Meta-analysis reveals cardiovascular benefits of breastfeeding

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A new insightful meta-analysis has indicated a range of cardiovascular benefits of breastfeeding, potentially protecting new mothers from various health issues.

The new research has uncovered a plethora of previously unknown benefits of breastfeeding, finding that breastfeeding women were less likely to develop heart disease, stroke, or die from cardiovascular disease than women. who were not breastfeeding.

The meta-analysis, published in the journal of the American Heart Association, includes a dozen research articles analyzing a multitude of cardiovascular considerations for mother and child during pregnancy.

Known Benefits of Breastfeeding

The vast health benefits of breastfeeding are well documented, with the World Health Organization (WHO) indicating an association between reduced respiratory infections and a lower risk of death from infectious disease in breastfed children. What’s more, previous research has suggested maternal health benefits of breastfeeding, such as reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer.

Peter Willeit, senior research author and professor of clinical epidemiology at the Medical University of Innsbruck in Innsbruck, Austria, said: “Previous studies have investigated the association between breastfeeding and the risk of cardiovascular disease. in the mother; however, the results were inconsistent with respect to the strength of the combination and, in particular, the relationship between different durations of breastfeeding and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, it was important to systematically review the available literature and mathematically combine all the evidence on this topic.

Discover the cardiovascular benefits

The researchers compiled health information from eight studies conducted between 1986 and 2009 in China, Australia, Japan, Norway and the United States to conduct their survey and a further multinational study. In addition, the review included more than 1.2 million medical records from women with an average age of 25 years at their first childbirth. These data were then used to examine the relationship between breastfeeding and the mother’s individual cardiovascular risk.

The first author, Lena Tschiderer, postdoctoral researcher at the Medical University of Innsbruck, said: stroke or stroke later in life or not.

The analysis identified that:

  • 82% of women have breastfed in their lifetime,
  • Women who reported breastfeeding had an 11% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those who had never breastfed,
  • Over an average 10-year follow-up period, women who breastfed at some point in their life were 14% less likely to develop coronary artery disease, 12% less likely to have a stroke, and 17% less likely to die from it. ” cardiovascular disease,
  • Women who breastfed for 12 months or more have been shown to be less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those who did not,
  • There was a noticeable contrast in the risk of cardiovascular disease in women of different ages or according to the number of pregnancies.

Although organizations like the WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have described various benefits of breastfeeding, both recommending that babies be breastfed for the first six months of life, only one in four infants receives breast milk during this time. In addition, African American infants are less likely than white infants to be breastfed for any length of time, according to a CDC study.

Willeit said: “It is important for women to be aware of the benefits of breastfeeding for the health of their babies and also for their own personal health. Additionally, these findings from high-quality studies conducted around the world underscore the need to encourage and support breastfeeding, such as breastfeeding-friendly work environments, and breastfeeding education and programs. for families before and after childbirth.

Mitigate maternal deaths

The American Heart Association’s 2021 Call to Action on Maternal Health and Maternal Rescue found that among developed countries, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate, with cardiovascular disease being the highest. the main cause. Additionally, the statement highlights racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health and that about two in three pregnancy-related deaths could be prevented.

Shelley Miyamoto, Chair of the American Heart Association’s Council on Lifelong Congenital Heart Disease and Heart Health in the Young (Young Hearts), said, “While the benefits of breastfeeding for infants and children are well established, mothers should be encouraged more to breastfeed their infants knowing that this improves the health of their child and also improves their own health.

“Awareness of the multiple benefits of breastfeeding could be particularly helpful for mothers debating breastfeeding versus bottlefeeding. It should be especially empowering for a mother to know that by breastfeeding she is providing optimal nutrition for her baby while simultaneously reducing her personal risk for heart disease.

The researchers noted that a limitation of this meta-analysis is that little information was available on women who breastfed for more than two years.

Tschiderer concluded: “If we had had this additional data, we could have calculated better estimates of the association between breastfeeding lifespan and the development of cardiovascular disease in mothers.

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