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Breastfeeding helps to protect mums' hearts, new study finds

It is well documented that breastfeeding benefits babies. But a new study of Australian mums has found the benefits extend to mothers, too.

Article from The Sydney Morning Herald

mum with baby

According to researchers at the University of Sydney, breastfeeding may significantly help to protect heart health and prevent deaths from cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death for women worldwide.

The researchers analysed the data of more than 100,000 NSW women aged 45 and over, following them for six years. They found mothers who breastfed had a 14 per cent lower risk of developing, and a 34 per cent lower risk of dying from, cardiovascular disease compared with mothers who never breastfed.

The longer the mothers breastfed, the greater the protective benefits were.

Women who breastfed for 12 months reduced their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD) by up to 40 per cent.

The effects were evident even after adjusting for socioeconomic status and lifestyle factors including alcohol intake, smoking status, body weight and consumption of fruit and vegetables.

The study’s lead author, Dr Binh Nguyen, said that, with less than 50 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfeeding at three months and 15 per cent exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months, mothers who can and want to breastfeed should be encouraged to, not just for their child’s long-term health but for their own.

“Breastfeeding may offer long term benefits in terms of cardiovascular health in addition to the already known benefits,” Dr Nguyen said.

Professor Jane Scott from the Public School of Health at Curtin University said: "This is a strong study. It is quite consistent with the research that has been coming out in the last few years. The strength of this study is that they have controlled for a lot of the variables that are also associated with heart disease."

Recent research has shown breastfeeding may reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Researchers also know breastfeeding improves mothers' glucose and fat metabolism in the short-term and may prevent metabolic syndrome later in life.

It was this emerging evidence around the metabolic effects that piqued Dr Nguyen’s curiosity, providing clues to help explain the findings of this new research, which has been published in the Journal of the American Heart Assocation...

Read full article on The Sydney Morning Herald

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