Doctors take high blood pressure message to black barbershops

Doctors take high blood pressure message to black barbershops

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is the leading cause of premature disability and death among African-American men, leading researchers to seek better methods of reaching them for preventive treatment.

Each of the 319 barbershop clients in the study had hypertension, defined as an average systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher (that's the maximum pressure exerted on the arteries when the heart is pushing blood through the body).

Some men were randomly assigned to meet with a trained pharmacist at each barbershop visit.

"By bringing state-of-the-art medicine directly to the people who need it on their home turf, in this case in a barbershop, and making it both convenient and rigorous, blood pressure can be controlled just as well in African-American men as in other groups", said Ronald G. Victor, MD, associate director of the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai and the study's lead author.

The study included 303 men with an average blood pressure of 154 (anything over 130 is considered high), and 52 barbershops across Los Angeles.

As CNN reported, Dr. Joseph Ravenell, an internist at NYU Langone Health, and his colleagues previously researched how barbershops and other community-based strategies could help diagnose and treat hypertension and colorectal cancer.

Black men can access health care in a familiar setting: their favorite barbershop.

"Medical mistrust has been an important barrier to African-Americans seeking health care, and so the barbershop - where men go on a monthly basis and have an opportunity to develop a rapport with a trusted key opinion leader in the community - that rapport is a ideal foundation for talking about health", he said. That pharmacist would measure the men's blood pressure, encourage lifestyle changes and prescribe blood pressure medication.

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The researchers also pointed out an additional 3.5 million black men in the US are considered to have hypertension now that the ACC and American Heart Association have dropped the lower threshold to 130/80 mm Hg. "It is often challenging to get people who need blood pressure medication to take them, even as costs and side effects have gone down over the years".

Almost two-thirds of the men who got the drug therapy achieved a healthy blood pressure of less than 130/80 mm Hg, while only about 12 percent of the second group did. Their systolic blood pressure dropped from 155 mmHg at the start of the study to 145 mmHg after six months. Check your blood pressure. And after six months, 11.7 percent's blood pressure was in the healthy range.

Victor said trust and rapport is essential because high blood pressure a chronic condition that requires ongoing care and lifestyle changes.

Research out of California suggests doctors have stumbled on an effective new way to improve the heart health of African American men. About 43 percent of Black men have high blood pressure, compared to 34 percent of White men and 28 percent of Latino men, CDC data show.

"This is a very large effect for a hypertension trial of any kind", Victor said.

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 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. Results were discussed at an American College of Cardiology conference in Orlando and published by the New England Journal of Medicine.