May 2, 2011

Religion Doesn’t Help Blood Pressure?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Being religious does not protect people from high blood pressure, according to a new study.

In an effort to examine the relationship between religious activities and blood pressure in community-dwelling older adults, a Loyola University Health System study evaluated whether religious activity helps protect against high blood pressure.

A survey of 200 residents of Maywood, Illinois determined there was no statistically substantial relationship between the majority of measures of religiosity and lower blood pressure. In fact, in one evaluation of religiosity, people who were more spiritual in point of fact experienced higher blood pressure.

"It's the opposite of what we expected to find," senior author Amy Luke, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, was quoted as saying.

A number of preceding examinations have uncovered that religious activities such as prayer, meditation and attending church improve blood pressure levels. Several scientists have recommended that religious activity can counteract a variety of aspects that generally heighten blood pressure, including but not limited to anxiety, hostility, dejection, despondency and lonesomeness.

On the other hand, different studies have established that religiosity provides no advantage in controlling blood pressure.

"There have been contradictory findings, so the role of religion in chronic disease needs to be further examined," first author, Laura Heinrich, a medical student at Stritch School of Medicine, was quoted as saying.

Among the participants who carried religion to additional dealings in their lives, 35 percent of them said they had high blood pressure. Among those who do not carry religion to other parts of their life, 19.6 percent had high blood pressure. In the four further measures of religiosity, there were no statistically noteworthy links connecting religiosity and high blood pressure.

All participants in the study were African American; their average age was 40.9. Fifty-seven percent participated in church activities at least a few times per month and 45 percent spent time on a daily basis in personal religious activities such as prayer, meditation and Bible study.

The utilization of the multi-question Duke Religion Index is one of the chief assets of the study. Some earlier studies ask about merely one portion of religiosity, such as church attendance.

A restriction of the study is how participants were enrolled. Foremost, participants were recruited via random neighborhood campaigning; however, due to low participation, researchers inquired with members of a church to aid in recruiting. It is probable that church members were more probable than other study participants to be concerned and aware that they had high blood pressure, perhaps through church screenings.

"The study is continuing and, with additional data, we hope to further clarify any association between hypertension and spirituality," the authors conclude.

SOURCE: Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, April 30, 2011