Breastfeeding reduces mothers’ cardiovascular risk

Wes Hicks/Unsplash

Women who breastfed are less likely to develop heart disease or a stroke, or die from cardiovascular disease than women who did not breastfeed, according to a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA).

Researchers reviewed health information from eight studies conducted between 1986 and 2009 in Australia, China, Norway, Japan, and the U.S. and one multinational study.

The review included health records for nearly 1.2 million women (average age 25 at first birth) and analyzed the relationship between breastfeeding and the mother’s individual cardiovascular risk.

“We collected information, for instance, on how long women had breastfed during their lifetime, the number of births, age at first birth, and whether women had a heart attack or a stroke later in life or not,” said first author Lena Tschiderer, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the Medical University of Innsbruck.

According to the review, 82 percent of the women reported they had breastfed at some point in their life. Women who reported breastfeeding during their lifetime had a 11 percent decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, compared to women who have never breastfed. In addition, over an average follow-up period of 10 years, women who breastfed at some time in their life were 14 percent less likely to develop coronary heart disease; 12 percent less likely to suffer strokes; and 17 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

Breastfeeding has also been linked to decreased maternal risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Integrative practitioners who work with pregnant women can share this information with their patients, so soon-to-be mothers are not only aware of the nourishment benefits for the baby, but the health benefits for themselves as well.