ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Regular Yoga May Improve Eating Habits
The Zen Way to Pain Relief
Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Safe Toys for Dogs
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Many Americans Fall Short on Their Vitamin D
Varicose, Spider Veins May Be Inevitable for Some
Fractures in Older Adults Up Death Risk
CANCER
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Acupuncture May Help Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
CAREGIVING
Recession Scrambling Health Spending in U.S.
Caregivers Face Multiple Strains Tending Older Parents
Omega-3 Fatty Acid May Help 'Preemie' Girls' Brains
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
High Blood Fat Levels Common in Americans
Migraines in Pregnancy Boost Vascular Risks
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
COSMETIC
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease May Reactivate AIDS Virus
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
Dental Implants Need More Work Than Root Canals
DIABETES
Red-Grape Compound May Improve Diabetes
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Most Fast-Food French Fries Cooked in Unhealthiest Oil
Low-Fat Diet Does Little to Alter Cholesterol Levels
Eating More Soy May Be Good For Your Lung Function
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
Traffic Seems to Make Kids' Asthma Worse
EYE CARE, VISION
Statin Drugs Cause Eye Disorders
Clues Found to Brain Mechanism Behind Migraines
Florida Vision Test Law: Fewer Traffic Deaths Among Elderly
FITNESS
Early Exercise Boosts Outcomes for ICU Patients
Higher Fitness Levels Tied to Lower Heart, Death Risks
Simple Steps Get Walkers Moving
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
Internet Program Helps Problem Drinkers
Showerheads Harbor a Bounty of Germs
Vitamin D Best Taken With Largest Meal of Day, Study Finds
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Soy Protein Doesn't Lower Cholesterol
Shedding Light on Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help the Heart
Estrogen May Help Men's Hearts
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Meaningful Conversations Boost Kids' Language Skills
3 Home Habits Help Youngsters Stay Slim
Gene Variation Found in Boys With Delinquent Peers
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
MENTAL HEALTH
The Unmedicated Mind
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Optimism May Boost Immune System
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
For Baby and Mom Alike, Breast-Feeding May Be Best
SENIORS
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
For Older Walkers, Faster Is Better
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
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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