Black Heart Health: Religion Linked to Better Measures

More religious participants scored better for blood pressure, cholesterol, and other parameters known to affect cardiovascular health, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

For example, attendance at church services was associated with a 15% greater chance of achieving an “intermediate” or “ideal” composite cardiovascular health score, which includes eight measures, including diet, physical activity, sleep, and nicotine exposure. .

“I was slightly surprised by the findings that multiple dimensions of religiosity and spirituality were associated with improved cardiovascular health through multiple health behaviors that are extremely difficult to change, such as diet, physical activity and smoking,” said the author. principal of the study, Dr. LaPrincess C. Brewer, a preventive cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, in a news release.

“Our findings highlight the substantial role that health promotion initiatives and culture-tailored recommendations for lifestyle change can play in promoting health equity,” he added. “The cultural relevance of interventions can increase their likelihood of influencing cardiovascular health and also the sustainability and maintenance of healthy lifestyle changes.”

Cardiovascular health among African Americans is poorer than among non-Hispanic whites, and death rates from cardiovascular disease are higher in African American adults than in white adults, according to the release.

The study looked at survey responses and health screenings of 2,967 African Americans between the ages of 21 and 84 living in the three-county area of ​​Jackson, Mississippi, an area known for its residents’ strong religious beliefs. . The analysis did not include participants with known heart disease.

Participants were grouped based on self-reported religious behaviors based on health factors, then the researchers estimated the odds that they would achieve heart disease prevention goals.

Epidemiologist Mercedes R. Carnethon, vice president of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, told CNN that research suggests that religious practices and beliefs are correlated with better measures of cardiovascular health. She is a volunteer expert from the American Heart Association but she was not involved in the study.

“One hypothesis that could explain these observations is that both the practice of religion and the behaviors associated with better cardiovascular health such as adhering to physician recommendations for behavior change, not smoking and not drinking excessively share a common understanding. common origin or personality trait, “Carneton said.

“Observing a religion requires discipline, conscientiousness, and a willingness to follow the lead of a leader. These traits can also lead people to engage in best health practices under the guidance of their health professionals,” he added via email.

For Jonathan Butler, associate minister at Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and a research faculty member at the Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, the study proposes “the case for strengthening religion and spirituality. in faith-oriented and culturally relevant lifestyle interventions “.

“One potential way to address health inequalities in the African American community is to harness the physical and social capital capacity of religious organizations to improve health outcomes,” Butler said.

But religious leaders face challenges including unsustainable research programs and volunteer burnout, he added.

Dr. Elizabeth Ofili, a professor of medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, highlighted potential bias in reporting in the cross-sectional study.

Ofili highlighted an opportunity for future research involving “self-monitoring / digital devices to mitigate the challenges of bias in reporting health behaviors”.

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