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Spirituality, religion helps lower BP

A study of more than 5,000 African Americans has found that being involved with or participating in religious activities can significantly lower blood pressure, even

india Updated: May 19, 2006 18:48 IST

A study of more than 5,000 African Americans has found that being involved with or participating in religious activities can significantly lower blood pressure, even in those people who are likely to be classified as hypertensive, having higher levels of body mass index (BMI), and lower levels of medication adherence.

The findings were based on the Jackson Heart Study, the largest exclusively African American study sample used to ascertain associations among religion, spirituality and blood pressure, which followed 5,302 participants to evaluate the effects of religion and spirituality on both diastolic and systolic blood pressure.


Study author Sharon Wyatt, RN, PhD, from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi said that the study found that the integration of religion and spirituality may buffer individuals exposed to stress and delay the deleterious effects of hypertension.

"Cardiovascular health disparities among African Americans are widely recognised and hypertension is the most prominent risk factor in the development of cardiovascular disease in African Americans."

"Our findings show that the integration of religion and spirituality – attending church and praying – may buffer individuals exposed to stress and delay the deleterious effects of hypertension. These practices can be useful for individuals to incorporate into their daily lives," she said.

In the study, religion and spirituality were assessed with several questionnaires that examined organised religious activities such as church attendance, watching religious television; non-organised religious activities such as private prayer, meditation; religious coping such as integration of religious beliefs into decision-making during times of stress; and daily spiritual experiences such as interaction with God.

Statistical analyses were conducted using measures of association and linear regression to examine the effects of each religious variable on blood pressure.

The researchers found that while female gender, lower socioeconomic status, increasing age, and lower levels of cortisol were associated with more religious activities, higher levels of religious participation were related to higher levels of body mass index (BMI) and lower levels of medication adherence.

They also found that while, contrary to the original hypotheses, people with more religious activities and participation were more likely to be classified as hypertensive, those with more religious activities had significantly lower diastolic blood pressure in an uncontrolled model, and significantly lower systolic blood pressure in a controlled model.

The findings were presented at the 21st Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension (ASH 2006) recently.