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Higher Levels of Religious Activity Linked to Lower Blood Pressure.

When you attend religious services at your place of worship, or say a prayer before meals, or study a passage from Genesis, you probably aren't thinking that what you're doing can affect your blood pressure. But a recent study says it just might.

Researchers at Duke University studied nearly 4,000 people aged 65 and older, taking into account differences among their subjects such as age, gender, race, education, and other variables that could affect their findings.

They discovered that people who both attended religious services at least once a week and prayed or studied the Bible at least daily had consistently lower blood pressure than those who did so less frequently or not at all.

In fact, the regular participants in religious activity were 40 percent less likely to have diastolic hypertension, which is associated with heart attacks and strokes.

Nearly one third of all Americans suffer from some form of high blood pressure. Even a small average decrease could significantly reduce cardiovascular disease -- by about 10 to 20 percent.

Their study is one of 11 others noted by the Duke University researchers to have investigated the connection between religious involvement and blood pressure; nine others have reported essentially the same results, the Duke team says.

A few other interesting findings from the Duke study:
  * the associations between religious involvement and measures of blood pressure were stronger in blacks than in whites and in the "younger older" -- people aged 65 to 75 than in those over 75.
  * women were more likely than men to admit having been told by their doctors that they had high blood pressure.
  * people who regularly tuned in to religious TV or radio had higher blood pressures than those who were less frequent viewers and listeners.
Reference:
Koenig, H.G. et al. "The Relationship Between Religious Activities and Blood Pressure in Older Adults." Int'l. J. of Psychology In Medicine, Vol. 28(2) (1998), 189-213.


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