Cumulative Lactation and Onset of Hypertension in African-American Women

Am J Epidemiol. 2017 Oct 15;186(8):927-934. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwx163.


Hypertension affects nearly 1 of 3 women and contributes to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Breastfeeding leads to metabolic changes that could reduce risks of hypertension. Hypertension disproportionately affects black women, but rates of breastfeeding among black women lag behind those in the general population. In the Black Women's Health Study (n = 59,001), we conducted a nested case-control analysis using unconditional logistic regression to estimate the association between breastfeeding and incident hypertension at ages 40-65 years using data collected from 1995 to 2011. Controls were frequency-matched 2:1 to 12,513 hypertensive women by age and questionnaire cycle. Overall, there was little evidence of association between ever breastfeeding and incident hypertension (odds ratio = 0.97, 95% confidence interval: 0.92, 1.02). However, age modified the relationship (P = 0.02): Breastfeeding was associated with reduced risk of hypertension at ages 40-49 years (odds ratio = 0.92, 95% confidence interval: 0.85, 0.99) but not at older ages. In addition, risk of hypertension at ages 40-49 years decreased with increasing duration of breastfeeding (P for trend = 0.08). Our results suggest that long-duration breastfeeding may reduce the risk of incident hypertension in middle age. Addressing breastfeeding as a potential preventative health behavior is particularly compelling because it is required for only a discrete period of time.

Keywords: African Americans; breastfeeding; case-control studies; hypertension; lactation; obesity; women's health.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Breast Feeding / ethnology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / ethnology*
  • Lactation / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Parity
  • Risk Factors