ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Meditation May Boost Short-Term Visual Memory
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Beware of Dog Bites
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Chronic Low Back Pain Is on the Rise
Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
Study Examines How Rheumatoid Arthritis Destroys Bone
CANCER
Exercise Cuts Lung Cancer Risk in Ex-Smokers by 45%
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
CAREGIVING
Caregiving May Lengthen Life
Early Exercise Boosts Outcomes for ICU Patients
Exercise During Pregnancy May Help Baby
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Years of Exposure to Traffic Pollution Raises Blood Pressure
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
COSMETIC
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
Hormones May Be to Blame for Women's Cavity Rates
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
DIABETES
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
Strict Blood Sugar Lowering Won't Ease Diabetes Heart Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Pesticides and How to Affordably Eat Organic or Reduce Pesticide Consumption
Oregano Shown to be the Most Powerful Culinary Herb
Go Healthy, Not Hungry for Holiday Eating
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Air Pollution May Cause Appendicitis: Study Reveals
Golf Course Insecticides Pose Little Danger to Players
EYE CARE, VISION
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
Statin Drugs Cause Eye Disorders
Poor Night Vision May Predict Age-Related Eye Disease
FITNESS
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
Marathoners Go the Distance on Heart Health
Avoiding a Holiday Season of Discontent
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
GENERAL HEALTH
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
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
Fondness for Fish Keeps Japanese Hearts Healthy
Fatty Fish May Cut Heart Failure Risk in Men
A Little Alcohol May Help the Heart: Studies
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Safety Should Be Priority for Those Involved in Kids' Sports
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
Boosting Kids' Stroke IQ May Save Lives
MEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
Reminiscing Helps Build Emotional Strength
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
SENIORS
As You Age, Better Health Means Better Sex
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Heal Your LifeŽ Tips for Living Well
Simple Carbs Pose Heart Risk for Women
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
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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