How Barbershops Could Play a Role in Lowering Blood Pressure

Tuesday, 13 Mar, 2018

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

A new study finds that having pharmacists deliver blood pressure care in neighborhood barbershops resulted in lower blood pressure readings for many black men.

As a blood pressure monitor squeezed snugly around his arm, the pharmacist counseled Thomas, 49, on his diet and stress level while checking his blood pressure. The rest were given advice and encouragement on healthy lifestyle choices from their barber, who urged them to see a doctor for follow up. "If this model was scaled up and sustained, millions of lives could be saved, and many heart attacks and strokes could be prevented".

The new work involved 303 men and 52 barbershops.

"It's a no-brainer that black men are at the highest risk of high blood pressure". But most hypertensive black men still have blood pressures above the old barrier of 140/90.

Medicines lowered his pressure to 125 over 95.

Victor said trust and rapport is essential because high blood pressure a chronic condition that requires ongoing care and lifestyle changes. By bringing specialty care to the community through black-owned barbershops, Ronald G. Victor, MD, and colleagues showed substantial blood pressure reductions can be achieved within six months.

For the study, the men were randomly assigned to two groups.

At baseline, about one-half of participants in both groups were taking blood pressure medication. The pharmacists could prescribe drug therapy under a collaborative agreement with the men's doctors.

On average, men who interacted only with their barber and were referred to their own doctor saw their systolic blood pressure drop from 155 mm Hg at the start of the study to 145 mm Hg after six months.

In participants assigned to the pharmacist-led program, the average reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure were 21.6 and 14.9 greater, respectively, than in those assigned to the control group, the researchers found.

By contrast, men who interacted with their barber and a pharmacist saw their systolic blood pressure drop from 153 mm Hg at the start of the study to 126 mm Hg after six months, along with a drop in diastolic blood pressure of 18 mm Hg.

The prevalence of high blood pressure among black adults in the United States is among the highest in the world, according to the American Heart Association.

After a time phase of six months, nearly 64 percent of the men who saw a pharmacist achieved healthy blood pressure, compared to others.

"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. "We are very excited about the results". The individuals were split into two groups-one group got pamphlets and blood pressure tips during their haircuts.

"Once you have hypertension, it requires a lifetime commitment to taking medications and making lifestyle changes", Victor said. "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". "Unfortunately, I wish we had other programs to come in, too".

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 study was published March 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at an American College of Cardiology meeting in Orlando, Fla.