Barbershops Help Lower High Blood Pressure in African-American Men

Black barbershops can help clients lower blood pressure study

"Barbershops are a uniquely popular meeting place for African-American men", Cedars-Sinai Medical Center cardiologist Ronald Victor told the Associated Press.

The men seen by the pharmacist had mean drops of 27 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 18 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure.

The study included 319 black men with high blood pressure who frequented 52 barbershops in the Los Angeles area. One group of the 303 men in the study received information and tips about managing hypertension, while the other group met pharmacists at the barbershop to receive treatment.

The researchers also pointed out an additional 3.5 million black men in the USA are considered to have hypertension now that the ACC and American Heart Association have dropped the lower threshold to 130/80 mm Hg.

The researchers found almost 64% of the men who met with pharmacistsmonthly at their barbershop achieved a blood pressure level of less than 130/80 six months later, compared to the almost 12% of the men in the control group. The rate of cohort retention in the intervention group was high (95%), and there were few adverse events.

Researchers are now studying whether the initial blood pressure reductions can be sustained for another six months. In this experiment and others, public health interventions have targeted barbershops in order to improve the health of the men who visit them. "We believe that the relatively large intervention effect indicates that such implementation research is warranted".

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One specific program successfully aided black men in controlling their blood pressure, an issue that disproportionately affects the demographic.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of premature disability and death among African-American men, who have less physician interaction than African-American women-necessitating community outreach.

"On average, men who interacted only with their barber and were referred to their own doctor saw their systolic blood pressure drop from 155mm Hg at the start of the study to 145mm Hg after six months", said the report.

That level of trust and rapport is essential in treating hypertension, because it's a chronic condition that requires ongoing care and lifestyle changes, Victor said. These differential targets and measurement locations may have factored into the results, and "normotensive office readings that mask high out-of-office blood pressure are common in black patients", they wrote. "What's different about this study is it looks at ways to effectively bring it down with the help of your friends, family and support group". "We have a lot more influence than just the doctor walking in the door". "Once you have hypertension, it requires a lifetime commitment to taking medications and making lifestyle changes". Dr. Victor has a very honest desire to bring down blood pressure in people in general, and in black men in particular.

In 2011, Victor published a study that showed that barbers could be effective in helping their patrons battle hypertension. "With this program, we have been able to overcome that barrier".

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