Postmenopausal women who reported breastfeeding for at least 6 months had less arterial stiffness and atherosclerosis vs. women who breastfed for less than 6 months, independent of other cardiovascular risk factors, according to data presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology.
“Women who breastfeed their babies for a long time may have health benefits related to heart disease later in life,” Irene Lambrinoudaki, MD, PhD, professor of endocrinology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, School of Medicine, Greece, and scientific director of the European Menopause and Andropause Society, told Endocrine Today. “Health care professionals should encourage young mothers to breastfeed. Beyond multiple benefits for the mother and child, cardiovascular protection might be one additional reason, if causality in this association is proven.”
In a cross-sectional study, Lambrinoudaki and colleagues analyzed data from 283 postmenopausal women who underwent measurements of pulse wave velocity to assess vascular function and intima-media thickness (IMT) and atherosclerotic plaque presence to assess vascular function, as well as history of breastfeeding. The duration of lactation ranged between 1 and 80 months.
Researchers found that pulse wave velocity was negatively associated with the duration of lactation (P = .038), independent of age, BMI, LDL cholesterol level, smoking status and arterial pressure. Subclinical atherosclerosis was associated with lactation (OR = 0.958; P = .042), as well as age, BMI and arterial pressure, according to researchers.
Women who reported breastfeeding for at least 6 months presented with decreased mean common carotid IMT compared with women who reported breastfeeding for 1 to 6 months (mean, 0.72 mm vs. 0.68 mm; P = .041), independent of other traditional CV risk factors, according to researchers.
“If we can show causality for the protective effect, women will have one more reason to nurse their infants, beyond the already documented benefits of breastfeeding for short- and long-term health of both them and their children,” Lambrinoudaki said in a press release. – by Regina Schaffer
Kaparos MA, et al. Abstract GP32. Presented at: European Congress of Endocrinology; May 18-21, 2019; Lyon, France.
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.