Years ago, it was commonly believed that heart disease and cancer each had distinct risk factors without much overlap (aside from smoking, which many people already understood to be dangerous on both fronts). However, researchers now know that promoting cardiovascular health and preventing cancer do not necessarily involve different strategies. For instance, exercise and nutrition habits can affect both in major ways.
Of course, protecting heart health involves monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels – but there’s actually much more to it than that. For example, by avoiding elevated insulin levels and excess inflammation, it is possible to promote good heart health while simultaneously eliminating several significant cancer risks.
How diet can affect heart health and cancer risk
Nutrition matters, both in terms of heart health and cancer risk. Here are some tips on how to modify your eating habits to protect your heart, prevent cancer and promote overall wellness:
- Adopt a plant-based diet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains. The nutrients, plant compounds (phytochemicals) and dietary fiber found naturally in these foods can help reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, as well as prevent and repair cellular damage. Additionally, a plant-based diet can promote weight loss and maintenance, which is significant because excess body fat can lay the groundwork for the development of cardiovascular disease and many types of cancer.
- Limit your consumption of processed meats. Even very lean cuts contain vast amounts of sodium, which can cause your blood pressure to skyrocket. Additionally, the preservatives and compounds that form when meat is smoked or cured can increase the risk of developing stomach and colorectal cancers.
- Avoid empty calories. Consuming foods and beverages that are low in nutrients and high in sugar can lead to both weight gain and nutritional deficiencies. In particular, drinking sodas and other sweetened beverages can easily lead to an excessive consumption of sugar, which can increase heart disease and cancer risk factors above and beyond those associated with weight gain. For a refreshing alternative, add a slice of fresh fruit to a glass of cold water.
For more tips on how to protect your heart health and lower your cancer risk, you are welcome to contact Moffitt Cancer Center at 1-888-663-3488.