Seoul : Breastfeeding has always had its benefits for both the mother and the child, but now a new study suggests that women who breastfeed more children, and for longer periods of time, are less likely to suffer from hypertension after they reach menopause. The study published in the American Journal of Hypertension found that the relation is less pronounced among obese women.
Elevated blood pressure is the greatest single risk factor for disease and mortality, researchers said. The study population comprised 3,119 non-smoking postmenopausal women aged 50 years or older in the 2010-2011 Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
More children breastfed and longer duration of breastfeeding were associated with lower risk of hypertension in postmenopausal women. “Our findings endorse the current recommendations for breastfeeding for the benefit of maternal health in mothers’ later lives,” said Nam-Kyong Choi from Ewha Womans University South Korea.
The degree of obesity and insulin resistance moderated the breastfeeding-hypertension association, researchers said. In particular, the highest quintile of number of children breastfed (5 to 11) showed a 51% lower risk of hypertension compared with the lowest quintile (0 to 1). The highest quintile of duration of breastfeeding (96 to 324 months) showed a 45% lower risk of hypertension.
Evidence from epidemiologic data has also shown the beneficial effects of breastfeeding on the health of infants and their mothers, researchers said. It has been well documented that long-term breastfeeding is associated with reduced children’s allergies, celiac disease, obesity, and diabetes mellitus, they said.
Several studies consistently found that absent breastfeeding or premature discontinuation was associated with increased risks of diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular diseases. However few studies have established a clear relationship between breastfeeding and hypertension, according to researchers.
Although a broad range of chronic diseases are not associated with breastfeeding, some common mechanisms have been proposed to underlie the relationships between breastfeeding and these diseases.
First, maternal metabolism (eg fat accumulation and insulin resistance) may be “reset” by breastfeeding after pregnancy, which decreases the risk of obesity-related diseases, researchers said. Second, oxytocin release stimulated by breastfeeding may be associated with the decreased risk of these diseases, they said.