What do your ticker and your breasts have in common?

As you undoubtedly already know, in the way of day-to-day functioning, not much.

Their physiological responsibilities aren’t related in the least, even though they occupy real estate in the same bodily neighborhood, one as a stealthy underground dweller you tend to forget about, the other demanding your attention like a Queen Anne Victorian poised to succumb slowly to neglect and disrepair.

The sole purpose of a woman’s breasts is to nourish newborn children. The sole purpose of her heart? Well, it has more than one purpose.

You could argue that for breasts as well, but that goes in a completely different direction than what I have in mind as the take-home message from this post.

February is American Heart Month, and it’s also National Cancer Prevention Month.

I did Facebook LIVE videos sharing health tips and key take-away ideas on each of these – if you missed them, WATCH HERE! (To be sure you don’t miss any of my FB LIVE educational events, be sure to “like” my page while you’re there.)

Well as it turns out, these two seemingly disparate body parts DO have something in common, especially if you’ve had breast cancer.

Heart disease and breast cancer share several overlapping risk factors:
  • age
  • diet
  • family history
  • alcohol intake
  • hormone replacement
  • obesity/overweight
  • physical activity
  • tobacco use 

Additionally, current breast cancer treatments can negatively impact heart health by causing, for example, left ventricular dysfunction, or accelerating cardiovascular disease in general. For women with pre-existing heart disease at the time of their breast cancer diagnosis, treatment decisions by both the patient and physician may be influenced. 

And finally, improvements in breast cancer detection and treatment have led to an increase in the number of survivors at risk for potential long-term complications of treatment, as well as age-related heart disease.


AHA Scientific Statement

To address this issue, earlier this month the American Heart Association released its first scientific statement on coronary heart disease and breast cancer. I’ve included the link to this document below; a robust and comprehensive overview I encourage you to take even the tiniest peek at.

I was especially excited to see “prevention and treatment of CVD in breast cancer patients”. Overall dietary pattern, attention to type and amount of dietary fat intake, and alcohol and red meat consumption are foundations of the nutrition section, with lifestyle patterns of physical activity, overweight/obesity and tobacco also thoroughly covered.

The bottom line is this –

When you eat to support a healthy heart, you also support healthy breasts.

Yep. It’s all about the care and feeding.

Care in terms of regular physical activity, wellness check-ups and screenings, and feeding in terms of what and how much you choose to actually FEED yourself.

Eating more plants, whole grains, legumes, and quality fats (in limited quantity), less red meat, alcohol, sugar-laden, chemically and artificially preserved/colored/flavored and highly sodium-ized foods, skipping fried foods more often than not, increasing fiber and quality nutrition (read; EAT REAL, WHOLE FOODS), and limiting restaurant meals all propel these two critical parts of your body to better health.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. You thought it was breast cancer? You’re not alone.  

Cardiovascular disease simply means “heart disease” and includes many different conditions such as arrhythmia, coronary artery disease, and heart attack. Diabetes, hypertension and abnormal cholesterol are all causes of heart disease, but each of these conditions can be improved or managed with diet.

A few of my favorite foods for reducing cholesterol and supporting a healthy heart also happen to be just what the dietitian ordered for breast health.

See how many of these foods you can include throughout the week.

  • Beans, peas, lentils – ½ cup*
  • Apples*
  • Almonds or walnuts – 1-1.5 ounces, or 2-3 tablespoons almond butter*
  • Oatmeal or barley – 1 cup (cooked)*
  • Salmon, tuna, trout – 3-4 ounces
  • Berries – ½-1 cup
  • Flaxseeds – 2 tablespoons, ground*
  • Red, yellow and orange fruits and veggies – 1 cup (minimum)
  • Dark chocolate – At least 70% cocoa, 1 ounce
  • Broccoli – As much as you can possibly hold

*Aim to eat DAILY


Cardiovascular Disease and Breast Cancer: Where These Entities Intersect