Breast-feeding can reduce the risk of stroke in postmenopausal women

Breastfeeding is not only good for babies, but there is growing evidence that it can also reduce the risk of stroke in postmenopausal women who reported breastfeeding at least one child, according to new research in Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association / American Stroke Association.

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death among women aged 65 and older and, according to the study, the third leading cause of death among Spanish and black women aged 65 and over.

"Some studies have reported that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in mothers. Recent findings point to the benefits of breastfeeding for heart disease and other specific cardiovascular risk factors," said Lisette T. Jacobson, Ph.D., MPA, MA, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita.

This is one of the first studies to examine breastfeeding and a possible relationship to stroke risk for mothers, as well as how such a relationship can vary by ethnicity.

Researchers analyzed data on 80,191 participants in the Women's Health Initiative observation study, a large nationwide survey that followed the medical events and health habits of women after the transition between 1993 and 1998. All women in this analysis had delivered one or more children and 58 percent indicated that they had ever had breastfeeding. Among these women, 51 percent gave breastfeeding for a period of six months, 22 percent for seven -12 months and 27 percent for 13 months or longer. At the time of recruitment, the average age was 63.7 years and the follow-up period was 12.6 years.

After adjusting for nonadaptable stroke risk factors (such as age and family history), researchers found a stroke risk in women who breastfed their babies:

  • 23 percent lower in all women,
  • 48 percent lower in black women,
  • 32 percent lower in Spanish women,
  • 21 percent lower in white women, and
  • 19 percent lower in women who have had breastfeeding for up to six months. A longer reported breastfeeding length was associated with a greater reduction in risk.

"If you are pregnant, please consider breast-feeding as part of your delivery plan and continue breast-feeding for at least six months to receive the optimal benefits for you and your child," said Jacobson.

"Our study did not address the question of whether racial / ethnic differences in breastfeeding contribute to inequalities in the risk of stroke.Additional studies should consider to what extent breastfeeding could alter racial / ethnic differences in stroke risk," Jacobson said.

Because the study was observational, it could not establish a cause-and-effect relationship between breastfeeding and lower risk of stroke, which means that it is possible another feature that differentiates between breastfeeding women and those who do not, the factor that causes the change stroke risk. However, because the Women's Health Initiative is large, researchers could adapt to many features and the effects of breastfeeding remained strong, Jacobson said.

"Breastfeeding is just one of the many factors that can potentially protect against stroke, others include getting enough exercise, choosing healthy foods, not smoking and seeking treatment if necessary to reduce your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels within the normal to keep range, "Jacobson said. .

The study was also limited by the relatively small number of strokes that occurred during the follow-up period (only 3.4 percent of the women experienced a stroke during the study period and 1.6 percent reported having had a stroke prior to the study. ) and by excluding the Initiative for Women Health Initiatives from women who had already experienced severe strokes at the time of recruitment.

Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months, with continued breastfeeding for a year or longer. For baby's health, the American Heart Association recommends breast-feeding for 12 months with the transition to other additional sources of nutrients from about four to six months of age to ensure adequate micronutrients in the diet.


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