Following a heart-healthy lifestyle can also lower the risk of cancer, according to a new U.S. study that looks at how adhering to recommendations by the American Heart Association can do more than just fend off cardiovascular disease.

Dubbed “Life’s Simple 7,” the list of recommendations was introduced by the AHA as part of a public campaign aimed at preventing heart disease.

The seven factors are:

• Being physically active

• Maintaining a healthy weight

• Eating a healthy diet

• Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels

• Keeping blood pressure down

• Regulating blood sugar levels

• Not smoking

But now, according to a study out of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, the heart-healthy measures have also been shown to cut cancer risks.

The study followed more than 13,000 white and African-American men and women whose health histories had been recorded since 1987, as part of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study.

Approximately 20 years after the start of the Atherosclerosis Risk study, researchers at Northwestern reviewed hospital records and found that 2,880 of the participants had been diagnosed with cancer, mainly of the lungs, colon or rectum, prostate and breast.

Further analyzing the data, the researchers found that participants who followed six of the seven recommendations had a 51 per cent lower cancer risk than participants who did not follow any. Adhering to four factors was linked to a 33 per cent decrease, and following one or two resulted in a 21 per cent risk reduction.

This relationship between heart health and cancer even held after researchers accounted for the effect of smoking. When smoking was not considered, volunteers who checked off five or six of the seven recommendations had a 25 per cent lower cancer risk.

“The more you adhere to the seven, the more you’ll see an impact,“ CTV health and medical expert Dr. Marla Shapiro told Canada AM Tuesday.

“We’re trying to help promote a comprehensive health message,” Laura J. Rasmussen-Torvik and lead author of the study explained in a press release. “Quitting smoking is very important, but there are other factors you need to be aware of if you want to live a healthy life.”

Rasmussen-Torvik said the results of the study can help health professionals provide a “clear, consistent message about the most important things people can do to protect their health and lower their overall risk for chronic diseases.”

The study is published in the March 18 edition of Circulation.

To learn more about the Life’s Simple 7, take the My Life Check assessment.