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Try to follow these top 10 tips for looking after your heart. Doing so will help to keep your heart healthy before, during and after cancer treatment.
1. Ask your cancer doctor if the treatment you are having is likely to affect your heart. If it is, find out how they will monitor your heart during your treatment.
2. Tell your cancer doctor if you already have a heart problem, high blood pressure or a family history of heart problems before you start your cancer treatment.
3. Make sure any heart problems you have are controlled before your cancer treatment begins. For example, if you know your blood pressure is usually high, get it checked by your GP. You may be prescribed medicines to control it.
4. When you come to the end of your treatment, ask your cancer doctor if you will need regular heart check-ups and for how long these should be continued.
‘I always felt I was getting the best care. You become very close to your medical team – I still go back to see the same people for check-ups.’
5. Continue to take any medication that you have been prescribed for your heart and don’t stop taking it unless you’ve been told to. If you have troublesome side effects, talk to your doctor.
‘I take eight medicines a day but it is a small price to pay. They are helping to keep me healthy. My last chemo treatment was in 2000, so this coming September it will be 14 years.’
6. Attend your heart follow-up appointments, even if you don’t have any heart symptoms. Remember that early damage to the heart may not cause symptoms. But any damage may show up on tests arranged during follow-up appointments. This means it can be treated quickly and more serious heart problems can be prevented.
7. Know the symptoms of heart disease and if you get any of them, see your GP.
8. If your lifestyle means you are at a greater risk of heart disease, change it.
‘The one big thing I’ve discovered is this – being healthy is about changing your lifestyle, not just going on a diet. It’s about getting the right advice and making simple changes. They can make all the difference in the world.’
9. Make sure you’re getting the right support. You can get more information about heart disease and support from the British Heart Foundation. Call their Heart Helpline on 0300 330 3311 (Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm). If you’d like more information about cancer and its treatment, contact Macmillan Cancer Support on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday–Friday, 9am–8pm).
10. If you feel stressed or anxious, get support from the people around you and try using relaxation techniques.
We worked with British Heart Foundation to write our content on heart health.
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