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Barbershop study trims black men's hair, blood pressure

14 March 2018

Normal blood pressure levels are 120/80 or less, and high blood pressure levels are 140/90 or higher.

"By contrast, men who interacted with their barber and a pharmacist saw their systolic blood pressure drop from 153mm Hg at the start of the study to 126mm Hg after six months".

But a study yesterday said they can also help encourage men to get their high blood pressure under control.

"Among black male barbershop patrons with uncontrolled hypertension, health promotion by barbers resulted in larger blood-pressure reduction when coupled with medication management in barbershops by specialty trained physicians", the authors wrote in the conclusion. In this experiment and others, public health interventions have targeted barbershops in order to improve the health of the men who visit them.

Ciantel Blyler, a clinical pharmacist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and co-author of the study, told CNN that she was "surprised" by the results.

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Black men have the highest rates of high blood pressure compared to any other racial, ethnic or gender group. Black men reduced one of their biggest medical risks through a novel project that shows the power of familiar faces and trusted places to improve health.

"Medical mistrust has been an important barrier to African-Americans seeking health care, and so the barbershop - where men go on a monthly basis and have an opportunity to develop a rapport with a trusted key opinion leader in the community - that rapport is a flawless foundation for talking about health", he said.

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. One group of customers just got pamphlets and blood pressure tips while they were getting haircuts. "If this model was scaled up and sustained, millions of lives could be saved, and many heart attacks and strokes could be prevented". After six months, nearly two-thirds of participants brought their blood pressure into the healthy range.

In the second group, barbers encouraged their patrons to follow up with a primary care provider for treatment and make lifestyle changes, such as increasing exercise and decreasing salt consumption.

Men who met only with their barber saw their systolic blood pressure drop from 155 mmHg at the start of the study to 145 mmHg after six months. Check your blood pressure. At the six-month mark, 11.7% of the group brought their blood pressure into the healthy range, the study found.

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"High blood pressure is a chronic illness that requires a lifetime commitment to medication and lifestyle modification", Victor said.

"This is a very significant effect for a hypertension trial of any kind", said Victor, whose hypertension was diagnosed by a barber in Dallas during his first barbershop-based study in the 1990s. The researchers note that sustainability beyond 6 months is being considered in ongoing extension study.

The doctor wants to expand his reach by studying 3,000 men in several cities across the country, as well as adding cholesterol screenings into the mix.

The study was funded by a grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, among other funding sources.

The findings were presented March 12 at the American College of Cardiology's annual scientific session and published simultaneously in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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Barbershop study trims black men's hair, blood pressure