If lots of little rug rats underfoot makes you want to tear your hair out sometimes, take heart, Mama—literally!
Lots more love to give and receive are not the only benefits of having more kids. According to a study, mothers of large families are much less likely to suffer a stroke or experience cardiovascular disease compared to women without any kids. The magic number? Moms with four or more children may see their risk for a serious stroke cut by as much as 50 percent, says researchers at the University of California in San Diego. Heart disease risk may be cut by as much as a third.
Does this mean Michelle Duggar has the healthiest heart ever? The study followed over 1,300 women between 1984 and 1987 when they first had children and then again later in life in 2007. It appears that multiple pregnancies lead to higher levels of pregnancy hormones and these hormones—like estrogen—provide health benefits for blood vessels that last into old age. Researchers also take into account that women who never had children due to infertility may have underlying health issues that could lead to heart problems.
And here’s one more piece of information that’s sure to melt your heart. Besides the physical benefits for your cardiovascular health, women with lots of kids had much more social support from their children in old age, and this may also play a role in why older moms-of-many stay healthy—there’s always someone to call when you need a ride to the doctor’s office! Researchers also say that all that running around you do to keep up with four or more counts as physical exercise and is another way being a busy mom keeps you healthy.