By Ralph Ellis
Black Americans who go to church and pray regularly have better cardiovascular health than Black Americans who are not as religious or have no religious beliefs, according to a new study.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, used survey responses and health screenings for 2,967 African Americans in and around Jackson, MI.
Those who attended religious services frequently were 15% more likely to achieve an intermediate or ideal cardiovascular health score based on criteria from the American Heart Association.
Those who prayed privately regularly had a 12% increase
in the chances of achieving an intermediate or ideal Heart Association metric for diet. Those who said they used “religious coping” were 14% more likely to have good cardiovascular health.
The study’s lead author, cardiologist LaPrincess C. Brewer, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, said the results were somewhat surprising because diet, physical activity, and smoking are extremely difficult to change.
People in the study were grouped by their self-reported levels of spirituality, meaning belief in the existence of a supreme being, and how often they went to church services, prayed in private, and used religion to cope with stressful events and the challenges of life.
They were then grouped according to the health factors in the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 (diet, physical activity, nicotine exposure, weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels). The association changed the Simple 7 to the Essential 8 last June, adding sleep.
Brewer said the study may help doctors better treat Black Americans, who, statistics show, tend to have poorer overall cardiovascular health than non-Hispanic white people. Death rates from heart disease are higher for Black Americans than white adults.
“Our findings highlight the substantial role that culturally tailored health promotion initiatives and recommendations for lifestyle change may play in advancing health equity,” Brewer said in a news release. “The cultural relevance of interventions may increase their likelihood of influencing cardiovascular health and also the sustainability and maintenance of healthy lifestyle changes.”