Heart Disease and Prostate Cancer:
What You Need to Know

Protecting your heart health may be more important than you realize. Keep an eye on your heart, so you can enjoy more of life.

Family with baby walking on the beach

What should I know
about heart disease?

Heart disease is the #1 cause of death for many men with prostate cancer.

Many men are living longer after having prostate cancer, which is great news. The not-so-great news? Heart disease is taking lives instead.

During and after prostate cancer, make sure to pay attention to your heart health so you're better equipped to live life to the fullest.

Black men are especially at risk for heart disease. Why?

Black men are 30% more likely to die of heart disease than other men. Why? The answers aren’t 100% clear just yet, and researchers are working to understand this better. Some reasons may include higher rates of high blood pressure and diabetes, difficulty getting to a doctor or finding health professionals you trust, and
racial discrimination.


These factors are challenging, and some may be out of your control. But there’s still a lot you can do to protect your heart health and take good care of yourself.

Why do I need to pay attention
to my heart health?

It may be surprising, but many factors that increase your chances of developing heart disease are also common in men with prostate cancer. This means, as a man with prostate cancer, you are likely at a higher risk of suffering from conditions like heart attacks, strokes and other types of heart disease.

Your risk of developing heart disease may also be increased by some common treatments for prostate cancer. It's a good idea to talk to your prostate cancer doctor about your heart health when you start a new treatment.

What are some of the risk
factors for heart disease?

Some things that increase your risk of developing heart disease can't be changed — like being older, Black, or having a family history of heart disease. On the other hand, there are risk factors you definitely can control. These include health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Here are some risks you can work on, and it’ll really pay off:
High blood pressure

When the pressure of your blood in your arteries is too high, it can affect your heart, kidneys and other organs. You may not know you have high blood pressure, so getting it checked regularly is important.

You can measure your blood pressure using a public machine at a drugstore, but make sure to have it checked by a healthcare professional, too, for the most accurate result.

You can lower high blood pressure with lifestyle changes or medications. Lifestyle changes include having a healthier diet, losing weight (if you're overweight), and getting enough exercise.

High cholesterol

Too much cholesterol in your blood can build up in your arteries and reduce blood flow to your heart and other organs. You can lower cholesterol with lifestyle changes or medications. Lifestyle changes include having a healthier diet, losing weight (if you are overweight), and getting enough exercise.

Diabetes

People with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease than people without diabetes. Managing diabetes with the help of your doctor, staying active, eating healthy, losing weight (if you're overweight), and taking your medications are crucial to your heart health.

Not moving your body enough

Being inactive can increase your risk of heart disease. Physical activity and regular exercise, especially when you work up a sweat, can help keep your weight healthy, lower blood pressure, manage diabetes, and more.

Unhealthy diet

Eating too much salt, sugar and processed meats can increase your risk of heart disease and conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Eating healthy foods has many benefits, and can still taste delicious.

Being overweight

Carrying too much weight puts stress on your heart and can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes. Keeping extra pounds off will make things easier on your heart.

Smoking

Smoking can damage your heart and your blood vessels and increase your blood pressure. Quitting is possible, and there are many different programs and approaches that can get you on the right track.

What are some things I
can do to take charge?

Talk to your doctor

During and after treatment for prostate cancer, work with a doctor to stay heart-healthy. Getting a heart check-up is one of the best things you can do.


Your doctor can provide specific advice, based on your medical history and treatment, that can help you decrease your risk of heart disease.

Ideas:

  • Call your primary care doctor and schedule an appointment to talk about your heart health.

  • At your next prostate cancer treatment check-up, tell your oncologist or urologist you want to talk about your heart health. If you know you have a heart condition or any of the risk factors on this page, make sure your prostate cancer doctor is aware.

  • Read our tips below about information you can bring to your doctor for an extra productive visit.

Take your medications on time

Make sure you’re taking all of your medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and other medications related to your heart health as recommended by your doctor.

Ideas:

  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about your medications.

  • Use a pill box or calendar to keep track of the days and times for each prescription.

Have a heart-healthy diet

Eating healthier can help reduce your risk of heart disease.

Ideas:

  • Avoid cookies, chips and sweets, and choose healthy snacks like fresh fruits and vegetables, or unsalted nuts.

  • Enjoy cool sparkling or still water instead of sugary drinks or alcohol.

  • Plan heart-healthy meals with your partner, spouse, or family — change is easier together.

Exercise regularly

Exercise lowers high blood pressure, helps with your weight, can help you quit smoking, and more.

Ideas:

  • Take a brisk (fast-paced) walk for at least 30 minutes daily. Try going after dinner with friends or family and get your heart pumping, or even after lunch to perk you up.

  • Add some extra movement to your day: play music while cleaning up around the house, dance to some old school jams, and work up a sweat.

Quit smoking

Giving up smoking takes work, but you don't have to do this alone.

Ideas:

  • Use these helpful tips and tools. You can try apps, texting programs, or whatever works for you.

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist for help on how to quit.

How can I work with a doctor
on my heart health?

Schedule an appointment with your regular doctor to talk specifically about your heart health. Make sure they know about your prostate cancer diagnosis.

Don’t have a doc? Setting up a new appointment with a primary care doctor is a great place to start. If you can, take a loved one along to your appointment — they can be another pair of ears, take notes and help you feel supported.

Your urologist and oncologist will be most focused on your prostate cancer care. You can also ask them about your heart health and how your cancer treatment may impact your heart. When starting a new treatment for cancer, ask your doctor how it will affect your heart disease risk.

What information can I take
to my doctor’s appointment?

You'll get more out of your visit if you go prepared. Set aside some time to gather information about your cancer, general health and treatments, and questions you want to ask.

Ideas:

  • Read about the risks on this page and let your doctor know if you think they apply to you.

  • Plan to talk with your doctor about your prostate cancer treatment and how it may impact your heart.

  • If you have a couple of weeks before your visit, gather information about your current health, write it down, and bring it to your visit. For example:

    — Check your blood pressure twice a week using a home machine or a public machine at a drugstore.

    — Check your weight and think about how much you’ve weighed over the last couple of years.

    — Make notes about how many times a week you exercise and how you like to stay active.

    — Use a calorie tracker to understand more about your diet, if you’re trying to lose weight.

The following experts contributed to the development of this page:

Scott Bauer, MD, ScM University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco VA Medical Center

Thomas A Farrington Founder and President, PHEN

Stephen Freedland, MD Cedars-Sinai and the Durham VA Medical Center

Darryl Leong, MBBS, PhD, MPH McMaster University

Last updated: August 2021

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