Breastfeeding, especially for longer durations, may significantly reduce risk for heart disease, based on results of a Chinese study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
This study, known as the China Kadoorie Biobank, tracked the health of more than 510,000 Chinese adults for an average of 8 years. It used a combination of surveys, medical exams and blood samples to assess participants’ health and was designed to investigate common chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Most recently, this data was used to explore the association between breastfeeding and cardiovascular risk in women. Some studies suggest that breastfeeding is associated with lower risk for heart disease in mothers. However, data is inconsistent and can vary by region depending on breastfeeding norms.
To further explore, researchers analyzed data from nearly 290,000 women included in the Chinese databank, nearly all of which had given birth to at least one child. The average age of participants was 51, and all women were free of heart disease at the start of the study.
Overall, most women (97%) reported having breastfed and 91% had breastfed each child for at least 6 months. After analysis, researchers found that women who ever breastfed had roughly 10% lower risk for heart disease than women who never did. They also had 8% lower risk for stroke than women who never breastfed.
Researchers also found that the longer women breastfed, the lower their risk for heart disease. Each additional six months of breastfeeding was associated with a 4% decrease in cardiovascular risk and women that breastfed for two or more years had 18% lower risk for heart disease than women who never breastfed.
Findings add to a growing body of evidence that breastfeeding, especially for longer durations, may improve heart health. Experts are encouraged by findings, as heart disease is the leading cause of death globally and breastfeeding may help reduce women’s risk for heart disease. However, it’s important to note that the included Chinese women only and further research is needed to confirm the association between breastfeeding and cardiovascular risk in a more diverse population.