- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2018

In an effort to engage more black men about their heart health, doctors are trying to meet patients where they are — specifically at the barbershop.

Researchers from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles approached black barbershop owners about bringing up the subject of blood pressure with their customers.

Their results were published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Non-Hispanic black men have the highest rate of hypertension-related death of any racial, ethnic, or sex group in the United States,” the authors wrote in their introduction. “Black men have less physician interaction than black women and lower rates of hypertension treatment and control, necessitating community outreach.”

The researchers enrolled 52 black barbershop owners, who were divided into two groups. The first would encourage their customers to meet with a pharmacist and their doctor about medication that could help lower their blood pressure. The second group, however, suggested lifestyle changes that could help their patrons improve their blood pressure while also encouraging them to make appointments with their doctors.

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 dangerous level.

Over the course of six months, both control groups experienced a drop in blood pressure, although the first group — with a medication intervention — had a decline three times more than the group that only promoted lifestyle changes and doctor visits.

“Among black male barbershop patrons with uncontrolled hypertension, health promotion by barbers resulted in larger blood-pressure reduction when coupled with medication management in barbershops by specialty trained physicians,” the authors wrote in the conclusion.

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