Religion, spirituality and cardiovascular disease: research, clinical implications, and opportunities in Brazil.
In this paper we comprehensively review published quantitative research on the relationship between religion, spirituality (R/S), and cardiovascular (CV) disease, discuss mechanisms that help explain the associations reported, examine the clinical implications of those findings, and explore future research needed in Brazil on this topic. First, we define the terms religion, spirituality, and secular humanism. Next, we review research examining the relationships between R/S and CV risk factors (smoking, alcohol/drug use, physical inactivity, poor diet, cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, blood pressure, and psychosocial stress). We then review research on R/S, cardiovascular functions (CV reactivity, heart rate variability, etc.), and inflammatory markers (IL-6, IFN-γ, CRP, fibrinogen, IL-4, IL-10). Next we examine research on R/S and coronary artery disease, hypertension, stroke, dementia, cardiac surgery outcomes, and mortality (CV mortality in particular). We then discuss mechanisms that help explain these relationships (focusing on psychological, social, and behavioral pathways) and present a theoretical causal model based on a Western religious perspective. Next we discuss the clinical applications of the research, and make practical suggestions on how cardiologists and cardiac surgeons can sensitively and sensibly address spiritual issues in clinical practice. Finally, we explore opportunities for future research. No research on R/S and cardiovascular disease has yet been published from Brazil, despite the tremendous interest and involvement of the population in R/S, making this an area of almost unlimited possibilities for researchers in Brazil.
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