Cancer and Cardiac Health

Feb 26, 2018 | Megan Roessler M. Ed. | @meganroessler

cardiac healthFebruary was Heart Health Month. Earlier this month there were some news stories related to cancer and how that effects your heart.  Most of the news was specific to breast cancer and how treatment may impact a woman's heart.  Certain chemotherapy drugs may increase the risk of heart disease.  Heart disease includes weakening of the heart muscle, irregular heart rhythms, and risk of heart attack.  Radiation, if given in close proximity of the heart, can also do damage.  You may be thinking, "As if cancer isn't enough to think about, now I need to be concerned about my heart too?"  Heart health is important all the time - cancer or no cancer.  We will discuss what to be aware of and what is in our control in regards to heart health.

According to the American Heart Association, 48 million women have some kind of heart disease.  This compares to 3.3 million women who have breast cancer.  So statistically, heart disease is a much bigger risk.  In fact when you compare how many women die from breast cancer annually it is about 40,000.  While the number that die from heart disease it jumps to 290,000 - a huge difference!

What do we need to think about in regards to our heart health related to cancer?  Your heart health should be assessed by your doctor and taken into consideration in regards to cancer treatment.  You may have  pre-existing heart disease.  Statistically people with a cancer diagnosis are older.  This is also true of heart disease.  Bring up the topic of heart health to your doctor, but also know that in most cases the benefit of treating cancer is greater than the risk of possible damage to your heart.

Another risk to your heart health during cancer treatment is a more sedentary lifestyle.  Many cancer patients alter their physical habits because of surgeries and treatments.  Maintaining as much physical activity as is healthy for you will benefit your overall health.  Discuss with your doctor what is a safe activity level for you.  If you need to reduce and limit activity during treatment, set a realistic goal for activity after treatment.  Knowing that your efforts are benefitting your heart and other aspects of your health.

In summary, the 3 main risk factors to you heart are:

  • pre-existing heart disease
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • cancer treatments in the form of chemotherapy and/or radiation

The 2 best things you can do to benefit your heart health are:

  • exercise
  • healthy diet

At Mayo Clinic we have a Cardio Oncology Clinic that can address your cardiac health before, during and after cancer treatments.  Click here for more information: Mayo Clinic Cardio Oncology Clinic

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Cancer Education blog.

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