WOMEN who have breastfed at least one child are less likely to suffer a stroke later in life, a study shows.
The risk for mums who have only used bottles is more than a fifth (23 per cent) higher, found researchers granted access to health records of 80,000 Americans with an average age of 63.
The experts stressed that no cause and effect link had been established, and did not speculate on how breastfeeding might benefit women’s health.
But lead researcher Dr Lisette Jacobson, of the University of Kansas, said: ‘If you are pregnant, please consider breastfeeding as part of your birthing plan and continue to breastfeed for at least six months to receive the optimal benefits for you and your infant.’
Previous studies have shown breastfeeding may reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The volunteers involved in the new research by the University of Kansas were participants in an ongoing study of post-menopausal women. They were all mums, with 58 per cent having breastfed at least one baby.
The stroke protection associated with breastfeeding was greater for some ethnic groups than for others, the study shows. For white women, the risk reduction was only 21 per cent but for Hispanic women it was 32 per cent and for black women it was 48 per cent.
Numerous other factors such as smoking and diet affect stroke risk, Dr Jacobson pointed out.