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. The men received intervention aimed at lowering blood pressure.
Black men have high rates of high blood pressure a top reading over 130 or a bottom one over 80 and the problems it can cause, such as strokes and heart attacks. The new study is the first to show that linking health promotion by barbers to advanced medical intervention in a barbershop setting can be effective in reducing blood pressure.
The researchers enrolled 319 black men from 52 different barbershops in Los Angeles County.
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 unsafe level. The men ranged in age from 35 to 71 years and, on average, had patronized their barbershop for more than a decade and had their hair cut twice a month.
In the control group, the barbers talked to the men about blood pressure and healthy lifestyle changes and encouraged them to see a health provider.
"It's the silent killer, and it has cost the lives and health of a lot of good men", said Eric Muhammad, whose Inglewood shop, A New You Barbershop, participated in the study. That pharmacist would measure the men's blood pressure, encourage lifestyle changes and prescribe blood pressure medication. The pharmacists worked directly with the men under a collaborative care agreement with their primary care doctors.
At 6 months, mean blood pressure in the intervention group dropping to 125.8 mmHg (-27.0 mmHg) and 145.4 mmHg in the control group (-9.3 mmHg). Diastolic blood pressured dropped by 4 mm Hg in this group. Mean baseline systolic BP was 153 to 154 mm Hg at baseline.
Under current ACC/American Heart Association guidelines, blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg is considered normal.
The blood pressure goal of 130/80 mmHg was attained by 63.6% of the intervention group (n = 84) compared with 11.7% in the control group (n = 20; RR, 5.7; 95% CI, 2.5 to 12.8; P .001).
Victor RG, et al. "We are very excited about the results".
"Because black men with hypertension often have multiple cardiovascular risk factors, marked reductions in blood pressure-if sustained with the use of our approach and then initiated more widely-might reduce the high rates of hypertension-related disability and death among black men with hypertension in the United States", Victor and colleagues wrote. Those in the pharmacist arm of the study were also taking two more medications by the end of the study, compared with the barber-only arm. "It's a no-brainer that black men are at the highest risk of high blood pressure. 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.
Researchers have started a second phase of the study to determine if the effects are sustained for an additional six months. Victor also hopes to expand the program to other parts of the country and to reach a larger population, including African-American men with more moderate blood pressure levels.