August 22, 2018

UMMS professor: Breastfeeding could lead to reduced stroke risk

Photo | Courtesy
UMass Medical School professor Brian Silver, MD.

Research by a UMass Medical School professor has found breastfeeding may reduce the risk of stroke in postmenopausal women.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association study was co-authored by the medical school's Endowed Chair in Neuroscience Research and Vice Chair of Neurology Brian Silver. It found that women who had delivered and breastfed one or more child were 23 percent less at risk of a stroke.

"While breastfeeding has many positive immediate benefits for mother and child, that there would be such a strongly significant association with a health outcome much later in life was unanticipated, at least for me," Silver said. "The linear relationship between duration of breastfeeding and reduction in stroke risk suggests some sort of dose-response relationship though causality is not at all proven in this kind of study."

More than 80,000 women were analyzed in the national study. Silver advised the researchers on the neurological aspects of the study and made recommendations for analyzing confounding factors such as lifestyle and certain risk factors, according to UMass.

The results varied from ethnicities, with black women reporting the largest decrease at 48 percent. Hispanic women had a 32 percent lower chance of suffering a stroke and white women were just 21 percent less likely to suffer a stroke.

Women who had breastfed for up to six months were 19 percent less at risk of a stroke. A longer length of breastfeeding was associated with a greater reduction in risk, the medical school said in an announcement of the study.

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