You can’t blame Jack Merendino for being nervous when he stepped on the treadmill for an exercise stress test last year. Just a few months ago, both of his younger brothers had major heart surgery, their parents died of heart disease, and his cardiac calcium score was slightly elevated, reflecting calcium deposits and plaques clogging his arteries. Even more worrying: He had felt chest pain a week ago.
“I braced myself for a diagnosis of heart disease, or at least being told I was out of shape,” says Merendino, now 64 and an endocrinologist practicing in Bethesda, Maryland. He was relieved that his overall score, which takes into account heart rate, blood pressure and other measurements, was in the top five percent of men his age. This means you are less likely to get heart disease. The test revealed something he didn’t know before: His risk of developing cancer may be lower than average.
According to this recently published results A study from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota shows a strong correlation between the result of a stress test often used to diagnose heart problems and future cancer risk.
In the Mayo study, researchers tracked 13,382 men and women from Minnesota who performed a 10- to 15-minute treadmill stress test between 1993 and 2010. After starting slowly, the person gradually begins to exercise as hard as possible. Meanwhile, blood pressure, aerobic fitness, heart rhythms and heart rate are measured. Researchers followed the participants for about 13 years after taking stress tests, checking blood pressure and other measures of risk of death. They also calculated an “exercise score” by plugging the values of each measurement into an equation.
“The interesting finding was that the risk of dying from non-cardiovascular disease was more than twice as high for people who did the worst on the test compared to those who did the worst,” says senior author Thomas G. Allison, professor of medicine. Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. These “non-cardiovascular diseases” account for 14 causes of death, including dementia, stroke, and pneumonia. But the big one was cancer, which accounted for half of non-cardiovascular deaths.
Why would a stress test designed to help diagnose heart disease predict deaths from cancer? “This makes sense to me,” says Emily Lau, a cardiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School who was not involved in the Mayo stress test study, “because cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer share some of the same risk factors.”
Cardiovascular risk mirrors cancer risk
In research that overlaps with Allison’s new study, Lau and his team results examined It was taken from two separate studies that tracked the health of 20,305 men and women ages 36 to 64 at the start of the study. One was conducted in Framingham, Massachusetts (Framingham Heart Study), and the other was conducted in Groningen, the Netherlands (PREVEND study).
Instead of stress tests, the Framingham and PREVEND studies examined many factors linked to cardiovascular disease, such as blood cholesterol, body mass index (a rough indicator of body fat) and diabetes. They also used: ASCVD (atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease) survey found that people in the highest cardiovascular risk category were not only more likely to develop heart disease, but were also 3.7 times more likely to develop cancer over a 15-year follow-up period than people at lowest risk.
The researchers also analyzed measurements from participants in the Framingham study (blood cholesterol, exercise habits, and dietary patterns) according to an American Heart Association “Life is Simple 7” risk assessment tool. Like the ASCVD results, those with the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease were less likely to develop cancer.
There’s a good reason why Life’s Simple includes exercise habits down to 7 minutes per week; physical activity is solid linked to heart health. Although a stress test cannot tell your doctor how much exercise you are doing, it is very good at measuring aerobic fitness. “And this has important implications for both cardiovascular risk and certain cancer risks,” Allison says.
“Fitness” in the world of exercise science is technically “functional aerobic capacity” or “aerobic fitness” or “cardiorespiratory fitness”; It is your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to muscle cells while exercising. “The stronger your heart and lungs are, the more oxygen gets into your cells, the higher your fitness level, and the more protected you are from heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions,” Allison explains.
A stress test measures fitness using: “Dubbing2 Maximum”: The maximum volume of oxygen your body can take in when exercising as intensely as possible. Younger people and men (because they have a higher percentage of muscle than women) have higher VO.2 max. And most people can raise VO2 Achieve your maximum with regular aerobic exercise (walking, running, rowing, cycling, or other exercises that increase your heart rate and make it harder for you to breathe).
Participants in the Mayo Clinic study whose functional aerobic capacity was just 10 percent below average were 68 percent more likely to die from a cardiovascular problem and 42 percent more likely to die from other diseases, especially cancer, than people with higher scores. And that’s just fitness! Add functional aerobic capacity, blood pressure, and other stress test measurements to an overall “exercise score”; Those with the worst scores were five times more likely to die from heart attack, heart failure and other cardiovascular problems than those with the best scores.
“Not only are fit people less likely to get cancer, they’re also more likely to survive. They’re more likely to survive almost any illness, even falls and fractures. If you can get up and move around, you’re more likely to come home,” Allison points out.
You don’t have to be an athlete to reap the benefits; I’m just hitting Recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise connected reduced risk of cardiovascular disease by 23 to 40 percent compared to remaining sedentary. Likewise, being physically active associated with an 8 to 25 percent reduction in the risk of certain types of cancer (breast, colon, endometrial, stomach and lung cancers are at the higher end of this range). Meanwhile, you’re helping prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression and other chronic diseases.
Your workout, your gut and your cancer
Exercise works its magic by strengthening the heart muscle while suppressing triggers of cardiovascular disease and cancer, such as obesity, inflammation, and high blood sugar.
New research suggests that at least some benefits may begin in the gut, home to trillions of microorganisms. (Yes, another notch on the gut microbiome’s belt!)
“Our research Studies show that exercise increases levels of bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids. These acids are protective against colorectal cancer, according to Alexander Boytar, a doctoral candidate at the School of Human Movement and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Queensland, Australia.
“They may even travel to other parts of the body and protect against other cancers,” Boytar wrote in an email. Physical activity also causes intestinal cells to produce more immune cells that suppress inflammation and cancer development.
These microbiome benefits may at least partially explain why exercisers are less likely to develop certain types of cancer. Tea the evidence is particularly strong when it comes to colorectal cancer, the third most commonly diagnosed type and the second leading cause of cancer death. globally. physically active people, 24 percent The risk of developing this cancer is lower than in sedentary people.
“Not only does this prevent cancer; the gut microbiome may also increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy and immunotherapy,” Boytar wrote.
How much exercise? “30 to 90 minutes of aerobic exercise three or more times a week for eight weeks will likely tip the balance of gut microbes in our favor,” Boytar wrote.
It’s not just exercise…
As powerful as exercise is, it’s not the be-all and end-all. “I recommend you follow the recommendations of the American Heart Association.”Essentials of Life 8“It includes specific recommendations not only for exercise, but also for better nutrition and other healthy habits,” advises Lau. In his research, he used the “Life’s Simple 7” version available at the time. Since then, the American Heart Association has added an eighth heart-protective habit: getting enough sleep. Still not studied enough research suggests that sleep disorders increase cancer risk by disrupting circadian rhythms and increasing inflammation.
Jack Merendino is paying attention to this. “Even with good stress results, I don’t take my heart health for granted. Before the test, I was often sleeping through the night or getting by on just five hours of sleep. “I knew about the link between lack of sleep and heart disease, and now that I hear there may be a link to cancer, I have another reason to turn off the lights sooner,” he says.