By Karen Stokes
Church attendance and prayer may boost heart health among African American adults, according to a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The study shows nearly 3000 African American adults, who reported more frequent church attendance, private prayer and “feeling God’s presence” were more likely to meet the American Heart Association’s key metrics for optimal cardiovascular health, compared to others reporting less frequent religious participation or no such beliefs.
The key metrics for optimal cardiovascular health according to the American Heart Association Life’s Simple 7 metrics are based on smoking, diet, physical activity, body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol and fasting glucose with an 8th metric, sleep.
The Jackson Heart Study is the largest single-site, community-based investigation of cardiovascular disease among African American adults in the U.S. On average, participants were 54 years old at study enrollment, and 66% were women.
The ongoing study, initiated in 1998, includes more than 5,000 adults ages 21- to 84-years-old who identify as African American and living in the tri-county area of Jackson, Mississippi.
Pastor Veloris Brooks-Mann, Chaplaincy Program Coordinator with the Salvation Army Milwaukee County, believes strong religious beliefs have beneficial impact on heart health.
“It truly does, my story is I went to the hospital with 90% clogged arteries needing triple bypass surgery. I believed in God and believed that God sustained me all those months. I wasn’t feeling good and wasn’t getting the care I needed. God sustained me and kept me until the doctors found out what was wrong with me because after they found what was wrong with me the doctor told me I probably had about a week left then the mass heart attack would have taken me out. I believe that was due only to faith and prayer that God did not let that happen,” Veloris said.
According to the American Heart Associations’ 2017 “Cardiovascular Health in African Americans” scientific statement, African Americans have poorer overall cardiovascular health than non-Hispanic white people, and death from cardiovascular diseases is higher in African American adults than white adults.
“Spirituality improves your quality of life because you have a source or resource which is God in order to cast your cares on,” Veloris said.
Throughout scripture, there are over 100 Bible verses from the Old and New Testament on God’s guidance to good health, as it is considered of high importance. Two scriptures that Veloris and her husband Frank Mann look to are 3 John 1:2 and Hebrews 12:11.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace. This is for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
“This gives the three components you need and one of them is good health,” said Frank. “I’ve been training since I was 15 in health and fitness, I’m a professional bodybuilder but the key thing is you have to have discipline. I believe if you take care of yourself, if you do your part, the Lord is always going to do his.”
Doing his part, Frank at 53, recently placed top 5 in the 2022 IFBB Pro League World at the Masters BodyBuilding Competition in July 2022. He has been dedicated and disciplined for 40 years in health and fitness.
“I did that competition to show everybody you can still achieve good health you just have to put in the work,” said Frank. This is the only body that we have. We need to make health a priority.”
“Health professionals and researchers should acknowledge the importance of religious and spiritual influences in the lives of African Americans – who tend to be highly religious,” said the study’s lead author LaPrincess C. Brewer, M.D., M.P.H., a preventive cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “With religious and spiritual beliefs factored into our approaches, we may make major breakthroughs in fostering the relationship between patients and physicians and between community members and scientists to build trust and sociocultural understanding of this population.”
“Our findings highlight the substantial role that culturally tailored health promotion initiatives and recommendations for lifestyle change may play in advancing health equity,” she added. “The cultural relevance of interventions may increase their likelihood of influencing cardiovascular health and also the sustainability and maintenance of healthy lifestyle changes.”
Frank is also a personal trainer. His mission is to help the people of God live a healthier life through the Word of God. He believes that we are to be in good health and shape for the Bible refers many times to the condition of the WHOLE man/person.
“Health and spirituality go hand in hand,” Frank said.
Frank and Veloris have a heart to guide people to better health. To reach Frank for Church Group Fitness call Faith and Glory Fitness (414) 252-4855.
“This is especially important for socioeconomically disenfranchised communities faced with multiple challenges and stressors. Religiosity and spirituality may serve as a buffer to stress and have therapeutic purposes or support self-empowerment to practice healthy behaviors and seek preventive health services,” Brewer said.