Cancer survivors know that some side effects linger.

Colorectal cancer patients may experience neuropathy, fear of recurrence, and other side effects years after cancer treatment ends.

In addition, there are other non-cancer related co-morbidities that can arise as time goes on as well.

A comorbidity is defined as the presence of multiple diseases or disorders. These could include anything from diabetes, depression, obesity, musculoskeletal problems, arthritis, and more.

Just as these health issues often arise in the general population, they can also present in colorectal cancer survivors.

Studies have suggested that for colorectal cancer patients, there is a significant struggle with comorbidities late into survivorship. What’s a common one?

Cardiovascular disease.

And it makes sense.

Things that are bad for your colon health are also bad for your heart health. Like what?

Smoking. Diets high in red meat. Lack of physical activity. (check out all of the risk factors)

These are all factors that increase the risk of both colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease.

On the flip side, quitting smoking, eating a varied diet full of fruits and vegetables and engaging in regular exercise routines are some of the most common contributors to reducing the risk of CRC recurrence and cardiovascular disease.

Why is it important to know about heart health after a cancer diagnosis?

We know that a cancer diagnosis negatively affects a person’s quality of life.

However, with an additional comorbidity, like cardiovascular disease, quality of life may be reduced even more and lead to “health and functional limitations, even in long-term (more than five years from diagnosis) survivors.”

It’s vitally important to live in a way that is supportive of heart health.

Pay attention to your heart health even if you’re on treatment

Some side effects of chemo, including 5-FU, include cardiotoxicity.

While a rare side effect, it’s important to pay attention to how you’re feeling.

Contact your doctor immediately if you notice heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, cardiac arrest or other heart-related symptoms.

Recommended Lifestyle Changes

Here are some lifestyle recommendations to improve heart health for all by the American Heart Association:

  • Choose good nutrition
  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Be physically active every day
  • Aim for a healthy weight
  • Manage diabetes
  • Reduce stress
  • Limit alcohol

So this Valentine’s Day, take moment to consider your heart’s own health – as it could be beneficial for your colon health, too.

Living a healthy life could cut the risk of heart attack by ⅓ to ½!

And for more information on how to reduce side effects or prevent colorectal cancer, sign up for our emails or check out our resource library!


Denlinger and Engstrom. Colorectal Cancer Survivorship: Movement Matters. Cancer Prevention Research. April 2011.

Jansen L, Koch L, Brenner H, Ardnt V. Quality of life among long-term (≥ 5 years) colorectal cancer survivors–systematic review. Eur J Cancer. 2010 in press.

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