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Good for Moms, Too

From New Beginnings, Vol. 26 No. 2, 2009, p. 46

Research in the journal Obstetrics and Gynaecology in April this year (appears in the May issue) reveals that women who breastfeed their babies for more than a year lower their own risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh found that women who breastfeed for more than a year are 10% less likely to develop heart conditions than those who do not. Breastfeeding was also found to reduce the risk of high blood pressure by 12% and diabetes and high cholesterol by around 20%. The study authors found that women who breastfed for one or more months were less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, abnormal cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease, but it wasn't until after six months of total breastfeeding time that the trend toward lower heart disease risk became statistically significant.

The study focused on nearly 140,000 post-menopausal women. On average, it had been 35 years since the women had last breastfed, which suggests that the beneficial impact lasts for decades.

Researcher Dr. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, an assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, said: "Breastfeeding is an important part of the way women's bodies recover from pregnancy. There are certain hormonal and physiological changes the body expects to go through after pregnancy and when those changes don't happen, that leaves certain body systems in a precarious way. The longer a mother nurses her baby, the better for both of them."

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