It is at this time of year that we celebrate life with a great sense of hope and faith. Christians celebrate Christmas, the miraculous birth of Christ and Jews celebrate Chanukah, the miraculous festival of lights. But this year, only a few short months since the visit of Pope Francis, a breath of fresh air still permeates communities of all faiths, as we make time this season to reflect, respect and resolve.
Every few hundred years, often when the world is in a very dark place and all seems to be lost, the planet is blessed with a spiritual leader whose message and leadership by example, transcends all faiths and the differences between religious denominations is blurred. Pope Francis “the people’s pope” is that person! His message is universal and represents the purist and most basic tenants of all major religions and all who are spiritual: love, patience, kindness, understanding, respect, tolerance, and forgiveness. In September, Pope Francis made history as the first pope to address the United States Congress. Then, he received “rock star” receptions in New York City and Philadelphia. It may be that his unprecedented popularity has less to do about his role in the Catholic Church and more about what he represents to the human race…he challenges those of all faiths to be better people. Interestingly enough, regardless of your faith, studies show that believers (and those who consider themselves spiritual) are healthier and live longer than nonbelievers.
5 Health Benefits of Religion and Spirituality….(health.com)
How being religious or spiritual has been shown to benefit your mind, body and spirit…
Healthy Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). It affects 1 in every 3 adults and only half of these people have their blood pressure under control. Well, religion and spiritually may help …
According to the research, including a 1998 study conducted at Duke University Medical Center on 4,000 subjects, older adults who described themselves as religiously active were 40% less likely to have high blood pressure when compared to those less active. Moreover, they were surprised to find that those who described themselves as spiritual rather than religious also were less likely to develop high blood pressure.
Greater Sense of Satisfaction
Research also indicates that religious people are more satisfied with their lives than those without faith. A sociology study determined that high satisfaction among church goers may be due to the strong social bonds that are developed within a religious congregation. Regular church attendees see the same people weekly and often more often, when participating in rewarding and gratifying church-related volunteer work.
Greater Tolerance for Adversity
In an impressive study published in 2009 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers interviewed 345 late-stage cancer patients to assess their spirituality as it related to their illness. 88% stated that they were religious as it related to their coping mechanisms. It was determined that those using religion for coping demonstrated a 7.4% rate of resuscitation as compared to 1.8% for those not using religion as a coping mechanism.
Stronger Immune System
According to a Duke University study of 1,718 older adult participants, those described as “highly spiritual” were 50% less likely to have high levels of anti-inflammatory proteins that weaken the immune system and have been linked to some cancers, viral infections and autoimmune diseases. The outcome was similar for those who attend religious services at least once a week.
Those who attend religious services more than once per week are found to live and additional 7 years when compared to those who never attend services. Again, researchers feel that the social benefits of a belonging to a strong religious community may be a large part of the associated longevity. Additionally, the lifestyle of religious people is often healthier: members of these communities rarely engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, indiscriminate sex, etc.
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum” in the Scranton Times-Tribune.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: email@example.com
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.