FRIDAY, Aug. 26, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Breastfeeding may provide long-term heart benefits for mother and child, new statement of the American Heart Association (AHA) says.
The immune system of newborns and infants can be strengthened by breast milk, which has long been recognized as an ideal nutrient during the first months of life.
But scientists too discovered recently that women who breastfed at least once in their lifetime had a 17% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than those who never did. Breastfeeding women were 12% less likely to have a stroke, 14% less likely to have heart disease, and 11% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease during an average follow-up period of 10 years. The analysis included health information from nearly 1.2 million women from eight studies conducted in Australia, China, Norway, Japan, the United States and one multinational study between 1986 and 2009.
Cardiac benefits have already been observed in breastfed children. A study published in 2021 found that babies who drank breast milk even for a short time had lower blood pressure at age 3 compared to children who never had breast milk. Regardless of how long toddlers were breastfed or whether they also received other nutrients and complementary foods, blood pressure was lower in breastfed toddlers.
“There is growing evidence to suggest breastfeeding can play an important role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. We know that risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, can appear in infancy, so giving a baby breast milk, even for a few days during infancy, is a great start to life. healthy for the heart,” said Dr. Maria Avila. She is an Assistant Professor of Cardiology at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in Hempstead, NY
“A number of studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce a woman’s risk of heart disease and stroke. People who breastfeed their babies are also taking steps to improve their own heart health, so this is definitely an option worth seriously considering,” Avila added in an AHA press release.
The AHA advises mothers to breastfeed their infants for 12 months, switching them to other sources of supplemental nutrition starting around 4 to 6 months, to ensure the diet contains enough micronutrients.
It’s okay that not all new parents can or want to breastfeed, Avila said, but infants can also benefit from getting these essential nutrients by expressing breastmilk or even using breast milk donation and give it to them in a bottle. Avila also suggested using iron-fortified infant formula if neither of those choices is an option.
“Having a new baby can be a stressful time for any parent, and not being able to breastfeed your baby or having a fussy baby who doesn’t want to breastfeed could get worse, so know you have options,” he said. Avila said.
“The most important thing a parent can do for their child is to give them a heart-healthy life every start of life, and that can start even before conception and with good prenatal care to help reduce as much as possible their own cardiovascular risks,” Avila advised.
“In addition to eating well, staying active, and managing blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and other health issues, true health is keeping your body and mind in shape. Be sure to take care yourself and ask your partner, family or other support groups for help. Enjoy this special time in your family’s life because it really passes very quickly,” she added.
The Cleveland Clinic offers more details on the benefits of breastfeeding for baby and mother.
SOURCE: American Heart Association, press release, August 23, 2022
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