Black heart health: Religion correlates with better measures

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

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

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

“Our findings highlight the essential role that culturally tailored health promotion initiatives and lifestyle change recommendations can play in advancing health equity,” she added. “The cultural relevance of interventions may increase their likelihood of impacting cardiovascular health and also the sustainability and maintenance of healthy lifestyle changes.”

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

The study looked at survey responses and health screenings from 2,967 African Americans between the ages of 21 and 84 living in the tri-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 according to self-reported religious behavior by health factors, and then the researchers estimated the odds that they would meet their heart disease prevention goals.

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

“One hypothesis that may explain these observations is that both religious practice and behaviors associated with better cardiovascular health, such as adherence to physician recommendations for behavior change, not smoking, and not drinking heavily, share an origin. common or characteristic of personality.” said Carnethon.

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

For Jonathan Butler, associate minister at San Francisco’s Third Baptist Church and a research faculty member in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, the study makes “the case for reinforcing religion and spirituality in the faith of oriented. and cultural lifestyle interventions.”

“One possible way to address health disparities 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 faith leaders face challenges, including unsustainable research programs and voluntary burnouts, he added.

Dr. Elizabeth Ofili, professor of medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, pointed out the 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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