Normal blood pressure levels are 120/80 or less, and high blood pressure levels are 140/90 or higher. Lowering blood pressure through lifestyle modification and medications substantially reduces this risk. "It's a no-brainer that black men are at the highest risk of high blood pressure".
For African-American men with uncontrolled hypertension, health promotion by barbers led to greater blood-pressure reduction when combined with medication management in barbershops by specialty-trained pharmacists, according to new research. Poor diets, lack of exercise and other bad habits cause most high blood pressure.
Previous studies have shown that barbers who give health advice could encourage better lifestyle choices. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist with Cedars-Sinai thought the power of familiar faces and a trusted place, such as a barbershop, would be effective.
The researchers enrolled 319 black men from 52 different barbershops in Los Angeles County.
Trim your hair, your beard, your blood pressure? Participants ranged from 35 to 71 years old and had frequented their barbershop on average for over 10 years and received haircuts twice a month.
In total, 309 men completed the study-representing a 95 percent cohort retention -and all received an intervention created to help them lower their blood pressure. The rate of cohort retention in the intervention group was high (95%), and there were few adverse events.
The CDC lists the following ways a healthy lifestyle can keep your blood pressure at a healthy level: a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough physical activity, not smoking and limiting alcohol use. Pharmacist visits made the therapy convenient for recipients, who were easily reached because they were loyal regulars at the barbershops. The pharmacists worked directly with the men under a collaborative care agreement with their primary care doctors.
Their blood pressure dropped from 153 mmHg at the start of the study to 126 mmHg after six months. "It takes all of maybe three to five minutes to take the blood pressure reading so after I finished with my client, I would strap the blood pressure cuff on them and give them their blood pressure reading", he said. Almost two-thirds of patrons in this group brought their blood pressure down to a healthy number after six months.
"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. More than half of the subjects in the intervention group (63.6%) achieved a BP 130/80mmHg compared with 11.7% of subjects in the control group (P 0.001).
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.
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. "With this program, we have been able to overcome that barrier".
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.
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 reported in the i New England Journal of Medicine /i and announced Monday at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology.