In a new study published in the journal of the American Heart Association(JAHA), a team of researchers found women who breastfed were less likely to develop heart disease or a stroke, or die from cardiovascular disease than women who did not breastfeed.
Breastfeeding has numerous health benefits for children. Breastfeeding is associated with fewer respiratory infections and a lower risk of death from infectious diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Breastfeeding has also been related to a reduction in the risk of Type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer in mothers.
In the latest research, Scientists analyzed health information from eight studies carried out between 1986 and 2009 in Australia, China, Norway, Japan and the U.S. and one multinational study.
The study looked at approximately 1.2 million women’s health records (average age 25 at first birth) to see if there was a link between breastfeeding and the mother’s specific cardiovascular risk.
The report revealed:
- 82% of the women reported they had breastfed at some time in their life.
- Compared to women who never breastfed, women who reported breastfeeding during their lifetime had a 11% decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Over an average follow-up period of 10 years, women who breastfed at some time in their life were 14% less likely to develop coronary heart disease; 12% less likely to suffer strokes; and 17% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
- Women who breastfed for 12 months or longer during their lifetime appeared to be less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than women who did not breastfeed.
- There were no notable differences in cardiovascular disease risk among women of different ages or according to the number of pregnancies.
Despite recommendations from organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which both recommend that babies be breastfed exclusively for at least six months, only one out of every four infants receives only breastmilk for the first six months of life. According to the CDC, black infants in the United States are less likely than white infants to be nursed for any length of time.
“It’s important for women to be aware of the benefits of breastfeeding for their babies’ health and also their own personal health,” said senior author Peter Willeit.
One limitation of this meta-analysis is that there was minimal information available regarding women who breastfed for more than two years.
“If we had this additional data, we would have been able to calculate better estimates for the association between lifetime durations of breastfeeding and development of cardiovascular disease in mothers,” said first author Lena Tschiderer.
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