By Marnita Coleman,
Special to AFRO,
Staggering statistics reveal a disparity in heart health in the African American community.
While heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, the hospitalization of heart failure is twice as likely among blacks, but the table is turning. The Jackson Heart Study, a 20-year research project conducted in Jackson, Mississippi, shows that religious practices and spirituality improved the heart health of African Americans.
United States National Library of Medicine, located in Bethesda, Maryland, reports that more than 80% of African Americans identify as “religious” and “spiritual.” Harnessing this area of life is an important factor for those looking to improve heart health and reduce heart health disparities among African Americans.
Dr. LaPrincess Brewer, Mayo Clinic preventive cardiologist and first author of the Jackson Heart Study, spoke with AFRO about the connection between heart and soul.
“The results of this study have important implications for promoting heart health among African Americans, including the possibility of integrating religion and spirituality into culturally appropriate behavioral interventions,” she said. declared. “The findings may encourage pastors and other church leaders to become allies in implementing the intervention and promoting healthy behaviors guided by religiosity and spirituality.”
“Furthermore, this study supports our other research that points to African American churches as the foundation for community health promotion intervention,” Brewer continued. “The social network provides stability, optimism and stress relief while encouraging followers to lead heart-healthy lives.”
Participants in the Jackson Heart Study were interviewed and questioned about various social and cultural factors involving heart health, religious practice, private prayer practices, coping mechanisms, sources of stress, and connection with God.
They were reviewed in conjunction with the American Heart Association’s Simple Seven components that support healthy heart conditions: diet, physical activity, smoking, body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose.
Of nearly 3,000 participants, 65.7 percent of whom were women, higher levels of
attendance at religious services was associated with a greater likelihood of intermediate or ideal levels of heart health.
Participants who had a private prayer routine have been shown to have better diets. Of nearly 3,000 participants, higher levels of attendance at a weekly church service were also associated with better health. In part because, as numerous studies have shown, “greater religiosity/spirituality has been linked to better health behaviors such as lower calorie intake, alcohol consumption, and smoking,” according to the authors of the essay.
Ella Jackson, of Jackson, Mississippi, whose mother participated in the Jackson Heart Study from the start, shared her memories with AFRO.
“My mother didn’t miss an appointment or an event. She stopped eating pork and foods forbidden in the Bible and ate vegetables, fruits and nuts. She was a strong Christian woman, very active in Christian organizations and the local church,” Jackson said. “His experience confirmed what doctors and science said about health. She was disciplined. My mom lived a full life that wouldn’t have been had she refused to change. In September 2021, she died at the age of 93.
Bishop Ronnie Crudup, senior pastor of New Horizon Church International in Jackson, Mississippi, said he encouraged African Americans to remember that they should not “confuse freedom with good operating procedures.”
“You have to have self-imposed limits. When you don’t exercise restraint, you enter a world of trouble and that’s certainly true when it comes to diet,” said Crudup, who evangelizes both God and sound health practices. “If we want to have a better future, we have to take better care of ourselves.”
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