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Barbershops Help Lower High Blood Pressure Among Black Men

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Going to a barbershop regularly may help lower blood pressure, a novel study found, citing the importance of familiar faces and trusted places in decreasing one of the biggest medical risks.

Pharmacists worked with dozens of barbershops in the Los Angeles area to test clients, US News and World Report states. The results were positive, and when discussed at a cardiology conference on Monday, had doctors planning to expand the project to more states nationwide.

Eric Muhammad, owner of A New You Barbershop and one of the participants, said,

There’s open communication in a barbershop. There’s a relationship, a trust. We have a lot more influence than just the doctor walking in the door.

Black men have high blood pressure rates, placing them at a higher risk for health problems such as strokes and heart attacks. Only around half of Americans with high blood pressure have it under control, while many are not even aware they have the condition.

Community spots such as churches and beauty salons are often used to reach groups who have limited access to doctors, such as promoting cancer screenings. Dr. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, wanted to focus on black men.

He said, “Barbershops are a uniquely popular meeting place for African-American men. It almost has a social club feel to it, a delightful, friendly environment” that makes it ideal for improving health.” Many black men go to the same barbershops for years.

A few years ago, Victor did a study on 17 barbershops in Dallas, where barbers tested clients and referred them to doctors. The improvements were slight. In this new study, pharmacists were added so that someone could prescribe on the spot, Victor said.

There were 303 men and 52 barbershops in the study. One group received pamphlets and tips on maintaining blood pressure, while another met with pharmacists at the barbershop to get treatment.

Close to 66% of the men who saw pharmacists were able to lower their blood pressure to under 130 over 80, according to the new threshold for high blood pressure. Only 12% of the men who got advice dropped their blood pressure to the same levels.

Victor now aims to widen the study to as many as 3,000 men in cities around the world, and hopes to tackle high cholesterol levels using a similar approach.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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