First published on SienceDaily
Breastfeeding is not only good for babies, there is growing evidence it may also reduce the risk for stroke in post-menopausal women who reported breastfeeding at least one child, according to new research in Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death among women aged 65 and older, and is the third leading cause of death among Hispanic and black women aged 65 and older, according to the study.
“Some studies have reported that breastfeeding may reduce the rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in mothers. Recent findings point to the benefits of breastfeeding on heart disease and other specific cardiovascular risk factors,” said Lisette T. Jacobson, Ph.D., M.P.A., M.A., lead author of the study and assistant professor in the department of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita.
This is among the first studies to examine breastfeeding and a possible relationship to stroke risk for mothers, as well as how such a relationship might vary by ethnicity.
Researchers analyzed data on 80,191 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative observational study, a large ongoing national study that has tracked the medical events and health habits of postmenopausal women who were recruited between 1993 and 1998. All women in this analysis had delivered one or more children and 58 percent reported ever having breastfed. Among these women, 51 percent breastfed for one-six months, 22 percent for seven-12 months and 27 percent for 13 or more months. At the time of recruitment, the average age was 63.7 years and the follow-up period was 12.6 years.
After adjusting for non-modifiable stroke risk factors (such as age and family history), researchers found stroke risk among women who breastfed their babies was on average:
23 percent lower in all women,
48 percent lower in black women,
32 percent lower in Hispanic women,
21 percent lower in white women, and
19 percent lower in women who had breastfed for up to six months.
A longer reported length of breastfeeding was associated with a greater reduction in risk.
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