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History of Exercise Helps Prevent Heart Disease After Breast Cancer

While regular exercise is recommended as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle for any person, it also appears to help mitigate the increased cardiovascular risk faced by women treated for breast cancer, according to a study presented at the American College of Cardiology's 66th Annual Scientific Session.

The study found that women with breast cancer who engaged in the equivalent of five hours of moderate exercise per week before their diagnosis were 40 percent less likely to have a cardiovascular event and 60 percent less likely to die from coronary heart disease compared to those with a low pre-diagnosis level of exercise. Researchers said this study is the first to examine the long-term impact of exercise before a cancer diagnosis and the cardiovascular benefits of exercise across all types of cancer treatments.

About one in eight U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime, and these women are living longer thanks to advances in screening and treatment. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and women who have been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer face a markedly increased risk of heart disease compared to the general population. This increased risk, which reduces long-term survival, is attributed, in part, to cardiovascular damage from cancer therapies.

"Next to a second or recurrent cancer, heart disease is the second leading killer in cancer patients and survivors, so anything we can do to prevent cancer survivors from developing heart disease is very important," said Tochi Okwuosa, DO, a cardiovascular disease specialist at Rush University Medical Center and the study's lead author. "We found that with exercise, even before one is diagnosed with cancer, you can lower the risk of cardiovascular problems that are caused by chemotherapy and radiation therapy."

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