Breastfeeding mothers, take note! New research suggests that women who breastfeed more children and for a longer duration were less likely to suffer from hypertension after they reach menopause.
According to the researchers, elevated blood pressure is the greatest single risk factor for disease and mortality.
“Our findings endorsed the current recommendations for breastfeeding for the benefit of maternal health in later lives,” said the lead author of the study, Nam-Kyong Choi from Ewha Womans University in South Korea.
Evidence from epidemiologic data has also shown the beneficial effects of breastfeeding on the health of infants and their mothers.
It has been well documented that long-term breastfeeding is associated with reduced children’s allergies, celiac disease, obesity and diabetes mellitus, the researchers said.
However, the effects of breastfeeding on maternal health have been little studied compared with the effects on the children.
Several studies have consistently found that absence of breastfeeding or premature discontinuation was associated with increased risks of diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease and cardiovascular diseases, the researchers mentioned.
For the study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, researchers examined 3,119 non-smoking postmenopausal women aged 50 years or older in the 2010-2011 Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
They found that breastfeeding of more children and for longer duration were associated with lower risk of hypertension in postmenopausal women.
In particular, the highest quintile of number of children breastfed (five to 11) showed a 51 per cent lower risk of hypertension compared with the lowest quintile (zero to one).
The highest quintile of duration of breastfeeding (96 to 324 months) showed a 45 per cent lower risk of hypertension.
The researchers, however, said that this link may prove to be less true in obese women.