News | ACC | March 15, 2018

Breastfeeding May Have Long-Term Heart Health Benefits for Some Moms

Lactating for six months showed improved markers of cardiovascular health a decade later

 

Breastfeeding May Have Long-Term Heart Health Benefits for Some Moms

March 15, 2018 — Women with normal blood pressure during pregnancy and who breastfed their babies for at least six months following birth had better markers of cardiovascular health years later compared to women who never breastfed, based on research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 67th Annual Scientific Session. The same benefits were not observed in women who had high blood pressure during pregnancy.                    

Previous studies have suggested women derive short-term health benefits from breastfeeding. While some studies have looked at outcomes much later in life, this new study is the first to assess how breastfeeding affects markers of heart health in younger and middle-aged women, about a decade after having children. The study bolsters evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding among women with normal blood pressure during pregnancy and is the first to specifically examine whether these benefits are also seen in women with high blood pressure during pregnancy.                    

“The study adds to the evidence that lactation is important not just for the baby but for the mother,” said Malamo Countouris, M.D., a cardiology fellow at the University of Pittsburgh and the study’s lead author. “Breastfeeding seems to be cardioprotective in these women, as evidenced by improved cholesterol and markers of subclinical cardiovascular disease.”                   

Study participants included 678 women who were recruited at more than 52 clinics across Michigan between 1998 and 2004. The women were pregnant at the time they enrolled in the study. They then participated in a follow-up health assessment seven to 15 years later (just over 11 years on average).                    

During the follow-up assessment, participants reported on how long they had breastfed after each pregnancy and researchers measured the women’s blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and the diameter and thickness of the carotid artery. These factors are commonly used to assess heart disease risk because they provide early warning of potential problems in patients who do not yet have heart disease.                  

In their analysis, the researchers divided the women into three groups: those who never breastfed (157 women), those who breastfed for less than six months per pregnancy (284 women), and those who breastfed for six months or more per pregnancy (133 women). They separately analyzed women who had high blood pressure during pregnancy and those who had normal blood pressure during pregnancy.                    

On average, women who breastfed longer were older, had a lower body mass index and had a higher socioeconomic status. After adjusting for these and other potential confounding factors, the researchers found that women with normal blood pressure during pregnancy who breastfed for six months or more had significantly higher levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, lower triglycerides and healthier carotid artery thickness compared to those who had never breastfed.                    

The findings suggest women may be able to reduce their risk of heart disease by breastfeeding for at least six months per pregnancy. Though the specific physiological mechanisms are not known, Countouris noted that one hypothesis is that breastfeeding increases expression of the hormone oxytocin, which can lower blood pressure. It has also been hypothesized that lactation could counteract some of the metabolic changes that occur during pregnancy.                    

“There’s a lot we still don’t understand about the accumulation of cardiovascular risks in women,” Countouris said. “Examining how pregnancy may increase or perhaps mitigate some of that risk can give us insights into the unique presentation and development of heart disease risk in women.”                    

Researchers found no evidence of cardiovascular benefit from breastfeeding among women who had high blood pressure during pregnancy. Countouris said that the number of study participants with high blood pressure during pregnancy may have been too small to reveal any potential cardiovascular benefit of breastfeeding among these women.                    

One limitation of the study is that researchers relied on self-reporting by study participants for information about high blood pressure or preeclampsia, a pregnancy disorder marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine and a known risk factor for heart disease, that occurred in subsequent pregnancies after the one in which the initial data was collected. Future studies that include more participants or that track women for a longer period could help illuminate the factors that contribute to cardiovascular risk among women with normal and high blood pressure during pregnancy, researchers said.                    

The study drew data from the Pregnancy Outcomes and Community Health (POUCH) and POUCHmoms studies, which were funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.            

Watch the VIDEO "Creating a Cardio-Obstetrics Team."

For more information: www.acc.org

Related Content: ACC 2018 Late-Breaking Trials

#ACC18

 

Related Content

A patient who received HeartMate III LVAD system at ACC.18. The HeartMate 3 was the topic of of the the key late-breaking trials at #ACC18

A patient who received the HeartMate III LVAD system showing off his external battery pack. He served as a patient ambassador in the Abbott booth at ACC.18. The HeartMate III, with its magnetic levitated pump, showed a big reduction in clotting over previous LVADs in a key late-breaking trial at this year's conference.

Feature | ACC | March 27, 2018 | Dave Fornell
There were several notable presentations of new data on cardiovascular technologies at the recent 2018 American Colle
Drug Stops Dangerous Bleeding in Patients Taking Factor Xa Inhibitors

Connolly 

News | ACC | March 22, 2018
March 22, 2018 — The experimental drug...
Videos | ACC | March 21, 2018
DAIC Editor Dave Fornell takes a tour of some of the most interesting new technologies on the expo floor at
ACC 2018 Late-Breaking Trials Announced
News | ACC | March 21, 2018
Here is a list of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) 2018 annual meeting late-breaking clinical trials presente
Inhaled Therapy Ineffective in Difficult-to-Treat Heart Failure at ACC 2018.

Image from presentation, "Inorganic Nitrite Delivery to Improve Exercise Capacity in HFpEF: The INDIE-HFpEF Trial," Borlaug

News | ACC | March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 — Four weeks of treatment with a novel inhaled medication failed to improve exercise capacity, daily a
Trial for Gout Drug Meets Primary Endpoint, Raises Safety Concerns, image shows a CT scan showing gout in the knees.
News | ACC | March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 — Febuxostat, a gout dr...
More Deaths, Strokes Seen with Perioperative Beta Blocker One Year After Surgery

Image from presentation, "1-Year outcomes of perioperative beta-blockade in patients undergoing noncardiac surgery," Devereaux 

News | ACC | March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 — During the 12 months after undergoing noncardiac surgery, patients with or at risk for heart disease
Canakinumab Doesn’t Prevent Prediabetes from Progressing to Diabetes according to a late-breaking study at ACC 2018.
News | ACC | March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 — The anti-inflammatory...
Dabigatran Reduces Major Cardiovascular Complications in Patients With Myocardial Injury after Noncardiac Surgery
News | ACC | March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 — Treatment with the blood-thinning drug dabigatran significantly reduced the risk of death, heart att
Statins May Bring Benefits at Time of Treatment for Heart Attack, Angina

Image from presentation, "Statins Evaluation in Coronary Procedures and Revascularization," Berwanger 

News | ACC | March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 — Getting a large dose of a statin did not have an impact on major adverse cardiac events among a broa
Overlay Init