STUDY: Wearing Tefillin Can Protect Heart Health

An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man works on creating and assemblin the Tefillin (phylacteries). Tefillin are a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah. They are worn by male observant Jews during weekday morning prayers. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90

CINCINNATI (VINnews) — A new study suggests that wearing Tefillin can have health benefits.

As reported by the Jerusalem Post, the cardiovascular health of people who wear a “tefillin shel-yad” on their arms can benefit, according to research from the University of Cincinnati. The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE by Professor Jack Rubinstein of the Division of Cardiovascular Health in UC’s College of Medicine, and expands on similar research he conducted in 2018.

The study suggests the benefits come from reduced blood-flow preconditioning that creates protection from damage caused by heart attacks.

The 30 participants in the study, all healthy individuals between the ages of 18 to 40, had their heart rate measured before, during and after wearing tefillin.

Rubinstein explained that the binding of the arm and some level of discomfort may serve as “preconditioning” and offer a substantial degree of protection against damage that occurs when someone suffers a sudden loss of blood flow (acute ischemia) or after the blood supply is restored to a tissue or organ after an ischemic event (reperfusion). Such injuries occur during a heart attack when a section of the heart is deprived of oxygen and is then damaged further when blood flow is restored.

“You have a very common and very deadly disease,” Rubinstein said in reference to heart attacks. “We are showing a path through which anyone can precondition themselves to decrease the amount of damage that they suffer from a heart attack by wearing a very simple device. This is a potential game changer for how we approach cardiovascular disease prevention. Decreasing the amount of heart-attack damage by even just twofold is something that will change outcomes for millions of people.”

“What we found is that wearing tefillin…caused changes to the heart rate associated with lowering of the metabolism as measured via heart-rate variability,” he said, explaining that heart-rate variability is the amount of variability between one heartbeat and the next.

“We can measure all kinds of different things from heart-rate variability, including probably the most important, which is parasympathetic tone,” he said. “Does it relax you, and does it cause your metabolism to come down?”

“It means that if we can have people wearing tefillin or a similar device, and they can get themselves to be preconditioned every day, we expect that those people should be protected or should have a decreased amount of damage if they should get a heart attack during the time they are protected,” he said. “This is a low-intensity way of protecting people from heart attacks.”

Rubinstein said the study did not include the use of anything containing sacred religious texts.

This study supports a similar study conducted by Rubinstein in 2018. At that time, the professor 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.”

He also explained that the benefits may only be effective if done on a frequent basis, as is the case with tefillin. He said, “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.”

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