Breastfeeding is Heart Healthy for Women

New research shows that breastfeeding is heart healthy for women. According to a new study from University of Pittsburgh, women who breastfed for one year were able to cut their risk of heart attack and stroke by ten percent. The study, which included 139,681 postmenopausal women, also showed that breastfeeding for just one month also lowered risk of heart attack and stroke in women who had not breastfed for thirty-five years.

Breastfeeding was shown to have lasting cardiovascular benefits for women. The women in the current study who had breastfed their infants had decreased risk of diabetes, lower cholesterol levels, and reduced blood pressure, compared to women who had not breastfed their infants.

Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh says, "Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, so it's vitally important for us to know what we can do to protect ourselves.”

Supporting women who breastfeed is also a good idea for employers. Dr. Schwartz suggests that workplaces engage in policies that promote breastfeeding, given the healthy benefits. The study is the first to show that women who breastfeed even for a short period can reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke. Six months of breastfeeding reduced heart disease risk significantly among the women studied.

The study adds to the evidence that breastfeeding is healthy for infants, and healthy for women. Breastfeeding can burn calories, and lower cholesterol levels, leading to better heart health.

According to Dr. Schwartz, the longer women breastfeed, the lower the risk of heart attack. Breastfeeding "resets" the body after pregnancy", relaxing blood vessels by increasing Oxytocin levels, a hormone that facilitates breastfeeding and lactation.

Only eleven percent of women breastfeed. Breastfeeding is heart healthy, and is now shown to reduce women's risk of heart attack and stroke after menopause. Studies continue to show the health benefits associated with breastfeeding for mother and baby.

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences