Experts say the longer a woman breastfeeds her baby, the lower her risk of heart disease after menopause.
Breastfeeding provides infants with antibodies to ward off infection. Now, researchers say, it can lower a woman’s risk of heart disease. Getty Images.
You’ve no doubt heard about the benefits of breastfeeding for babies. Mother’s milk is ideal nutrition and it contains antibodies that help newborns fight off bacteria and viruses.
Then there are the benefits for nursing mothers.
Breastfeeding can help them lose pregnancy weight faster. And it is a way to bond with their infants.
There’s also research that indicates breastfeeding may help mothers ward off postpartum depression and certain cancers.
Now add to that list a benefit that may not show up until menopause.
A new study out of the University of Athens in Greece says women who breastfeed are less likely to develop heart disease later in life. And the longer they breastfeed, the less the risk.
The study was presented Friday at the European Society of Endocrinology’s annual meeting in Lyon, France.
The research hasn’t been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal.
Dr. Irene Lambrinoudaki, an associate of gynecological endocrinology at the University of Athens, is the study’s lead author. She and her colleagues looked at heart and blood vessel health in 283 postmenopausal women and measured that in relation to their history of breastfeeding.
The length of time the women breastfed ranged from 1 month to 80 months.
The researchers adjusted for risk factors like weight, age, cholesterol levels, and smoking. They found that the women who breastfed had less arterial stiffness and atherosclerosis.
“These findings indicate that breastfeeding lowers the risk of heart disease in women,” Lambrinoudaki said in a news release.
The researchers said the heart health benefits are likely related to the higher levels of the hormone prolactin in breastfeeding mothers. Prolactin is believed to reduce the risk of diabetes, a major risk factor for heart disease.
Their findings are similar to a number of other studies conducted around the globe including this one published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2017.
Researchers studied nearly 300,000 women in China. They found that women who breastfed their babies had an almost 10 percent lower risk of heart disease. The women who breastfed for two years or longer had an 18 percent lower risk of heart disease.
Breastfeeding and heart disease risk
“I think it’s really important for these studies to be done in populations around the world,” Dr. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, a professor in the Department of General Internal Medicine at the University of California Davis, told Healthline.
“When we have findings among U.S. women and Greek women that are the same, that adds to our confidence in thinking that these are meaningful findings,” she noted.
A decade ago, Schwarz was an assistant professor of medicine, obstetrics, and gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh.
Schwarz and her colleagues there also studiedTrusted Source the effects of breastfeedingTrusted Source on maternal heart health. They concluded that women who had not breastfed were at higher risk for developing heart disease.
“This new study adds to a growing body of work that indicates that breastfeeding does have really important effects on maternal health for many years on into menopause,” Schwarz said.
(Source : News Feed ; PHAF have not edited containts)