Study shows health benefits of tefillin

Jewish men who wrap leather straps around their arm as part of their daily morning prayers may also be protecting themselves from the worst effects of heart attacks.

A pilot study at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine found that regular users of tefillin may receive cardiovascular health benefits through remote ischemic preconditioning — that is, briefly restricting blood flow and oxygen to the heart and then restoring it.

The study’s results were published last month online in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

The study involved 20 Jewish men from the Greater Cincinnati area including — nine wore tefillin daily and 11 did not.

Blood flow was higher for men who wore tefillin daily and improved in all participants after wearing it just once as part of the study.

Jack Rubinstein, UC Health cardiologist and associate professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Health and Disease, said the binding of the arm and the discomfort users often report may serve as a form of preconditioning and offer a substantial degree of protection against acute ischemic reperfusion injury — when a section of the heart is deprived of oxygen and then damaged when re-oxygenated — that occurs as a result of a heart attack.

Ischemic preconditioning mimics the effects of exercise by placing the heart and vessels under light stress.

Rubinstein said: “We found people who wear tefillin in either the short or long term, recorded a measurable positive effect on their blood flow. That has been associated with better outcomes in heart disease.”

Israeli studies have shown that Orthodox men have a lower risk of dying of heart disease compared to non-Orthodox men.

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