Church attendance, prayer may boost heart health in African American adults, study finds – ScienceDaily

African American adults who reported frequent participation in religious activities and/or deep spiritual beliefs were more likely to meet the American Heart Association’s key metrics for cardiovascular health, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and normal blood pressure. New research published today Journal of the American Heart AssociationAn open-access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association.

The study is the first to investigate the relationship between a comprehensive set of heart health behaviors among African Americans – the American Heart Association’s Simple 7 Metrics of Life (diet, physical activity and nicotine exposure) and physiological factors (weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels). And with spirituality. The Simple 7 Metrics of Life, established in 2010, was expanded to the Essential 8 of Life in June 2022, adding sleep as the eighth component of optimal cardiovascular health.

According to the American Heart Association’s 2017 “Cardiovascular Health in African Americans” scientific statement, African Americans have worse overall heart health than non-Hispanic white people, and death from heart disease is higher in African American adults than in white adults.

“Health professionals and researchers should acknowledge the importance of religious and spiritual influences in the lives of African Americans — who are highly religious,” said study lead author LaPrince C. said Brewer, MD, MPH, a preventive cardiologist and assistant professor. of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “Because our approach includes religious and spiritual beliefs, we can achieve greater success in fostering relationships between patients and physicians and community members and scientists to build the faith and sociocultural understanding of this population.”

Researchers analyzed responses from surveys and health tests of 2,967 African American participants in the Jackson Heart Study that measured religiosity (strong religious feelings or beliefs from any religion), spirituality and simple 7 heart health indicators of lifestyle. The Jackson Heart Study is the largest single-site, community-based investigation of heart disease among African American adults in the United States. The ongoing study, which began in 1998, included more than 5,000 adults ages 21 to 84 who identified as African American and lived in the tri-county area of ​​Jackson, Mississippi.

The researchers grouped participants by religious behavior (church services/Bible study groups, private prayer and use of religious beliefs or practices to cope with difficult life situations and stressful events – called religious coping in the study); and spirituality (belief in the existence of a supreme being, deity or God).

Religious behavior questions were adapted from the Fetzer Multidimensional Scale of Religiosity/Faith (Religious Attendance, Private Prayer) and Religious Coping Scale (Religious Coping) instruments. Spirituality measures were adapted from the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale, which assesses common daily experiences according to theistic spirituality (belief in the existence of a supreme being, deity or god, and feeling God’s presence, desire for close union with God, feeling God’s love). and nontheistic spirituality (feel strength in my religion, feel deep inner peace and harmony or feel spiritually touched by creation).

Participants were then grouped according to religiosity and spirituality scores by health factors: physical activity, diet, smoking, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as a composite score of seven components of a Simple 7 to estimate heart health. The researchers estimated the odds of achieving intermediate and ideal levels of heart disease prevention goals based on religiosity/spirituality scores.

Participants who reported greater religious activity or deeper levels of spiritual belief were more likely to meet key measures for heart health:

  • Greater frequency of attending religious services or activities was associated with a 16% increase in the odds of meeting “intermediate” or “ideal” metrics for physical activity, 10% for diet, 50% for smoking, 12% and 15% for blood pressure. Overall Cardiovascular Health Score.
  • Greater reported frequency of private prayer was associated with a 12% increase in the odds of achieving intermediate or ideal metrics for diet and a 24% increased odds of achieving a metric associated with smoking.
  • Religious coping was associated with an 18% increase in the odds of achieving intermediate and ideal levels for physical activity, a 10% increase for a healthy diet, a 32% increase for smoking, and a 14% increase for overall heart health scores.
  • Total spirituality was associated with an 11% increase in the odds of achieving intermediate and ideal levels for physical activity and 36% for smoking.

“I was a little surprised by the findings that many of the most challenging to change dimensions of religion and spirituality are associated with improved heart health, such as diet, physical activity and smoking,” Brewer said.

“Our findings highlight the important role that culturally tailored health promotion initiatives and recommendations for lifestyle changes can play in advancing health equity,” he added. “Cultural relevance of interventions may increase the potential to impact cardiovascular health and also increase the sustainability and maintenance of healthy lifestyle changes.”

Brewer added, “This is especially important for socioeconomically marginalized communities to cope with many challenges and stressors. Religiosity and spirituality can act as stress buffers and have therapeutic purposes or self-empowerment to practice healthy behaviors and seek preventive health services. supports.”

The religiosity/spirituality survey was conducted at one point during the Jackson Heart Study, so participants’ heart health was not analyzed over time. Additionally, people with known heart disease were not included in this analysis.

Co-authors are Janice Bowie, PhD, MPH; Joshua P. slusher; Christopher G. Scott, MS; Lisa A. Cooper, MD, MPH; Sharon Ann Hayes, MD; Christy A. Patton, PhD; and Mario Sims, Ph.D., MS Author disclosures are listed in the manuscript.

This study was funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, the American Heart Association-Amos Medical Faculty Development Program, the National Institutes of Health/Minority Health and Health Disparities/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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