Perspective from Meghan Azad, PhD
Disclosures: The Austrian Science Fund funded this study. The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
January 11, 2022
2 min read
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Breastfeeding may lower maternal CV risk

Perspective from Meghan Azad, PhD
Disclosures: The Austrian Science Fund funded this study. The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Women who ever breastfed during their lifetime were less likely to develop CVD, CHD or stroke, or die of CV-related causes compared with parous women who never breastfed, data from a meta-analysis show.

“Previous studies have investigated the association between breastfeeding and the risk of cardiovascular disease in the mother; however, the findings were inconsistent on the strength of the association and, specifically, the relationship between different durations of breastfeeding and cardiovascular disease risk,” Peter Willeit, MD, MPhil, PhD, professor of clinical epidemiology at the Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria, said in a press release. “Therefore, it was important to systematically review the available literature and mathematically combine all of the evidence on this topic.”

Graphical depiction of data presented in article
Data were derived from Tschiderer L, et al. J Am Heart Assoc. 2022;doi:10.1161/JAHA.121.022746.

Willeit and colleagues analyzed data from eight prospective studies published through April 2021 that included 1,192,700 parous women. Mean age was 51 years at baseline; mean age was 25 years at first birth; and the mean number of births was 2.3. Within the cohort, 82% reported having ever breastfed, with a mean lifetime duration of breastfeeding of 15.6 months.

The findings were published in a special “pregnancy spotlight” issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.

During a median follow-up of 10.3 years, 54,226 women developed CVD, 26,913 women developed CHD, 30,843 experienced stroke and 10,766 women died of CV causes.

In a random-effects meta-analysis, the pooled multivariable adjusted HRs comparing parous women who ever breastfed with those who never breastfed were: 0.89 for CVD (95% CI, 0.83-0.95; I2 = 79.4%); 0.86 for CHD (95% CI, 0.78-0.95; I2 = 79.7%); 0.88 for stroke (95% CI, 0.79-0.99; I2 = 79.6%); and 0.83 for CV death (95% CI, 0.76-0.92; I2 = 47.7%).

“A progressive risk reduction of all CVD outcomes with lifetime durations of breastfeeding from 0 up to 12 months was found, with some uncertainty about shapes of associations for longer durations,” the researchers wrote.

Associations did not differ by mean age at study entry, median follow-up duration, mean parity, level of adjustment, study quality or geographical region. The researchers noted the quality of the evidence using GRADE ranged from very low to moderate, mainly driven by high between-study heterogeneity.

“It’s important for women to be aware of the benefits of breastfeeding for their babies’ health and also their own personal health,” Willeit said in the release. “Moreover, these findings from high-quality studies conducted around the world highlight the need to encourage and support breastfeeding, such as breastfeeding-friendly work environments, and breastfeeding education and programs for families before and after giving birth.”

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