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Breast-feeding a Boon to Mom's Heart
Date:4/21/2009

Nursing baby brings cardiovascular benefits decades later, study suggests,,

TUESDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) -- Breast-feeding isn't just good for baby, it may also boost mom's cardiovascular health as she ages, new research suggests.

Women in their 60s who had breast-fed for more than 12 months over their lifespan were nearly 10 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and significantly less likely to develop heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, researchers report.

"We found that the longer women breast-feed, the lower their risk of heart attacks, strokes or heart disease," said Dr. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, an assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Health Care.

Results of the study were published in the May issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

It's well-established that breast-feeding can benefit infant health, yet just 11 percent of American mothers breast-feed exclusively for the first six months of their babies' lives. In addition to benefiting babies, breast-feeding can help women lose pregnancy weight, since breast-feeding helps women burn almost 500 extra calories a day. Breast-feeding has also been shown to improve glucose tolerance and the metabolism of cholesterol, according to the study.

Although a previous study noted a 23 percent reduction in heart attack risk in women who had breast-fed for a total of two years or more, it wasn't clear whether breast-feeding for shorter periods would have any long-term impact on a mother's health.

To assess whether or not breast-feeding could make a difference in cardiovascular health years later, Schwarz and her colleagues used data from the Women's Health Initiative that included nearly 140,000 postmenopausal women. The average age of th
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