THI Supports Elnita McClain Women’s Center New Serenity Garden

HOUSTON, TX —  Texas Heart Institute (THI) is proud to support the Elnita McClain Women’s Center in establishing a new serenity garden in Houston’s historic Third Ward community.

Located near Emancipation Park on Arbor Street, the Bishop Vashti Murphy and Dr. Stan McKenzie Pathway to Peace Serenity Garden at Elnita McClain Women’s Center is a welcome addition to the community and to wellness efforts.

THI has a longstanding partnership with the Elnita McClain Women’s Center, a ministry of the Women’s Missionary Society of the 10th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Church District.

Elnita McClain Women’s Center Executive Director, Shamra Hodge, invited THI to share its perspective on how serenity gardens can help decrease stress and help preventdecrease heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.

Dr. Stephanie Coulter, director for the Texas Heart Institute Center for Women’s Heart and Vascular Health, has been interested in the role of biology, psychology and our environment in the development of heart disease and heart health. Dr. Coulter is actively pursuing research in this area through the Houston HeartReach programs.

“Stress and anxiety are among the greatest contributors to premature death,” said Dr. Coulter.  “I strongly encourage coping with today’s stress in a healthy and natural way.”

The use of gardens for the enrichment of health and wellness dates back to the 20th century in the United States when researchers at major hospitals and universities explored their role in recovery and health. Spending time in green spaces has shown to have both culturally significant and scientifically measurable benefits to human health and wellbeing.

Today, gardens across the US serve in therapeutic capacities at hospitals, rehabilitation centers, psychiatric facilities, nursing homes and vocational rehabilitation programs— including heart hospitals where they are used to enhance resilience during treatment by reducing stress and depression.

Green spaces and gardening can increase motivation, engagement and enhance positive outcomes. Healing gardens can enhance coping mechanisms of individuals with PTSD and facilitate positive engagement for children and adults with autism. At nursing homes, and senior citizen communities, gardens draw individuals out of isolation, provide opportunity for physical activity, relieve anxiety and stress and stimulate joy.

Research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in June highlighted the importance of alleviating psycho-social stress through culturally sensitive interventions and community-level programs.

The researchers examined biometrics and psycho-social surveys from the Jackson Heart Study to gain a better understanding of the association of multiple acute and chronic stressors and the ability to successfully achieve seven ideal cardiovascular health metrics defined by the American Heart Association (Life’s Simple 7). These include: smoking cessation, diet, physical activity level, body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and fasting glucose.

In this study conducted in an African-American community, individuals with higher levels of multiple stress measures were less likely to achieve intermediate or ideal levels of cardiovascular health putting them at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

These findings further demonstrated that psycho-social factors should be considered in our efforts to achieve ideal cardiovascular health for all Americans, but particularly blacks. The study also underscores valuable insight into the importance of alleviating psychosocial stress through lifestyle interventions, strategies, and policies in our community.

“We hope our Houston HeartReach programs will provide new insights about our community to support more wellness initiatives like this,” said Keri Sprung, THI Women’s Center.

THI congratulates Shamra Hodge and the Board of the Elnita McClain Women’s Center for building this important community resource.