December 29, 2021 – We know that a healthy lifestyle can help prevent health problems – including cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes – but new research shows it can also reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes in people who have already had cancer.
In a large study published in JACC: Cardiooncology, researchers found that a healthy lifestyle significantly reduced the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in a healthy population, and also reduced the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes (T2D) in those with a history of cancer.
“These findings highlight the benefits of adopting a combination of healthy behaviors in reducing CVD risk [heart disease] and T2D complications among patients with and without predominant cancers, “said the researchers, led by Zhi Cao of the Tianjin Medical University School of Public Health in Tiagnin, China.
A healthy life is defined by five things: non-smoking, adherence to physical activity guidelines, a healthy diet, moderate alcohol use, and moderate sleep duration.
However, the association with alcohol consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle should be understood with caution, says Erin D. Michos, MD, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology and assistant director of preventive cardiology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, who was also co-author of an editorial published with the study.
Alcohol – even moderate use – is a risk factor for many cancers, as well as atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat, she says.
“Its use has not been approved as a preventative strategy by the American Heart Association or the American Society of Clinical Oncology.”
Researchers examined the impact of healthy living on 432,000 people aged 40 to 70 who were enrolled in the UK BioBank, a database of genetic and health information of half a million people in the UK, between April 2006 and December 2010.
“The authors observed a very large and well-established group with UK BioBank, which is a really phenomenal resource,” says Stephen Juraschek, MD, director of research at the Hypertension Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “But [the results] they greatly confirm what we know about these recommendations for a healthy lifestyle. “
He says the next steps should be to figure out how to introduce healthier lifestyle measures to the general population.
“How to improve policies to promote healthier diets and healthier food choices in the supply chain, or to ensure that people sit less?” he says. “What can we do culturally to promote these kinds of behaviors?”