Take Care of Your Heart this Valentine’s Day


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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 comorbidities that can arise as time goes on.

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, including cardiovascular disease.

Increased risk for heart-related conditions

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

Smoking, diets high in red meat, and lack of physical activity.

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.

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

Previous research has also shown that older individuals with colon and rectal cancer may be at increased risk of developing these comorbidities as a side effect of chemotherapy like 5-FU. 

While cardiotoxicity is 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.

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 additional comorbidities 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.

Recommended lifestyle changes

Research presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in June 2020 showed just how impactful lifestyle changes like exercise can be on improving the heart health of patients with colorectal cancer who were still receiving chemotherapy or had already undergone chemotherapy. Patients with colorectal cancer who participated in a 24-week exercise program had better outcomes than those who didn’t participate, including higher reported quality of life and less fatigue. 

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 a moment to consider your heart’s 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!


Denlinger and Engstrom. Colorectal Cancer Survivorship: Movement Matters. Cancer Prevention Research. April 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3110682/

One thought on “Take Care of Your Heart this Valentine’s Day

  1. No wonder…..After my cancer operation in 2017 and 6 months of 5-FU, I have always wondered why my Oncologist told me to walk for half an hour 5 days/week “for cardio”. I always wondered what does colon cancer have to do with cardio? Well, now I finally know. And I have been walking every night for 35 to 45 minutes unless the weather is really bad like raining.

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