According to a new Mayo study, African American churchgoers and spiritual people who pray privately have better heart health than less religious Black people. LaPrincess Brewer, an assistant professor, led the study. The study focused on the benefits of religion on heart health, published last month in the AHA. Researchers were shocked that “religiosity and spirituality were associated with improved cardiovascular health.”
According to the 2017 AHA scientific statement, cardiovascular disease death rates among Black adults are higher than among white people. Since 1998, the Jackson Heart Study has researched the environmental and genetic factors contributing to cardiovascular disease among Blacks in Jackson, MI. Since its inception, the JHS study has included more than 5,000 adult participants.
The Mayo Clinic researchers analyzed the health and religious data collected for nearly 3,000 people, 66% of whom identified as women with an average age of 54. Regular churchgoers and those who frequently participated in religious activities had a better outcome than those who did not. For example:
- 50% more likely to be nonsmokers
- 16% more likely to meet exercise standards
- 12% more likely to have good blood pressure
- 10% more likely to consume a heart-healthy diet
Those who engaged in private prayer also had better outcomes than those who did not.
Heart Health App
The JHS findings were vital in Brewer’s developing a heart health app through the Mayo Clinic’s FAITH program. Brewer turned to Black congregants at churches throughout MN to help evaluate the new app. It’s a part of a 10-week trial that measured participants’ blood pressure, glucose levels, cholesterol, diet, and body mass index.
The app uses a religious and spiritual approach to address medical disparities affecting the Black community and improve cardiovascular health in underserved ethnic groups. Another benefit is that it allows patients to get health information from a trusted pastor. Brewer noted that the participants were highly receptive to using digital technology that holds them accountable.
“With religious and spiritual beliefs factored into our approaches,” Brewer told AHA News. “We may make breakthroughs in fostering the relationship between patients and physicians and between community members and scientists to build trust and sociocultural understanding of this population.” Brewer hopes the pastors will use the heart study data to encourage churchgoers to get serious about their health.