Earlier reports have shown that individuals who were breast-fed during their infancy are at lesser risk of dying from heart disease. However, the exact cause for this was not clear. But a recent study seems to have the answer. The findings of this study suggest that infants who were breast-fed have lower blood pressure in adolescence and early adulthood, which may result in decreased risk of heart attacks in later life.
These findings were based on a study of 4,763 full-term infants. The researchers examined the blood pressure of all the children at the age of 7.5 years. To assess breast-feeding during infancy mothers of all the children were sent a questionnaire. It was observed that in breast-fed infants, systolic blood pressure (i.e. the upper reading of the blood pressure) was 1.2 mm Hg lower and diastolic blood pressure (lower reading of the blood pressure) was 0.9 mm Hg lower as compared to those children who were not breast-fed. These findings were similar for infants who were kept exclusively on breast-feeding and infants who received a combination of breast milk and formula.
However, the duration of breast-feeding did have an effect. The longer a child was breastfed, the greater was the difference. It was observed that for each 3 months of breast-feeding the systolic blood pressure decreased by 0.2 mm Hg.
These results suggest that lower blood pressure could be added to the list of known benefits of breast-feeding and also a wider promotion of breast-feeding may form an essential component in public health strategies to reduce blood pressure levels in the population.