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Breastfeeding found to lower heart disease risk among mothers, especially later in life


The benefits of breastfeeding are already quite compelling, but now we can add yet another important advantage to that list as a new study has illustrated how breastfeeding can lower the risk of heart disease among mothers.

Researchers from the University of Athens in Greece presented the exciting finding at a recent meeting of the European Society of Endocrinology. They looked at 283 post-menopausal women, comparing their heart and blood vessel health to their breastfeeding history. The women studied breastfed for anywhere from one month to 80 months.

After adjusting for other risk factors such as age, weight, smoking status, and cholesterol levels, they discovered that women who breastfed enjoyed less stiffness in their arteries and atherosclerosis. This means that the act of breastfeeding essentially lowers women’s risk of heart disease.

The researchers believe that this effect can be attributed to breastfeeding mothers’ higher levels of a hormone known as prolactin, which can also reduce to the risk of another major heart disease risk factor, diabetes.

A different study into this topic involving nearly 300,000 Chinese women discovered that women who breastfed noted a 10 percent lower risk of developing heart disease, while those who breastfed for at least two years enjoyed an 18 percent reduction in their heart disease risk. Yet another study carried out by the University of Pittsburgh found that women who did not breastfeed had a higher risk of heart disease.

Other benefits of breastfeeding

While it’s incredible to think that breastfeeding can protect a mother’s health well into menopause, there are plenty of other good reasons women should opt to feed their babies this way if possible. The main reason many women wish to breastfeed is because mother’s milk is considered the perfect nutrition for their babies. It’s full of antibodies that can help babies to fight off viruses and bacteria.

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The benefits also extend to the mother. It can help some women to lose their pregnancy weight faster, and it can also help to stave off post-partum depression.

It has also been shown to reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer. A report carried out by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research showed strong evidence that breastfeeding reduces both premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancers.

There are several ways it may help, including the fact that lactation can delay when women start menstruating following their baby’s birth. The resulting reduction in their lifetime exposure to hormones like estrogen can help reduce their risk. In addition, breasts shed tissue after lactation, which might help them to get rid of any cells that have damaged DNA and could eventually grow into cancer.

Finally, the report suggests that breastfeeding might change the way that genes in breast cells are expressed in a manner that can have a lasting impact on cancer risk. According to this report, every five months of breastfeeding was linked to a 2 percent reduction in breast cancer risk.

On top of that, mothers and babies alike benefit from the opportunity to bond through the close skin-to-skin contact and time spent together afforded by breastfeeding.

Unfortunately, breastfeeding can be a struggle for many women. While some are physically unable to do so, many become discouraged by latch issues, timing problems, and other obstacles. Studies like these could well help motivate new mothers to stick with it and find a way to make it work to protect their health as well as that of their baby.

Sources for this article include:

Healthline.com

MedicalNewsToday.com



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