7 Tips to Promote Heart Health and Reduce Colon Cancer Risk
February is American Heart Health Month. During this month of love and sentiment, take some time to evaluate how your daily choices affect your heart health. Living a heart-healthy life will naturally reduce your risk of developing cancer. This includes lowering your risk for colon cancer, the third-leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
It is widely known that healthy habits promote overall wellness, but the relationship between heart health and cancer risk is a relatively new discovery. The American Heart Association has established seven metrics for good heart health, and these same measures are associated with a lower risk of cancer:
- Be active. Getting 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five times a week can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
- Keep a healthy weight. Excess body fat, especially around the waist, raises your risk for hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes. Obesity rates in the United States are consistently rising, and nearly 66 percent of American adults are overweight or obese.
- Eat a healthy diet. Your diet should center on whole-grain fiber, lean proteins and colorful fruits and vegetables. Limit saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars.
- Keep blood sugar levels in a safe range. Simple sugars in soda, candy and desserts spike blood sugar, putting you at risk for diabetes. If you are diabetic, you must manage your blood sugar levels to protect your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.
- Manage your cholesterol. Eating foods that are high in saturated fats and trans fats increase LDL cholesterol levels, the “bad” cholesterol. Lowering your saturated and trans fats and increasing physical activity will help lower LDL cholesterol. When you have too much LDL cholesterol, plaque can form in veins and arteries, putting you at risk for heart attack and strokes.
- Keep blood pressure down. Hypertension is known as the silent killer and is the most significant risk factor for heart disease and kidney damage. Visit your primary care physician for annual physicals and check-ups.
- Do not smoke. Smoking damages the entire circulatory system. It increases your risk for coronary heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysms and blood clots. Cigarette smoke exposes your body cells to thousands of toxic chemicals and free radicals that damage DNA and cause cellular mutations (source: Cleveland Clinic).
Gear up for Colon Cancer Awareness Month
In addition to promoting heart health, following the American Heart Association’s seven heart-healthy metrics will give your colon health a boost as well. Many risk factors for colon cancer are similar to those for heart disease including obesity, sedentary lifestyle, high-fat diet, inadequate fiber intake, smoking and alcohol use. This means that you can actively prevent colon cancer by implementing the AHA’s heart-healthy metrics. Think of this as — multi-tasking!
Remember, next month is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. If you are 50 or older, you should schedule a screening colonoscopy to prevent colon cancer. Certain risk factors may make you eligible to get a baseline screening earlier, so talk to your primary care physician. If you are not under the care of a licensed gastroenterologist, you can find one near you by using our Find a Center tool.
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