Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

Black barbershops can help clients lower blood pressure

Black barbershops can help clients lower blood pressure

The study followed 319 black men that patronized the barbershops who had a systolic blood pressure - the pressure of blood flow when the heart pumps - of 140 mm Hg (millimeter of mercury) or more, a clinically high and unsafe level.

"High blood pressure disproportionately affects the African-American community, and we must find new ways to reach out so we can prevent strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and early deaths", he added in a hospital news release.

In an effort to engage more black men about their heart health, doctors are trying to meet patients where they are - specifically at the barbershop.

"When we provide convenient and rigorous medical care to African-American men by coming to them - in this case having pharmacists deliver that care in barbershops - blood pressure can be controlled and lives can be saved", said author Ronald G. Victor, MD, associate director of the Cedar-Sinai's Smidt Heart Institute in a press release.

"Because black men with hypertension often have multiple cardiovascular risk factors, marked reductions in blood pressure-if sustained with the use of our approach and then initiated more widely-might reduce the high rates of hypertension-related disability and death among black men with hypertension in the United States", Victor and colleagues wrote.

The participants were divided into two groups. Another group met with pharmacists in the barbershops and could get treatment if their blood pressure was high. During each pharmacist visit, the men in this group received a blood pressure evaluation and a finger-stick blood test, which the pharmacist used to evaluate each man's response to blood pressure medications and adjust prescriptions as needed.

By the end of the study, the researchers found that the barbers' role in encouraging the men to monitor and improve their health resulted in a significant reduction in blood pressure, when coupled with medication from the pharmacists.

Trim your hair, your beard, your blood pressure? Six months later, 100 percent of those seen by pharmacists and 63 percent who received only encouragement to see a doctor were taking antihypertensive drugs.

In the control group, barbers encouraged the men to make lifestyle changes and doctor appointments, but not much else changed in their usual barbershop visits.

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At the start of the study, their top pressure number averaged 154. Diastolic blood pressured dropped by 4 mm Hg in this group.

Also, pharmacists aimed to lower blood pressure in the program participants to less than 130/80, whereas the primary care providers of those in the control group probably targeted a blood pressure of less than 140/90.

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. He didn't know he had high pressure — 175 over 125 — and the pharmacist said he was at risk of having a stroke.

"Once you have hypertension, it requires a lifetime commitment to taking medications and making lifestyle changes", Victor said. The men, 35 to 79 years old, had systolic blood pressure of 140 or more. "With this program, we have been able to overcome that barrier". "There's a relationship, a trust", said Eric Muhammad, owner of A New You Barbershop, one of the barbers who participated.

For the study, 319 men were recruited at 52 Los Angeles County barbershops.

"It woke me up", said Sims, who has a young son. "We can not fear what the doctor will tell us". More than 40% of non-Hispanic black men and women have high blood pressure. "Since I could see his heart in this, it was easy for me to offer assistance". That study was of 17 Dallas barbershops.

"This is a very large effect for a hypertension trial of any kind", Victor said.

Researchers have started a second phase of the study to determine if the effects are sustained for an additional six months.

Victor also hopes to expand the program to other parts of the country, including African-American men with more moderate blood pressure levels.

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