Barbershop Pharmacists: A Good Rx for High Blood Pressure

Barbershop Pharmacists: A Good Rx for High Blood Pressure

Watch what you eat, he tells them. But most hypertensive black men still have blood pressures above the old barrier of 140/90. Don't take life so hard.

The study appears to fall in line with previous research exploring the role barbershops could have in preventing death and disease in the black community, said Dr. Joseph Ravenell, an internist at NYU Langone Health and associate professor of Population Health and Medicine at NYU School of Medicine in NY.

As a barber, "we know more about our customers than their spouses do", Thomas said.

And that can be good for their health.

At baseline, about one-half of participants in both groups were taking blood pressure medication.

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

Dr. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who led the study, said barbershops are the flawless place to reach Black men for health screenings, according to the Associated Press. She went to each shop once a week for a year to see patients, she said.

Victor is associate director of the Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The men, 35 to 79 years old, had systolic blood pressure of 140 or more. "We can partner with others in the community and get this epidemic under control". It affects blacks more often, and at an earlier age, than whites and Hispanics, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study included 319 black men with high blood pressure who frequented 52 barbershops in the Los Angeles area.

All the men had high blood pressure, defined as a systolic blood pressure over 140mm Hg based on multiple measurements taken on two different days. Undetected hypertension can lead to heart and kidney damage as well as strokes and heart attacks.

On the other hand, the barbershop represents a safe haven in the black community - a no-judgment zone - where conversations about health and other personal topics are commonplace.

"There is a different level of trust and respect that's earned when you meet people where they are, instead of in a hospital or clinic", pharmacist C. Adair Blyler said in the news release.

"I think that what's so wonderful about health outreach in the barbershop: It's a comfortable place", Blyler said. Most drug trials only dream about such good results, yet they were achieved in a regular community setting, she said.

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.

He helped recruit 50 other barbershops to participate. "I'm like, 'Nah. I'm all right.' ..."

Medicines lowered his pressure to 125 over 95.

"It woke me up", said Sims, who has a young son. The pharmacist assigned to A New You was persistent. In that one, barbers tested patrons and referred them to doctors.

"Folks can ask questions or get information about their health in a 'low-stakes, ' relaxed environment", she said.

The pharmacist changed his medicine, the blood pressure machine was moved in, and Thomas - as well as his patrons - started to listen.

Even though the study is over, Thomas still talks to his customers about hypertension. "The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats".

Thomas said efforts like these can help change long-engrained habits among African-American men. "We have a lot more influence than just the doctor walking in the door". Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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