A pilot study has uncovered that wearing tefillin – a leather band wrapped around the arm – may yield cardiovascular health benefits.
The researchers wanted to determine the possible benefits by temporarily restricting blood flow to induce the bodies natural responses to protect itself against heart attacks.
The study involved 20 Jewish men. Nine wore tefillin daily and 11 did not. Baseline information was gathered from all participants in the morning and then again 30 minutes after wearing tefillin.
Vital signs, blood analysis, and blood flow were measured in the unwrapped arm.
Lead researcher Jack Rubinstein explained, “Tefillin is used for morning prayers for Jewish men over the age of 13 on an almost daily basis. It is placed on the non-dominant arm around the bicep and the forearm in a pretty tight manner. It is never worn in a fashion as to preclude the blood flow. This is worn for about 30 minutes continuously. Prayers are sitting and standing so often you have to retighten the strap around your arm.”
Tefillin, also known as phylacteries, has been used as early on as the scriptural commandments where followers abided to religious law and were told to “bind them as a sign upon your arm.” Rubenstein suggests the binding of the arm and reduction in blow flow may condition the body against acute ischemic reperfusion injury (where a section of the heart is deprived of oxygen and then damaged when re-oxygenated) which occurs during a heart attack.
“One of the ways that protection occurs is through pain. Feeling pain is actually a preconditioning stimulus. 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,” Rubenstein continued.
Blood flow was higher among the men who wore tefillin daily along with participants who just wore it once. Tefillin wearers had fewer cytokines, which are signs of inflammation that negatively impact the heart.
Rubenstein concluded, “The problem with translating this to people is we don’t know when someone will have the heart attack. It is almost impossible to precondition someone unless they are willing to do something daily to themselves. Tefillin use may, in fact, offer protection as it’s worn on an almost daily basis.”
Other studies from Israel have found that men who wear tefillin have lower cases of death by heart attack than men who do not. The same protection has not been found among women.
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