ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Ginkgo No Shield Against Alzheimer's
Indian Spice May Thwart Liver Damage
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Beware of Dog Bites
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Barefoot Lifestyle Has Its Dangers
Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart
Sea Worm Inspires Novel Bone Glue
CANCER
Supplement Hampers Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Green Tea Compound Slowed Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
CAREGIVING
Medication Errors Could Be Cut: Experts
Rapid Infant Weight Gain Linked to Childhood Obesity
Many Alzheimer's Caregivers Admit to Abusive Behavior
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Obesity Linked to Heart Failure Risk
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
COSMETIC
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
DIABETES
Poor Blood Sugar Control After Heart Surgery Impacts Outcomes
Older Diabetics With Depression Face Higher Death Rate
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Updated
DIET, NUTRITION
Pesticides on Produce Tied to ADHD in Children
Oregano Shown to be the Most Powerful Culinary Herb
Eating Lots Of Vegetables, Olive Oil May Extend Life
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Skin Woes Take Toll on U.S. Combat Troops
Pesticides Linked to Parkinson's
Exposure to 9/11 Fumes Tied to Chronic Headaches
EYE CARE, VISION
Autistic Children Make Limited Eye Contact
Brain Adapts to Age-Related Eye Disease
Poor Night Vision May Predict Age-Related Eye Disease
FITNESS
FDA Mandates New Warnings for Botox
Will the Wii Keep You Fit?
Seniors Who Exercise Help Their Health
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
Laugh and the World Understands
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Treat symptoms (result of disease) or diagnose systems (cause of disease)?
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fewer Heart Attacks After England Goes Smoke-Free
Rheumatoid Arthritis a Threat to the Heart
How Weight Loss Can Help the Heart
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
Too Many Infants Short on Vitamin D
School Meals Need to Get Healthier
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
MENTAL HEALTH
Meaningful Conversations Boost Kids' Language Skills
Brain Scans Show How Humans 'Hear' Emotion
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
SENIORS
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
For Older Walkers, Faster Is Better
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
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Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart

Although many women choose to breast-feed because of the numerous health benefits it offers their offspring, new research suggests that breast-feeding may also help the health of the mothers' hearts later in life.

In a study of nearly 300 women, researchers found that those who had not breast-fed were much more likely to have calcification or plaque in their coronary artery, aorta and carotid artery. When calcifications and plaque build up in the arteries, blood flow can be reduced, and, if enough of these deposits build up, they can cause a heart attack or stroke.

"Women who had not breast-fed were more likely to develop changes that might lead to symptomatic heart disease," said the study's lead author, Dr. Eleanor Schwarz, an assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Health Care.

Results of the study will be published in the January issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Schwarz and her colleagues had previously looked at breast-feeding's effect on older women, and that study found that post-menopausal women who had breast-fed were less likely to report having heart disease. Another study on breast-feeding from a different research group recently reported in the journal Diabetes that women who breast-fed were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a clustering of risk factors that indicate an increased risk for heart disease.

The current study included 297 women who'd had at least one baby. At the time of the study, they were 45 to 58 years old, had never been diagnosed with heart disease and had no known symptoms of heart disease.

The researchers used two imaging techniques -- electron beam tomography and ultrasound -- to assess the health of the women's blood vessels.

They found that 32 percent of the women who had not breast-fed had coronary artery calcification, compared with 17 percent of the breast-feeding moms. The researchers found calcifications in 39 percent of the aortas of women who hadn't breast-fed, versus 17 percent of the women who had. They also found plaque deposits in the carotid artery of 18 percent of the women who had not breast-fed and 10 percent of those who had.

After adjusting the data for socioeconomic status, family history and lifestyle factors, heart disease risk factors and body mass, the researchers concluded that women who had not breast-fed were five times more likely to have aortic calcifications than women who consistently breast-fed.

Schwarz said the researchers suspect that the apparent benefit from breast-feeding on later heart health stems from how a woman's body stores fat and how that fat is released -- or not released -- after pregnancy.

"A woman's body expects to go through pregnancy and then lactation," Schwarz explained. "During pregnancy, a woman's body stores fat that it expects to release during lactation. If women don't breast-feed, then the body has to deal with excessive fat."

The bottom line is that "it's really important to try to breast-feed," she said. "If you can breast-feed for three months after each pregnancy, your blood vessels are likely to be in better shape down the road."

She added that women who can't breast-feed for three months ought to try for at least a little while. "Some women may feel overwhelmed by some of the long-term breast-feeding recommendations," Schwarz said. "Our study looked at three months, but if that's not possible, the longer you can stick with it, the better."

Dr. Catherine McNeal, an associate professor of medicine and a specialist in cardiovascular disease prevention at Scott & White Healthcare, said she agrees that a decrease in fat mass after pregnancy is probably the factor that's providing a heart benefit to women who breast-fed.

"We used to think of fat as this inert material, but it's very bioactive," McNeal said. "It produces a plethora of bad hormones and inflammatory markers that influence blood pressure, lipids and the risk of diabetes."

McNeal said that the study provided preliminary data "and we need to look at this area more closely, but I'm excited to see they found a positive effect of breast-feeding."

SOURCES: Eleanor Schwarz, M.D., assistant professor, medicine, epidemiology, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Health Care, Pittsburgh; Catherine McNeal, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, internal medicine and pediatrics, Scott & White Healthcare, Temple, Texas; January 2010, Obstetrics and Gynecology Published on: December 21, 2009