Does religious practice positively affect believers' healthy lifestyle?

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) -- New research suggests that African-American adults who are more religious, or have deeper spiritual beliefs, score higher on indicators related to good heart health than others.

The religious participants scored better indicators in terms of measuring blood pressure, cholesterol, and other indicators known to affect cardiovascular health, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, last Wednesday.

For example, religious service attendance was associated with a 15% higher likelihood of achieving a "medium" or "ideal" composite cardiovascular health index of eight indicators, including diet, physical activity, sleep, and nicotine exposure.

"I was slightly surprised by the findings that multiple dimensions of religiosity and spirituality are associated with improved heart health," said Dr. And blood vessels, through many healthy behaviors that are very difficult to change, such as diet, physical activity and smoking.”

"Our findings highlight the significant role that culturally tailored health promotion initiatives and lifestyle-change recommendations can play in promoting health equity."

"The cultural significance of the interventions may increase the potential for impact on cardiovascular health, as well as the sustainability and maintenance of healthy lifestyle changes," she added.

Cardiovascular health among African Americans is poorer than among non-Hispanic whites, and death rates from cardiovascular disease are higher in African American adults than in white adults, according to the statement.

The study looked at questionnaire responses and health screenings for 2,967 African Americans, ages 21 to 84, who lived in an area known to have strong religious beliefs in Jackson, Mississippi.

The analysis did not include participants with known heart disease.

Participants were ranked according to self-reported religious behaviors by health factors, and the researchers then rated their odds of meeting heart disease prevention goals.

Mercedes Carnethon, an epidemiologist and vice president of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, told CNN that the research suggests that religious practices and beliefs are associated with better indicators of cardiovascular health.

Carnethon, who was not involved in the study, explained that "following religious values ​​requires discipline, conscience, and a willingness to follow directions. These traits may also lead to engaging in better health practices under the supervision of health care providers."

For Jonathan Butler, associate minister at Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and a research faculty member in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at UCLA, the study raises "the issue of promoting religion and spirituality in faith-oriented and culture-related lifestyle interventions."

"One potential way to address health inequalities in the African American community is to harness the capacity of the physical and social capital of faith-based organizations to improve health outcomes," Butler said.

Dr. Elizabeth Ofili, associate professor of medicine at Morehouse College of Medicine in Atlanta, highlighted potential reporting biases in this study.

She noted the need for future research involving "self-monitoring/digital devices to mitigate the challenges of bias in reporting health behaviours".