Study: Breastfeeding Moms May Be at Lower Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

We have known for a long time that breastfeeding is healthy for babies; however studies have shown that it can provide long term health benefits for the moms too. This new information comes from recent research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The comprehensive study followed 300,000 adult women in China.

Previous studies showed different health benefits from breastfeeding were short term including lower cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose levels, and weight loss after pregnancy. However, this study explored long term results for the 300,000 subjects who had breastfed their babies. The research was performed by researchers from the University of Oxford, Peking University, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. The 300,000 women that took part in the study were between 30 and 79 years old and from 10 urban and rural areas across China, they tracked their health through hospital records and death registries and were part of the prospective China Kadoorie Biobank of half a million adults. The observations were as follows:

  • Nearly all gave birth and 97 percent of the women breastfed each of their babies for an average of 12 months.
  • Compared to women who had never breastfed, mothers who ever breastfed their babies had a 9 percent lower risk of heart disease and an 8 percent lower risk of stroke.
  • Among mothers who breastfed each of their babies for two years or more, heart disease risk was 18 percent lower and stroke risk was 17 percent lower than among mothers who had never breastfed.
  • Each additional 6 months of breastfeeding per baby was associated with a 4 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 3 percent lower risk of stroke.

More research is needed to determine a better correlation between breastfeeding and the health results since it is possible that women who breastfed might also engage in other healthy behaviors that might also lower their risk for cardiovascular diseases. However, the researchers did take into consideration other lifestyle choices and a range of risk factors so the observed benefits from breastfeeding were calculated independently of the other lifestyle factors.

A research fellow from The George Institute for Global Health at the University of Oxford, Dr. Sanne Peters was the study author. He explains, “Although we cannot establish the causal effects, the health benefits to the mother from breastfeeding may be explained by a faster “reset” of the mother’s metabolism after pregnancy.” It is believed that breastfeeding might eliminate the stored fat accrued during pregnancy faster and more completely and that is what leads to reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases later in life. The study co-author is Liming Li from the Peking University explains, “Nearly all women in the study were born before 1970s and the rate of breastfeeding was much higher than that in the Western populations and younger generations in China.”

The American Heart Association suggests trying to maintain breastfeeding for 12 months if possible. According to WHO’s data, about 30 percent of women in the US managed to breastfeed their baby for 12 months in 2016. In China, only 30 percent of rural women and 16 percent of urban women now managed to breastfeed their baby for 6 months or more.

This is just one of many important and informative medical research studies from The George Institute for Global Health, a health and medical research institute. Their mission is to improve the health of millions of people worldwide. One of the ways The George Institute for Global Health achieves their mission is through George Clinical, a leading contract research organization (CRO) headquartered in Sydney, Australia but with operational hubs in ten countries throughout Asia.