Breastfeeding is not only good for the baby, it also has health benefits for moms!

Breastfeeding lowers a mother’s odds of developing high blood pressure even decades later, a new study has found.

Researchers from the University Of Western Sydney School Of Medicine found the longer a woman breastfed, the lower her odds of developing high blood pressure before the age of 64.

The benefits of breastfeeding are diminished after 64 years of age, the study found.

The researchers investigated the relationship between breastfeeding history and the prevalence of high blood pressure in 74,785 Australian women who were aged 45 years and over.

Data for the research was drawn from the 45 and Up Study - a large scale study of healthy ageing involving over 260,000 men and women in New South Wales, and the largest study of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

Principal researcher on the study, Dr. Joanne Lind from the UWS School of Medicine, said the findings reinforce the importance of breastfeeding for both child and mother. “Hopefully this research will add to the discussion between women and their physicians and midwives. Whenever possible, women should be encouraged to breastfeed as long as possible as the protective effect of breastfeeding increases with the length of time breastfeeding,” said Dr. Lind, a senior lecturer in molecular biology and genetics.

She said that this is the first study to show the link between breastfeeding and high blood pressure within Australian women.

Dr. Lind said the reasons for the reduced likelihood of having high blood pressure in women who breastfeed are still unknown, however it is possible that hormones released while breastfeeding provide long term benefits to the mother’s cardiovascular system. “Despite us not fully understanding the protective mechanism, breastfeeding history should now be considered when assessing a patient’s likelihood of having high blood pressure in later life,” she said.

Dr. Lind said the current World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations encourage breastfeeding for a minimum of six months per child.

The study found that women aged 45 to 64 years, who had breastfed for more than 6 months in their lifetime, or more than 3 months per child, had a lower likelihood of having high blood pressure. “This study provides further support for the WHO recommendations, as both the total amount of time a woman spends breastfeeding in her lifetime, and the length of time she spends breastfeeding each child, are associated with a significant reduction in the likelihood of having high blood pressure,” Dr. Lind said.

The study was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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