Breastfeeding Mothers Have Lower Chance Of Heart Disease And Stroke

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Breastfeeding Mothers Have Lower Chance Of Heart Disease And Stroke

A wealth of evidence is available suggesting the short-term health benefits provided by breastfeeding to mothers and their babies. Breast milk is rich in bacteria- and virus-fighting cells which help babies develop stronger immune systems and have less asthma and allergies than their contemporaries who aren’t breastfed. [1] Previous studies have confirmed the link between breastfeeding and higher IQs and better body weight among babies as they get older. [2]

For moms, breastfeeding means lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, and obesity. [3] Now, a team of Chinese and British researchers added new data on the long-term maternal benefits of breastfeeding which can reduce mothers’ risk of having a heart attack or stroke later in life. The researchers published their findings in the Journal of the American Heart Association. [4]

The observational study gathered data from more than 289,000 women, nearly all of whom were mothers. When the study started, none of the women had cardiovascular disease, but after eight years, the researchers recorded 16,671 cases of coronary heart disease while there were 23,983 stroke cases.

The results showed that women who breastfed their tots had a nine percent and eight percent lower risk of heart disease and stroke, respectively, compared to those who never breastfed. Those who breastfed their children for 24 months or more had an 18 percent lower risk of heart disease and 17 percent lower risk of stroke. The study adjusted for other factors like diabetes, obesity, physical exercise, smoking, and high blood pressure.

For study co-author and epidemiologist Sanne Peters of Oxford University, the faster reset of the mothers’ metabolism after pregnancy is responsible for the health benefits offered by breastfeeding. According to Peters, pregnancy allows women to store fat which produces the energy necessary for the growth of their babies and breastfeeding once the baby is born. He added that poorer women from rural areas of China had longer breastfeeding periods than those who live in cities.

The team stressed that their findings were not designed to prove cause and effect. They clarified that the study did not consider the other beneficial health behaviors engaged into by the women who breastfeed. The exact mechanism explaining the correlation between breastfeeding lower chance of heart disease and stroke remains unknown. However, the study provided rock solid evidence which just needs follow-up research.

Peters insisted that their work is consistent with other studies conducted with Western populations. He cited results from the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study and European EPIC-CVD study which have also posited the association between history of breastfeeding and lower risk of coronary heart disease later in life. [5][6]

It remains unclear whether there is an ideal duration to breastfeed to tap the greatest benefit for heart health, Peters clarified. Future studies may provide more explanation, he concluded. Nevertheless, their findings should encourage the promotion of widespread breastfeeding for the benefit of the mother and the child.


[1] Hanson LA. December 1998. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Breastfeeding provides passive and likely long-lasting active immunity.

[2] Isaacs EB et al. April 2010. Pediatric Research. Impact of breast milk on IQ, brain size and white matter development.

[3] Babendure JB et al. July 2015. International Breastfeeding Journal. Reduced breastfeeding rates among obese mothers: a review of contributing factors, clinical considerations and future direction.

[4] Peters SA E et al. June 21, 2017. Breastfeeding and the Risk of Maternal Cardiovascular Disease: A Prospective Study of 300 000 Chinese Women.

[5] Stuebe AM et al. December 2008. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Duration of lactation and incidence of myocardial infarction in middle to late adulthood.…/

[6] Peters SAE et al. July 4, 2016. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Parity, breastfeeding and risk of coronary heart disease: A pan-European case–cohort study.

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By Mike Westerdal CPT

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