The health benefits of breastfeeding are not only for the baby but also for the mother. Women who breastfeed have been shown to have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. Now, a new study shows they are also less likely to develop heart disease or stroke, or to die from cardiovascular disease. than those who did not breastfeed their babies.
The health benefits of breastfeeding for children are well known and include a reduced risk of respiratory infections and death from infectious diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Scientists have recently discovered that breastfeeding is also good for the mother’s heart. They found that women who breastfed during their lifetime had a 11% lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
During an average follow-up period of 10 years, women who breastfed at some point in their life were 14% less likely to develop coronary heart disease, 12% less likely to suffer strokes, and 17% less likely to have dying from cardiovascular disease.
“It is important for women to be aware of the benefits of breastfeeding for the health of their babies and also for their own personal health,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Peter Willeit of the Innsbruck University of Medicine in Innsbruck, Austria. The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA).
“Previous studies have investigated the association between breastfeeding and the risk of cardiovascular disease in the mother; however, the findings were inconsistent in terms of the strength of the association and, specifically, the relationship between different durations of breastfeeding and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, it was important to systematically review the available literature and mathematically combine all the evidence on this topic, ”added Willeit.
The researchers reviewed health information from eight studies conducted between 1986 and 2009 in Australia, China, Norway, Japan, and the United States, and one multinational study. The review included health records of almost 1.2 million women (average age 25 years at first delivery) and analyzed the relationship between breastfeeding and the mother’s individual cardiovascular risk.
“We collect information, for example, about how long the women had breastfed during their life, the number of births, the age of the first delivery and whether or not the women had a heart attack or stroke later in life ”said first author Lena Tschiderer, a postdoctoral researcher at the Innsbruck University of Medicine.
“Although the benefits of breastfeeding for infants and children are well established, Mothers should be further encouraged to breastfeed their babies knowing that they are improving their children’s health as well as their own ”, He said Shelley Miyamoto, President of the American Council of the Heart Association on Lifelong Congenital Heart Disease and Heart Health in Young People. “It should be especially motivating for a mother to know that breastfeeding you are providing optimal nutrition for your baby while reducing your personal risk of heart disease ”added.
The researchers have not yet established why breastfeeding reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, experts suggest that It could help to reset the metabolism, speeding it up again after it slowed down during pregnancy to store fat and provide the energy needed for the baby’s growth.
As a result, speeding up metabolism, the process by which food and beverages are converted into energy, would eliminate stored fat more quickly and completely, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood.
The study review found the following:
—82% of women reported having breastfed at some point in their life.
—Compared with women who never breastfed, women who reported lifetime breastfeeding had an 11% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
—During an average follow-up period of 10 years, women who breastfed at some point 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.
—The women who breastfed for 12 months or more during their lifetime appeared to be less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than women who did not breastfeed.
—There were no notable differences in the risk of cardiovascular disease between women of different ages or according to the number of pregnancies.
Despite breastfeeding recommendations from organizations like the WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed until six months of age, only 1 in 4 babies receives only breast milk during the first six months, according to US data.