African-American barbershops are popular for being gathering and socializing places, in addition to getting a haircut.

Now, a recent study reports that barbershops can also be helpful to men in controlling their high blood pressure.

A new project saw trained pharmacists work regularly with men testing and treating them at numerous barbershops in Los Angeles. The results were reported on March 12 during a cardiology conference held in Orlando, Florida.

"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 study lead author Ronald Victor.

If the model is followed on a broad scale, it could make significant inroads to treat African-American men, according to Victor. It could be helpful in preventing strokes and heart attacks, thereby saving millions of lives. Black men are usually more susceptible to high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of stroke or heart disease.

The Experiment

A total of 319 African-American men were recruited at 52 barbershops spread across Los Angeles County. All the recruits had high blood pressure, particularly systolic blood pressure measuring more than 140 mm Hg. They were in the age group of 35 to 71. All the participants were longtime barbershop regulars, visiting their barber around two times a month for hairdressing.

During the experiment, some participants were assigned randomly to have a meeting with a pharmacist each time they visited the barbershop. The rest of the volunteers were given encouragement and advice by their barber on healthy living and lifestyle choices and to go visit a medical practitioner for a follow-up.

The study, which was published on March 12, in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that those who met up with the pharmacist at their barbershop on a monthly basis had their systolic blood pressure fall by 21 mm Hg more in comparison with the other participants.

Blood Pressure

Victor noted that high blood pressure is a persistent medical affliction that needs a person to be committed for life to lifestyle modification and medication. It is, however, often a tedious task to make people who require blood pressure medicines to have them, even though the side effects and costs associated with such medicines have gone down in the past few years.

The cardiologist added that the new model was able to get over that hurdle.

"Barbershops are a uniquely popular meeting place for African-American men," said Victor. "It almost has a social club feel to it, a delightful, friendly environment." It is this ambiance that makes it ideal for improving health.

Victor now wants to do a study that will include 3,000 men in various cities in the United States. He also hopes that a similar approach will be helpful in tackling high cholesterol.

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