Breast cancer survivors are often solely concerned with the possibility of the cancer returning. And that's certainly a consideration and worth taking steps to prevent. However, research indicates that, particularly for older women, a different issue is actually more likely to be deadly: cardiovascular disease. And this isn't simply because women are more vulnerable to heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues than many of us realize. New research from the American Heart Association (AHA) published in the journal Circulation indicates that many of the treatment approaches to breast cancer can actually weaken the heart.
Particularly for women over the age of 65, any treatment approach to breast cancer must consider the side effects on the heart. While breast cancer should of course be addressed, some treatment options may prove to be more appropriate than others. In particular, the AHA noted that HER-2 targeted therapies and the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin may weaken the heart. Administering doxorubicin more slowly or using the recently approved alternate dexrazoxane could minimize these negative effects. Radiation can also harm the arteries and lead to dangerous blockages. Other cancer treatment agents, such as anthracyclines and antimetabolities, can cause irregular heart rhythms and artery spasms, respectively.
The good news is that because many of the same factors contribute to both breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, making healthier choices can reduce your risk of both issues simultaneously. In particular, following the AHA's Life's Simple 7 guidelines, which I've written about before, can play a key role in helping you maintain good health. These healthy lifestyle choices include some obvious steps like exercising, eating right, and not smoking, but actually following all seven really can transform your health.
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If you're currently being treated for breast cancer, talk to your doctor to ensure he or she has considered the effects of the recommended treatment on your heart. Ask if there are protective measures you should be engaging in during the treatment as well. And if you're a survivor, you should be extra mindful of your cardiovascular health. And for God's sake, do not trust all your care to an oncologist! They know nothing about natural approaches. Find a naturopathic doctor or a medical doctor well versed in alternative cancer therapies to work with while you're getting your conventional therapy.
Take a look at the Life's Simple 7 guidelines to see if there are any areas in which you need to improve. Keep in mind that making needed changes will also reduce your risk of cancer recurrence. Advanced Blood Pressure Formula is available to you if you need to boost your body's support of your heart. You can also try CircO2 to help maintain healthy circulation if you believe your treatment may have compromised your arteries.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD