Religious and Spiritual Coping Reduces the Risk of Hypertension.
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Scientific literature have recorded that spiritual well-being is associated with better physical and mental health, according to psycho-neuro-immune models of health. Spirituality and religion can help patients, their families and caregivers dealing with illness and other stressful life events.” – Marcelo Saad
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) is an insidious disease because there are no overt symptoms. The individual feels fine. But it can be deadly as more than 360,000 American deaths, roughly 1,000 deaths each day, had high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause. In addition, hypertension markedly increases the risk heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease. It is also a very common disorder with about 70 million American adults (29%) having high blood pressure and only about half (52%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control. Hypertension is more prevalent in African American populations.
High blood pressure, because it doesn’t have any primary symptoms, is usually only diagnosed by direct measurement of blood pressure usually by a health care professional. When hypertension is chronically present over three quarters of patients are treated with antihypertensive drugs. But these medications often have adverse side effects. So, patients feel lousy when taking the drugs, but fine when they’re not. So, compliance is a major issue with many patients not taking the drugs regularly or stopping entirely. Obviously, there is a need for alternative to drug treatments for hypertension.
Spirituality is defined as “one’s personal affirmation of and relationship to a higher power or to the sacred. There have been a number of studies of the influence of spirituality on the physical and psychological well-being of practitioners mostly showing positive benefits, with spirituality encouraging personal growth and mental health. Religiosity is also known to help with a wide range of physical and psychological problems. So, it would make sense to investigate the influence of spirituality and religiosity on hypertension in African Americans.
In today’s Research News article “). Religious and Spiritual Coping and Risk of Incident Hypertension in the Black Women’s Health Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6230974/), Cozier and colleagues performed a secondary analysis of the data provided by a large U.S. national sample of adult black women. The women had completed a large array of measures. But for the present study measures were extracted of religion/spirituality, positive religious coping, perceived stress, depression, and experiences of racism. They were also measured 8 years later for the incidence of hypertension.
They found that women who reported high levels of religion/spirituality were older, more educated, less likely to smoke or drink, lived in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and with lower levels of perceived stress. Significantly, they also found that women high in positive religious coping had a significantly lower risk of developing hypertension 8 years later. This association was strongest in women with the highest levels of perceived stress.
These results are interesting and suggest that the development of hypertension is associated with stress and that positive religious coping can mitigate the effects of stress on blood pressure. Positive religious coping involves using “religious and spiritual resources to cope with and adapt to stressful life circumstances.” Hence spiritualty and religiosity can promote better health in black women by providing them with methods to cope with the stresses in their lives.
So, reduce the risk of hypertension with religious/spiritual coping.
“Religious coping now represents a key variable of interest in research on health outcomes, not only because many individuals turn to their faith in times of illness, but also because studies have frequently found that religious coping is associated with desirable health outcomes.” – Jeremey Cummings
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Cozier, Y. C., Yu, J., Wise, L. A., VanderWeele, T. J., Balboni, T. A., Argentieri, M. A., … Shields, A. E. (2018). Religious and Spiritual Coping and Risk of Incident Hypertension in the Black Women’s Health Study. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 52(12), 989–998. doi:10.1093/abm/kay001
The few studies of the relationship between religion and/or spirituality (R/S) and hypertension are conflicting. We hypothesized that R/S may reduce the risk of hypertension by buffering adverse physiological effects of stress.
We prospectively assessed the association of R/S with hypertension within the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), a cohort study initiated in 1995 that follows participants through biennial questionnaires. The 2005 questionnaire included four R/S questions: (i) extent to which one’s R/S is involved in coping with stressful situations, (ii) self-identification as a religious/spiritual person, (iii) frequency of attending religious services, and (iv) frequency of prayer. Incidence rate ratios (IRRs) and 95% confidence intervals were calculated for each R/S variable in relation to incident hypertension using Cox proportional hazards regression models, controlling for demographics, known hypertension risk factors, psychosocial factors, and other R/S variables.
During 2005–2013, 5,194 incident cases of hypertension were identified. High involvement of R/S in coping with stressful events compared with no involvement was associated with reduced risk of hypertension (IRR: 0.87; 95% CI: 0.75, 1.00). The association was strongest among women reporting greater levels of perceived stress (IRR: 0.77; 95% CI: 0.61, 0.98; p interaction = .01). More frequent prayer was associated with increased risk of hypertension (IRR: 1.12; 95% CI: 0.99, 1.27). No association was observed for the other R/S measures.
R/S coping was associated with decreased risk of hypertension in African American women, especially among those reporting higher levels of stress. Further research is needed to understand the mechanistic pathways through which R/S coping may affect health.