A Healthy Heart as a Cancer Survivor

Living a healthy lifestyle is the goal of most cancer survivors. After dealing with a cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy, staying well and doing all that one can do to promote wellness is very important.

I was surprised at the results of a recent study in the Lancet. The researchers studied adult survivors of the twenty most common cancers. Electronic medical records were reviewed for cancer patients eighteen years and over and those who were alive twelve months after diagnosis. The control group included similar age patients without the diagnosis of cancer.1

Studying heart health after cancer

The hematologic cancers studied included non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma. The results revealed an increased risk of heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, and stroke in these cancer patients. Patients with a history of cardiac disease were at a greater risk. The incidence of cardiac disease increased with age and in patients who received chemotherapy.

I had previously researched my chemotherapy regimen and had not read about cardiac effects. I have tried to lead a healthy lifestyle but to be honest, I have not exercised as much as recommended and do enjoy my sweets a little too often. I have had hypertension for a few years and am treated with medications.

Committing to a healthy lifestyle

So, I have made a commitment to really focus on strategies to promote a healthy heart.2

Keeping a healthy diet and weight

We have read about the importance of fruits and vegetables. In my case, I am trying to reduce my sweet tooth and avoid too many sugars. It's also important to maintain your ideal weight.

Adequate sleep

Many cancer patients have experienced insomnia and fatigue. Try different strategies such as exercise, meditation, and yoga to encourage sleep. I have found using a diffuser of essential oils to be effective and helps me get a good night’s sleep.

Avoiding stress

While not all stress cannot be eliminated, we need to learn to manage it more effectively. I have learned to remember to not "sweat the small stuff.” Having cancer is certainly stressful. We are survivors and need to find strategies that can help promote calmness.

Avoid tobacco and try to limit alcohol

Studies have demonstrated the negative effects of smoking. Speak with your physician to explore options that may help to stop smoking. In regards to alcohol, try to keep everything in moderation.

Try to include exercise

This has been recommended for all cancer patients in order to deal with fatigue and some of the side effects after chemotherapy. We now have another reason to include exercise as part of our daily routine. After reading the latest research, I have made a commitment to do better with exercise. I belong to a neighborhood gym but have made numerous excuses to avoid going.

Yesterday I took an exercise class and am exploring the option of meeting with a trainer. This would mean a commitment to exercise three times a week. Timing is everything! I have a scheduled routine appointment with my cardiologist tomorrow. He will perform several diagnostics which will include an echocardiogram. Hopefully, these will be normal and provide me an opportunity to promote a healthy heart.

Your exercise can be as simple as walking outdoors. A new study reported in Mental Health and Prevention magazine found that taking your workout outdoors rather than indoors may have a calming effect. Researchers used questions to measure perceived stress scales in those who exercised outdoors as compared to indoors. The outdoor group reported greater stress relief.

The above strategies and suggestions can be used by the blood cancer survivor to reduce the risk of heart diseases.

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