Religious Activities May Lower Blood Pressure

Older people who attend religious services weekly and who engage in daily prayer or Bible study tend to have lower blood pressure than those less religiously active. The likelihood of having a diastolic blood pressure of 90 or higher, the level most often associated with stroke or heart attack, was 40% lower among those who attended a religious service once weekly and prayed or studied the Bible once daily, than among those who did so less often, according to researchers who examined the health and religious habits of nearly 4,000 residents of North Carolina over the age of 65 during a 6-year period.

Associations between religious activity and blood pressure were particularly strong among African-Americans and among the "young elderly" -- those 65 to 74 years old. An additional finding was that people who regularly watched or listened to religious television and radio programming actually had higher blood pressure than less frequent viewers. This finding may reflect the importance of getting out of the house and socializing with other members of a religious community.

International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine 1998;28:189-213.

COMMENT: The association of a strong faith and lowered blood pressure is not new. What I find fascinating is the observation that it is actually counterproductive from a health viewpoint to substitute physically being in church with watching or listening to religious programs. There is strong confirmation that supports the recommendation to physically attend some sort of spiritual fellowship regularly. The TV or radio does not provide the benefits of actually being there in person.

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