Even a little breastfeeding goes a long way in protecting the heart health of both baby and mother

The American Heart Association says research shows breastfeeding can have long-term benefits for cardiovascular health

DALLAS, August 23, 2022 — Breast milk has long been recognized as an ideal nutrient for strengthening the immune system of newborns and infants. The American Heart Association says breastfeeding can also provide many heart health benefits for babies and their birth parent.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in January 2022, researchers found that women who breastfed at some point in their life were 17% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease than women who never breastfed. Over an average follow-up period of 10 years, breastfeeding women were 14% less likely to develop heart disease, 12% less likely to have strokes, and 11% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Women who breastfed for up to 12 months in their lifetime had lower risks. The analysis included health data from nearly 1.2 million women from eight studies conducted between 1986 and 2009 in Australia, China, Norway, Japan and the United States and from one multinational study.

Babies who consumed breast milk, even for a few days, had arterial pressure at age 3 compared to children who never had breast milk, according to another study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2021. Blood pressure was lower in toddlers who had been breastfed, regardless of how long they breastfed or if they received other nutrients and complementary foods.

“There is growing evidence to suggest that 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 start in infancy, so giving a baby breast milk, even for a few days during infancy, is a great start to a lifetime. heart healthy,” said Maria Avila, MD, American Heart Association Volunteer Expert and Assistant Professor of Cardiology at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in Hempstead, New York. “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 to seriously consider.

For healthy babies, the American Heart Association recommends breastfeeding for 12 months, switching to other sources of supplemental nutrients from around four to six months of age to ensure enough micronutrients in the diet .

However, not all parents who give birth can or want to breastfeed and Avila said that’s okay. Expressing breast milk or even using donated breast milk and feeding it to a baby in a bottle can also help infants get these important nutrients and possibly the heart-healthy benefits of traditional breastfeeding. However, if neither of these options is an option, iron-fortified infant formulas are recommended, according to Avila.

“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. 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,” says Avila. “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 practice self-care and seek help from your partner, family or other support groups. Take advantage of this special moment in your family’s life because it really comes back very quickly.

Studies published in the scientific journals of the American Heart Association are peer reviewed. The statements and conclusions in each manuscript are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Association. The Association makes no representations or warranties as to their accuracy or reliability. The Association receives funds primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers, and other businesses) also donate and fund Association-specific programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing scholarly content. Revenues of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, device manufacturers and health insurance providers and the Association’s aggregate financial information are available here.

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About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is an unrelenting force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are committed to equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with many organizations and millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for public health and share vital resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Join us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.


For media inquiries and AHA/ASA expert insight: 214-706-1173

Cathy Lewis: 214-706-1324, [email protected]

For public inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and AVC.org

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