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Reducing Your Risk for Heart Attack After Breast Cancer

Reducing Your Risk for Heart Attack After Breast Cancer

A sedentary lifestyle can put breast cancer survivors at risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease during treatment.

Women in the U.S. who have survived breast cancer—the American Cancer Society estimates 90 percent of breast cancer patients are alive five years after diagnosis—should take extra care to manage their heart health. Why? Heart disease is the number one cause of death for breast cancer survivors.

Unfortunately, women often develop metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes t during breast cancer treatment. They also often have high blood pressure, elevated triglyceride levels and excess body fat around the waist. This spikes their risk for death from stroke, heart failure or heart attack, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. To make matters worse, metabolic syndrome also increases the risk of cancer recurrence.

What can you do to reduce your risk? Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, plus resistance training every week post-treatment. In this study of 100 women post-breast cancer treatment, only 15 percent of those who followed that exercise regimen for four months developed metabolic syndrome, but 80 percent of those in the no-exercise control group did. So, talk to your doctor about starting an exercise regimen and a stress management program. And remember, follow a nutritious, balanced diet filled with antioxidant-rich foods, healthy fats, whole grains and lean protein. These smart choices can help save your life.

Medically reviewed in July 2018.

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