Study finds that breastfeeding may reduce mothers’ cardiovascular disease risk

Jan. 18, 2022

Women who breastfed were 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 a pregnancy spotlight issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) and described in a news release.

Researchers reviewed health information from eight studies conducted between 1986 and 2009 in Australia, China, Norway, Japan, 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, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Medical University of Innsbruck.

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.

“It’s important for women to be aware of the benefits of breastfeeding for their babies’ health and also their own personal health,” Willeit said. “Moreover, these findings from high-quality studies conducted around the world highlight the need to encourage and support breastfeeding, such as breastfeeding-friendly work environments, and breastfeeding education and programs for families before and after giving birth.”

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