Node Smith, ND
American Journal of Hypertension Supports Breastfeeding
A recent study in the American Journal of Hypertension supports breastfeeding. Why? Because it has been linked to a lower risk of developing hypertension after menopause.1 The study associates women who breastfed more children, and for longer periods of time, as having a decreased risk of developing hypertension once they reached menopause. This was only true for non-obese women.
What Are The Health Benefits for Breastfeeding Mothers?
The positive effects of long-term breastfeeding on children’s health has been well documented, and is associated with a reduction in allergies, obesity, celiac disease, and diabetes. From a holistic standpoint, breastfeeding is the single most important factor in cultivating a growing child’s healthy immune system. However, not much has been researched on the health benefits for mom.
A few studies have associated absent breast feeding or premature discontinuation with maternal diabetes, dyslipidemia, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease. However, the relationship between hypertension has been unclear. Since hypertension is a primary risk factor for many other cardiovascular diseases and health issues, it’s important to know the life decisions that may impact it.
The study specifically looked at over 3,000 non-smoking postmenopausal women over 50 years of age. The study found that the longer total time of breastfeeding – more children and longer duration of breastfeeding per child – was associated with a lower risk of hypertension in postmenopausal women. In fact, breastfeeding between 5-11 children showed over 50 percent decrease in hypertension rates, compared to 0 or 1 child. Breastfeeding for a total time of 96 – 324 months showed a 45 percent reduction.
A Few Theories on Why Breastfeeding may be Healthy to Mothers
A few theories exist on why breastfeeding may be healthy to mothers as well as their children. One, maternal metabolism may “reset” with breastfeeding following pregnancy, which allows for easier weight loss, and decreases obesity-related diseases. Second, and perhaps everyone’s favorite to talk about, the increase in oxytocin released during breastfeeding may have tremendous effects on mothers’ feelings of well-being, stress, and mental health – which is increasingly been shown to directly impact physical health, especially cardiovascular health.
Of course, this is not a guarantee against hypertension, rather further support for the already known health benefits of breastfeeding infants, and a thought to perhaps extending that time a little bit.
- Sangshin Park, Nam-Kyong Choi; Breastfeeding and Maternal Hypertension, American Journal of Hypertension, , hpx219, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajh/hpx219
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.