Breastfeeding reduces women’s risk of CVD

These mothers are approximately 17% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, 14% less likely to develop coronary heart disease, and 12% less likely to suffer a stroke, the data show.

Women who breastfed were less likely to develop heart disease, die from cardiovascular disease (CVD), or have a stroke than women who did not breastfeed, according to the results of a meta-analysis published in the American Heart Association’s Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA).1

Investigators reviewed health information from 8 studies conducted between 1986 and 2009 in Australia, China, Japan, Norway, and the United States, as well as 1 multinational study.1

The review included health records for nearly 1.2 million women, with an average age of 25 years at their first birth and analyzed the relationship between breastfeeding and the mother’s individual cardiovascular risk.1

They found that about 82% of women reported that they had breastfed at some point in their lives.1 When compared with women who never breastfed, women who reported breastfeeding during their lifetimes had a 11% decreased risk of developing CVD.1

Over an average follow-up period of 10 years, women who breastfed at some time in their lives were approximately 17% less likely to die from CVD, approximately 14% less likely to develop coronary heart disease, and approximately 12% less likely to suffer strokes.1

Women who breastfed for 12 months or longer during their lifetimes appeared to be less likely to develop CVD than women who did not breastfeed.1

There were no notable differences in CVD risk among women of different ages or according to number of pregnancies.1

There are a wide variety of health benefits for infants who are breastfed.

Breastfeeding can promote growth and development for the infant but also reduce death and illnesses from other common infectious diseases, according to the World Health Organization.2

Breastfeeding has also been linked to maternal health benefits, including a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes.1

“Previous studies have investigated the association between breastfeeding and the risk of cardiovascular disease in the mother. However, the findings were inconsistent on the strength of the association and, specifically, the relationship between different durations of breastfeeding and cardiovascular disease risk,” Peter Willeit, MD, PhD, professor of clinical epidemiology at the Medical University of Innsbruck, said in a statement.1

“Therefore, it was important to systematically review the available literature and mathematically combine all of the evidence on this topic,” he said.1

“These findings from high-quality studies conducted around the world highlight the need to encourage and support breastfeeding, such as breastfeeding-friendly work environments and breastfeeding education and programs for families before and after giving birth,” Willeit said.1

The United States has the highest maternal death rate among developed countries, and an estimated 2 of 3 deaths during pregnancy may be preventable, according to the American Heart Association.3

For the study, there was limited information available about women who breastfed longer than 2 years.1

References

1. Breastfeeding reduces mothers’ cardiovascular disease risk, review found. EurekAlert. News release. January 11, 2022. Accessed January 11, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/939549

2. World Health Organization. Continued breastfeeding for healthy growth and development of children. July 2017. Accessed January 11, 2022. https://www.who.int/elena/titles/bbc/continued_breastfeeding/en/

3. Mehta LS, Sharma G, Creanga AA, Hameed AB, et al; Call to action: maternal health and saving mothers: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2021;144(15):e251-e269. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000001000

This article was originally published on Pharmacy Times®.