Black Heart Health: Religion Linked to Better Metrics

More religious participants had better scores for blood pressure, cholesterol and other metrics known to influence cardiovascular health, a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on Wednesday found.

For example, attending religious services was associated with a 15% higher likelihood of achieving an “intermediate” or “ideal” composite heart health score, which includes eight measures including diet, physical activity, sleep and nicotine exposure.

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

“Our findings highlight the important role that culturally appropriate health promotion initiatives and lifestyle change recommendations can play in promoting health equity,” she added. “The cultural appropriateness of interventions may increase their likelihood of influencing cardiovascular health as well as the sustainability and maintenance of healthy lifestyle changes.”

The cardiovascular health of African Americans is worse than that of non-Hispanic whites, and death rates from cardiovascular disease are higher among African Americans than among whites, the statement said.

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

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Participants were grouped according to self-reported religious behaviors by health factors, and then researchers estimated their odds of meeting 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 religious practices and beliefs are correlated with better measures of health. cardiovascular. She is a volunteer expert with the American Heart Association, but was not involved in the study.

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

“Observing a religion requires discipline, conscientiousness, and a willingness to follow the advice of a leader. These traits can also lead people to adopt better health practices under the guidance of their health care providers,” she added via email.

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

“One potential way to address health inequities in the African American community is to leverage the physical and social capital capacity of faith-based 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 Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, pointed out potential biases in reporting from the cross-sectional study.

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

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