Women who breast-feed their babies may have a slightly lower risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke decades later, a large new study suggests. Researchers found that among nearly 290,000 women in China, those who breast-fed were 10 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke later in life, versus women who bottle-fed their babies.
In the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, 97 percent of the women breast-fed their children. The average time for breast-feeding was 12 months per child. They were all free of heart problems when the study began. Over the next eight years, the risk of developing coronary heart disease, which includes heart attacks and clogged arteries that can lead to a heart attack, was 10 percent lower among women who’d breast-fed, versus those who’d bottle-fed.
And that risk kept lowering the longer a woman had breast-fed. For each additional six months of breast-feeding per baby, the odds of cardiovascular trouble declined by 3 to 4 percent, on average.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breast-feeding exclusively for the first six months of life, and then continuing to breast-feed while gradually adding solid foods during the next six months. After that, the decision to continue breast-feeding is up to mom and baby, the AAP says.