The longer women breastfeed, the lower their risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease, according to University of Pittsburgh researchers.

The findings were published in "Obstetrics & Gynecology," and reported in Heart Disease Weekly. "Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, so it's vitally important for us to know what we can do to protect ourselves," says Dr. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz,  lead study author and assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.  "We have known for years that breastfeeding is important for babies' health; we now know that it is important for mothers' health as well."

The study found that postmenopausal women who breastfed for at least one month had lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all risk factors for heart disease. Moms who nursed for more than 12 months were 10 percent less likely to have had a heart attack, stroke, or developed heart disease than women who had never nursed, the study found.

The findings, based on 139, 681 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative study of chronic disease, which began in 1994, found that the benefits of breastfeeding were long term. "The longer a mother nurses her baby, the better for both of them," says Dr. Schwarz.  "This study provides another good reason for workplace policies to encourage women to breastfeed their infants. If women don't breastfeed, they are at more risk for heart disease."

Mothers who breastfeed for two years could cut their heart attack risk by one third, according to the London Daily Mail. And that doesn't mean you'd have to nurse a baby until the age of two.  A mom of three who breastfeeds each of her children for up to eight months would enjoy this health benefit, according to the London Daily Mail.

If you're wondering how long to breastfeed, the American Heart Association advises moms not to offer solids until a baby is four to six months old. The AHA recommends that you breastfeed until your baby turns one. Don't introduce juice until the age of six months, advises the AHA, and limit it to no more than four to six ounces a day. And don't fill your baby's bottle with juice: only offer juice in a cup, advises the AHA.