While going to church, attending Bible study, and praying on a regular basis may not be the first images that come to mind when discussing self-care, a new study from the Journal of the American Heart Association says that religiousness and spirituality may be linked to better heart health among African Americans.
“Religion is often described as both a belief and a practice,” says Mercedes Carnethon, president of the American Heart Association’s metro Chicago board of directors and vice chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “I think that the practice of religion is what is most strongly associated with better cardiovascular health. The practice of religion requires discipline and structure—the discipline of regular prayer and structuring one’s life to regularly attend religious services.”
Additionally, Carnethon suggests that individuals with the type of self-control necessary for religious and spiritual practices are more likely to sleep and exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and take their medication as prescribed, some of the key metrics the American Heart Association (AHA) uses to determine heart health.