Thousands of cardiovascular professionals from around the globe came together on April 7 at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) 2024 annual meeting in Atlanta to debate and discuss practice-changing science. A study by the Brazilian University of Goias on reducing hypertension addressed ‘gaps that science has not been looking at,’ according to study author Dr Maria E. Figueiredo.

But she said that, unlike trials evaluating drugs, it was based on ‘spirituality, along the lines of setting values that guide your behaviour, your life, your thoughts, and interpersonal relationships.

Surprisingly, although the study was intentionally secular, the values adopted are those set in the Scriptures thousands of years ago. The study interventions worked, because they are based in reality, not subjective hypothesis.

Hypertension is the leading cause of cardiovascular disease and the second leading cause of mortality worldwide, and novel interventions are needed for effective blood pressure control, researchers noted.  The study included 100 participants, with a mean age of 57 years. They were randomised to the intervention or to a control group. At the beginning and end of the study, patients’ lifestyles, medications measurement of peripheral and central blood pressure, home blood pressure monitoring, and flow-mediated dilation bracket FMD) were all reviewed.  FMD, which evaluates endothelial function, is considered ‘the best outcome evaluation form on pharmacological and short-term interventions like this one,’ said Dr Teixeira.

Participants continued to take their antihypertensive medications and follow their normal lifestyle during the study. Next at the end of 12 weeks the intervention group had an increase in FMD of 4.12 percentage points, from 10.2 percent to 14.3 percent which was statistically significant.  The control group saw a decrease in FMD from 10.6 percent to 7.2 percent. The intervention group also had a statistically significant drop in systolic blood pressure of 7.6 mmHg (from 129.0 to 121.4 mmHg), while the control group had no significant change.

Based on Christian Principles

Study participants received daily messages  via WhatsApp based on four themes: forgiveness, gratitude, purpose of life, and optimism.

Messages included a theme -related video, a self-reflection quote or a task related to the video content. For forgiveness, participants learned the meaning of forgiveness, received information on how forgiveness can help cardiovascular health, and a task to work on, which could be writing a message to someone who needs to be forgiven.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  Forgiveness is the essence of our relationship with Jesus Christ.  It’s part of the prayer He taught his disciples, ‘And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ (Matthew 6: 9-13).   Unless we forgive, we cannot be forgiven ourselves. (Matthew 18: 21-22).

The same for gratitude.  There are so many verses on thankfulness or gratitude, but one most of all stands out, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – ‘Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’

What about our purpose in life?  We don’t usually think much about it, as we too busy getting on with it.  My favourite words are those in the Westminster Catechism Confession, that says, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.’

And ‘optimism’?  Worldly optimism is not based on faith in God. I don’t recall reading the word ‘optimism’ in the Bible, but I could be wrong!  (Email me the passage if you have!)

But the Scriptures tell us we have hope:  real, substantive hope.  Hebrews 11:1 says, ‘Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.’  Romans 15:13 says: ‘Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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