Study says going to barbershop reduces blood pressure
Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 3/13/2018, 10:25 a.m.
Black men can trim their hair, their beard and their blood pressure, all at once with a visit to their local barbershop. That’s according to a new study. According to the Associated Press, the project had pharmacists work with dozens of Los Angeles barbershops to test and treat clients. The results, reported Monday at a cardiology conference, have doctors planning to expand the project to more cities nationwide. “There's open communication in a barbershop. There's a relationship, a trust,” said Eric Muhammad, owner of A New You Barbershop, one of the barbers who participated. “We have a lot more influence than just the doctor walking in the door.” Black men have high rates of high blood pressure — a top reading more than 130 or a bottom one more than than 80 — and the problems it can cause, such as strokes and heart attacks. Only half of Americans with high pressure have it under control; many don't even know they have the condition. Churches, beauty salons and other community spots have been used to reach groups that often lack access to doctors, to promote cancer screenings and other services. Dr. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, wanted to reach Black men. “Barbershops are a uniquely popular meeting place for African-American men,” and many have gone every other week to the same barber for many years, he said. “It almost has a social club feel to it, a delightful, friendly environment” that makes it ideal for improving health. Victor did a study in 17 Dallas barbershops a few years ago. In that one, barbers tested patrons and referred them to doctors. Improvements were modest. In the new study, “we added a pharmacist into the mix” so medicines could be prescribed on the spot, he said. The new work involved 303 men and 52 barbershops. One group of customers just got pamphlets and blood pressure tips while they were getting haircuts. Another group met with pharmacists in the barbershops and could get treatment if their blood pressure was high. At the start of the study, their top pressure number averaged 154. After six months, it fell by nine points for customers just given advice and by 27 points for those who saw pharmacists. Nearly two-thirds of the men who saw pharmacists lowered their pressure to less than 130 more than 80 — the threshold for high blood pressure under new guidelines adopted last fall. Only 12 percent of the men who just got advice dropped to that level. “This is a home run ... high-touch medicine,” said one independent expert, Eileen Handberg, a heart researcher at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Most drug trials only dream about such good results, yet they were achieved in a regular community setting, she said.