May 19, 2006
Religion and bloodletting have always gone hand in hand:
Religion and spirituality may have a positive effect on blood pressure, according to a study of more than 5,300 black Americans.
Researchers found that people in the Jackson (Miss.) Heart Study who were involved with or participated in religious activities had significantly lower blood pressure than people who did not, even though the people involved in religious activities were more likely to have high blood pressure, higher body mass index (BMI) scores, and lower levels of adherence to medications.
… “Cardiovascular health disparities among African-Americans are widely recognized, and hypertension is the most prominent risk factor in the development of cardiovascular disease in African-Americans,” study author Sharon Wyatt, of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, said in a prepared statement.
“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,” Wyatt said.
Except that a more robust study released today suggests that chronic stress almost certainly doesn’t cause high blood pressure:
The notion that being stressed out on the job causes high blood pressure doesn’t hold up, according to a new analysis of studies involving more than 100,000 people.
“There’s no doubt that in the moment stress raises blood pressure,” the study’s author, Dr Samuel J. Mann of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, said. But there’s virtually no evidence, he said, that such stress leads to chronic high blood pressure, or hypertension. “They’ve been trying to prove that for 40 years.”
… Studies have tied stress to heart disease, Mann noted, but hypertension is not likely to be the contributing link. Instead, he added, stress might boost high blood pressure risk by leading people to overeat, gain weight and abuse alcohol.
While Mann says he’s not categorically denying that job stress could cause hypertension in some people, it’s role is likely small. About 40 percent of hypertension is due to genetics, and another 40 percent to overweight, poor diet, salt intake and lack of exercise - leaving about 20 percent available for other causes, he explained.
Overweight, poor diet, alcoholic… that definitely sounds like my local evangelical congregation. Perhaps their stress levels are being reduced by the extra rest they get during endless sermons. Belief is a wonderful thing.
The illustration shows a more traditional way for Christians to cut their blood pressure.
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