Two hundred people participated in the study. All were black and 52 percent were male. The average age was 42 years old, and nearly 29 percent were taking medication to treat high blood pressure.
Fifty-eight percent said they attended church at least a few times a month, and 35 percent of those people attended at least once a week. Forty-five percent of the study volunteers said they spent private time on religious activities, such as prayer, meditation or Bible study, the investigators found.
All of the study volunteers completed a 65-point interview and religiosity was measured using the Duke University Religion Index, which asks participants to respond "true," "tends to be true," "unsure" or "not true" to statements such as "In my life, I experience the presence of the Divine" or "My religious beliefs are what really lie behind my whole approach to life."
Thirty-five percent of those who said religion carried over to all parts of their lives had high blood pressure compared to 19.6 percent of those who said that religion didn't carry over, according to the report.
Luke said that Heinrich and the other medical students were quite surprised by their findings. They had expected to see an association between religion and lower blood pressure.
"I think the whole issue of religion and health is really complex," said Luke.
Dr. Jonathan Whiteson is director of the Cardiac and Pulmonary Wellness and Rehabilitation Program at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. He said: "I didn't think this study was so surprising. There's been a lot of conflicting data on religion and blood pressure and cardiac disease as well. It's a confusing area, and depending on how the studies are conducted, you may see different results.
"Generally, it seems that religion should have positive health benefits. People who aren't socially isolated tend to take better care of themselv
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