Barbershops can help clients lower blood pressure

Henrietta Strickland
March 13, 2018

High blood pressure is a top cause of early disability and death among black American men. The pharmacists prescribed blood pressure medication, monitored blood tests and sent progress notes to each man's primary care provider.

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 risky level.

Each man was assigned either to a control group or to a program, where his barber would recommend that he meet with a trained pharmacist at the barbershop. But the men did not meet with a pharmacist in the barbershop. The rest were given advice and encouragement on healthy lifestyle choices from their barber, who urged them to see a doctor for follow up.

A new study by the Smidt Heart Institute (paid for by the National Institutes of Health) was released on Monday and suggests that providing health screenings at barbershops can help African-American men to significantly lower their blood pressure. "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". Dr. Victor has a very honest desire to bring down blood pressure in people in general, and in black men in particular.

A previous study by Victor, published in 2011, showed that barbers could be effective in helping their patrons battle hypertension.

One pharmacist who took part in the study explained the advantages of offering blood pressure treatment at a barbershop. "The rapport I've been able to establish with this group of patients has been unlike any other I've had in my professional career".

Over the course of six months, both control groups experienced a drop in blood pressure, although the first group - with a medication intervention - had a decline three times more than the group that only promoted lifestyle changes and doctor visits.

"It is often a challenge to get people who need blood pressure medication to take them, even as the costs and side effects have gone down over the years".

Researchers are now studying whether the initial blood pressure reductions can be sustained for another six months.

If employed on a broad scale, the approach could make major inroads in treating African-American men, a population that is more likely than other races to have high blood pressure -- a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke - and less likely to be in a doctor's care, researchers said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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