day of vitamin D (Source: Siteman Cancer Center).
  8. Eat more fiber. Fiber is the indigestible carbohydrate found in plant foods that may significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer as well as lower blood sugar and cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day. Add fiber-rich foods to your diet like raw and dried fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains, and drink plenty of water.

This month take control of your heart health and also reduce your risk of colon cancer with these 8 tips. Making lifestyle changes with your significant other will provide the accountability needed to affect real change. 

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