Women who breastfeed their babies have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, a new study from the University of Oxford has found.
While most previous research has focused on the benefits of breastfeeding for the baby, the study found that a mother’s risk of heart disease and stroke decreases with each additional six months of breastfeeding.
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia and about 55,000 people are expected to suffer a stroke this year.
For the study, researchers analysed the data of 289,573 Chinese women, all of whom were free of cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study baseline.
They followed the women for eight years to track the incidence of heart disease and stroke.
They found that women who had breastfed their children were at 9 percent lower risk of heart disease and 8 per cent lower risk of stroke, compared with women who had never breastfed.
What’s more, for every six additional months of breastfeeding, the risks of heart disease and stroke were reduced by 4 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively.
Researchers were unable to pinpoint the exact link between breastfeeding and the reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, but believe it could be because breastfeeding helps burn energy and reduce fat.
The study did not dispute that the leading cause of heart disease is family history and diet- and lifestyle-related factors.
Of course, not all women are able to breastfeed their children. For those who are, it seems the rewards are plentiful.