Posts Tagged ‘heart disease’

Breast Cancer Survivors at Higher Risk for Heart Disease

Heart Disease after Breast CancerAlthough many women who have survived breast cancer are worried about the chance of recurrence, recent research suggests that risk of a heart problem is greater or equal to the risk of breast cancer reoccurring. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments for breast cancer can often be toxic to the heart muscle as well as to other organs. Chemotherapy side effects may increase the risk of heart disease, including weakening of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy).

A significant proportion of women with breast cancer have one or more risk factors for heart disease at the time of breast cancer diagnosis that further increase the risk of cardiotoxicity, including smoking, obesity, lack of activity and high cholesterol. Additionally, if a woman had radiation therapy on the area of body that includes the heart, there may be an increased risk of cardiomyopathy, coronary artery disease and heart attack. The combination of radiation and chemotherapy can further increase a woman’s risk of heart damage. Thus, after second malignancies, heart disease is the leading cause of long-term morbidity and mortality among breast cancer survivors.

If you are a survivor of breast cancer, take control of your heart and breast health by following some simple guidelines:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Manage stress!  - Stress can shut down your immune system, making it harder for you to fight off disease. It also can prevent the body from healing, which can put you at greater risk for heart disease.
  • Exercise! Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity 3 times a week.
  • Monitor and manage diabetes.
  • Eat healthy! Your diet should be low in fat and include generous amounts of fruits and vegetables.
  • Actively monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Work with your physician to reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol if they are high.
  • Get rest. Most people need 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night to heal and keep the immune system healthy.

Importantly, if you have received chemotherapy or radiation for breast cancer, it may be useful to follow up with a preventive cardiologist on a regular basis. If you experience significant problems such as shortness of breath or chest pain, report it immediately to your health care providers.

About Dr. Parashar

Dr. Susmita Parashar, Emory HealthcareSusmita Parashar, MD, MPH, MS is a Board certified cardiologist at the Emory Heart and Vascular Center and Assistant Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) at Emory University School of Medicine. Prior to joining the Division of Cardiology, Dr. Parashar was Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Medicine at Emory for 8 years. She applies her experience as a Board certified internist in providing a holistic care to patients.

She has received several grants and awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Heart Association to conduct research on women and heart disease. She has served as Emory principal investigator for large NIH – funded clinical research for heart attack patients. She was also invited to participate as a co-investigator for the NIH- fnded Cardiovascular Health Study for older adults.

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6 Cancer-Related Considerations Before You Make Alcohol Part of Your Holiday Celebration

Drinking during holidaysMost of us have heard that moderate drinking – a glass of wine a day – can be beneficial in preventing heart disease.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in early November, however, suggests that even moderate alcohol consumption can increase a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. Alcohol use already has been linked to oropharyngeal cancers, esophageal and, to lesser degree, stomach and colon cancers, so what does this news mean to you as you go into the holidays?

It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t imbibe, but it does mean that you should be aware that alcohol is considered a carcinogen.

Here are six things to think about as you get ready for the parties and the tree-trimming.

  1. The JAMA article reported that women who drank three to six alcoholic beverages a week had a 15% increased risk of breast cancer. Women who consumed two drinks per day had a more than 50% greater risk than women who did not drink.
  2. If you drink to decrease your risk of heart disease, reconsider. There are far better ways to do that, experts suggest, than by having an alcoholic beverage. Regular exercise, weight control, not smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol and healthy eating are all more beneficial. While it may be hard to factor in gym time during the holidays, try to manage at least a brisk walk of 30 minutes each day.
  3. Lifetime consumption of alcohol may be a factor in cancer risk, the authors of the study suggest. Cumulative consumption of alcoholic beverages over a period of years appears to place a woman at higher risk of developing breast cancer. Thus, if you are an older woman – particularly post-menopausal when excess body fat increases the amount of circulating estrogen in the body – think about slowing down the flow of alcohol.
  4. “But I only drink a few drinks once a week,” such as at a party, dinner or girls’ night out, you might think. Doesn’t matter, the experts say, and binge drinking – typically defined as drinking three or more drinks in one setting – may actually be more detrimental than three drinks spread over the course of a week.
  5. Consider the effect on your body of the empty calories of alcohol. A glass of wine is 125 calories; a martini is about 190. To burn off the martini, you would need to walk about 45 minutes or swim about 20.
  6. The study’s authors – as well as many other researchers – note that alcohol consumption is often under-reported. That is, patients do not typically like to tell their doctors how much they drink. Remember that  your physician is there to keep you healthy or to heal you, not judge. Make sure you accurately report your drinking patterns to him or her.