Wall Street Times

Study shows a link between religion and good heart health among African Americans

Regular participation in religious activities has been shown to benefit African Americans significantly. According to recent research, those who consistently engage in spiritual activities had higher test scores, suggesting good heart health. According to the study, the gap between those who do and those who do not is noticeable.

According to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, religious African Americans who participated in the study performed much better on tests for blood pressure, cholesterol, and other factors critical to the cardiovascular system’s general health.

Attending religious activities enhances a person’s chances of performing well in eight key areas, including physical activity, nicotine exposure, eating, and sleep, by 15%.

“I was slightly 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,” said the lead study author of the research Dr. LaPrincess C. Brewer.

“Our findings highlight the substantial role that culturally tailored health promotion initiatives and recommendations for lifestyle change may play in advancing health equity,” Dr. Brewer added.

“The cultural relevance of interventions may increase their likelihood of influencing cardiovascular health and also the sustainability and maintenance of healthy lifestyle changes.”


African American statistics in health

According to medical specialists, African Americans have lower cardiovascular health than non-Hispanic White persons. As a result, compared to White people, African American adults had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.

There were 2,967 African-Americans that took part in the study. A group of Jackson, Mississippi, citizens aged 21 to 84 were given health checks and questionnaires. The tri-county area is well-known for having very religious inhabitants. Patients with heart problems were not included in the study.

The sampled participants were then separated into groups depending on their religious beliefs. According to Mercedes R. Carnethon, an epidemiologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, religiosity is connected with better cardiovascular health outcomes.

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

“Observing a religion requires discipline, conscientiousness and a willingness to follow the guidance of a leader. These traits may also lead people to engage in better health practices under the guidance of their healthcare providers.”

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Creating a faith-based lifestyle

The findings lead Jonathan Butler of the University of California, San Francisco’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, to conclude that it is favorable for individuals to enhance their way of life by relying more heavily on religion.

“A potential way to address health inequities in the African American community is to leverage faith-based organizations’ physical and social capital capacity to improve health outcomes,” he said.

“Recognition by health professionals and researchers of the centrality and influence of religiosity and spirituality in the lives of African American adults may serve as a means to address cardiovascular health disparities through sociocultural understanding and the strategic development of culturally relevant lifestyle interventions,” the report added.

“There were noteworthy findings of effect modification of religiosity/spirituality measures by sex and age. The postulated pathway of the demonstrated magnified positive effect of dimensions of religiosity on overall CVH within men could suggest that men disproportionately express their religiosity through action compared with women. Thus, men possibly translated these forms of “religiousness” to overall CVH health‐promoting behaviors and factors,” it added.

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A link between health and religion

After carefully studying the religiosity of the sample and their well-being, the researchers discovered a link between the two. The study added that while many healthcare professionals disapprove of the linkage between religiosity and health, the study shows that people with better health are more into praying.

“Health care providers have expressed ethical concerns about coercion or projecting beliefs onto patients and associated time constraints with religiosity/spirituality inquiry. However, there is evidence supporting patients’ preference that respectful conversations surrounding religiosity/spirituality spur from comprehensive psychosocial history taking, particularly in routine medical care or screening, rather than solely during end‐of‐life care discussions.”

Meanwhile, the study emphasized church leaders’ vital role in incorporating their faith-based teaching with health behaviors. This could encourage people, particularly African Americans, to lean toward a healthier and more ecological lifestyle.

“Church pastors can play a major role as allies for intervention implementation within AA churches to promote religious and spiritually infused messages of prevention. Our findings also support the substantial role of AA churches in CVH promotion initiatives toward a goal of CVD prevention in an extremely high‐risk group.”

“Also, religiosity/spirituality may impart benefits of social and emotional stability, stress buffering, and optimism during times of crises such as the current global coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and resurgence of racial turmoil and social unrest, which could foster and facilitate maintenance of CVH.”

“Given clear clinical gaps in access to quality health care and health information among socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, particularly AAs, culturally tailored health promotion interventions in partnership with faith‐based organizations may serve to assist in fulfilling these unmet needs.”