Black men tend to have elevated blood pressures, and if it goes untreated, hypertension can lead to heart attacks or stroke.
The researchers enrolled 319 black men from 52 different barbershops in Los Angeles County. 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. Only 12 percent of men in the other group, which received just advice, lowered their blood pressure to the same level.
Study participants were divided into two focus groups of men aged 35 to 79. The first would encourage their customers to meet with a pharmacist and their doctor about medication that could help lower their blood pressure.
Black men with uncontrolled hypertension experienced a larger reduction in blood pressure through health promotion by barbers in combination with medication management in barbershops by specialty-trained pharmacists, according to a study presented at ACC.18 Scientific Sessions & Expo.
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.
"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 lead author Ronald Victor, associate director of the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
In one group, barbers encouraged patrons to meet with specially trained pharmacists monthly in the barbershop.
Victor et al. noted one of the limitations of their study is pharmacists targeted blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg, while primary care providers for control-group participants may have used an in-office goal of 140/90.
"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. Almost two-thirds of patrons in this group brought their blood pressure down to a healthy number after six months. At the six-month mark, 11.7% of the group brought their blood pressure into the healthy range. "What's different about this study is it looks at ways to effectively bring it down with the help of your friends, family and support group". "We can not fear what the doctor will tell us". "The rapport I've been able to establish with this group of patients has been unlike any other I've had in my professional career". "Since I could see his heart in this, it was easy for me to offer assistance".
That level of trust and rapport is essential in treating hypertension, because it's a chronic condition that requires ongoing care and lifestyle changes, Victor said.