Cancer Treatment Permanently Damages Your Heart: How to Protect Yourself

Valentine’s Day is upon us.

Our attention turns to matters of heart. Because I am not close to my own family, I have created a circle of love and extended family throughout my life.

I have borrowed and adopted other people’s moms, dads, brothers and sisters and deeply nourished my friendships. I’ve fallen in love with the great human family and all of life.

This has lead me to ponder the question “Who is NOT family?”

Try walking around for a week as if everyone is dear and precious to you and see what happens! It is a great practice of open-heartedness and loving kindness. And it’s actually good for your health!

Of course, sometimes a practice like this can also show us how closed-hearted we actually can be. In that case, the first place to put the salve of love is on one’s own tender heart and start there. Slowly the heart opens and life is richer, deeper and more sweet. A great alternative to chocolate!

What About Heart Health?

Chemotherapy Can Permanently Damage Your Heart.

February is Heart Health Month. Let’s take a look at the risks to the heart health of cancer patients.

Some chemotherapy drugs are actually toxic to the heart muscle and cause your heart to be weakened permanently after treatment. Heart damage is one of the most feared side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Although the cancer treatments may increase survival and longevity, heart damage might have the opposite effect. Therefore, it is crucial to protect your heart muscle during and after treatment.

See the list below for drugs known to damage the heart. You can protect your heart muscle both during and after treatment.

Chemotherapy Drugs Which Damage the Heart and Blood Vessels:

Drugs associated with Congestive Heart Failure:

  • Anthracyclines/anthraquinolones
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Trastuzumabm Lapitinib, Perjeta and other monoclonal antibody-based tyrosine kinase inhibitors

Drugs associated with loss of blood flow or with increased clot formation:

  • Antimetabolites (fluorouracil, capecitabine)
  • Antimicrotubule agents (paclitaxel, docetaxel)
  • Cisplatin
  • Thalidomide

Drugs associated with high blood pressure:

  • Bevacizumab
  • Cisplatin
  • Sunitinib, sorafenib

Drugs associated with other toxic effects:

  • Irregular heart beat and muscle fibrosis – Busulfan
  • Slowed heart rate – Paclitaxel
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon/changes in circulation to hands and feet – Vinblastine, bleomycin
  • Nerve Damage – Vincristine
  • Lung fibrosis – Bleomycin, methotrexate, busulfan, high-dose cyclophoshamide
  • Bleeding and heart inflammation – Cyclophosphamide (high-dose therapy)

(Reference: Cardiotoxicity of chemotherapeutic agents and radiotherapy-related heart disease: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines, European Society for Medical Oncology, Oxford Journals,  Annals of Oncology, Volume 21, 2014)

Dr. Nalini’s Recommendation

Two Powerful Nutrients for Heart Protection

Carnitine is an amino acid that is a building block for muscle, including heart muscle. 1000-3000mg per day. Carnitine Tartrate powder may be added to a shake or mixed in yoghurt or applesauce.

CoQ10 (preferably in the form of Ubiquinol) supports the high energy demands of your constantly beating heart. 100-300mg per day.

By adding these nutrients, you can enhance your ability to protect your heart muscle, lining and blood vessels from damage caused by chemotherapy.

Nutrition and food choices are also important when seeking to keep the heart and blood vessels healthy in the face of chemotherapy treatment.

Be sure you eat at least 3 to 4 servings of protein daily and eat a rainbow of colors from berries and vegetables in your diet. A protein smoothie with greens powder added is an easy way to meet these goals!

Here’s to your heart health this month!