Trim your hair, your beard, your blood pressure? Black men reduced one of their biggest medical risks through a novel project that shows the power of familiar faces and trusted places to improve health, per the AP. The project had pharmacists work with dozens of Los Angeles barbershops to test and treat clients. The results, reported Monday at a cardiology conference, have doctors planning to expand the project to more cities nationwide. The new work involved 303 men and 52 barbershops. One group of customers just got pamphlets and blood pressure tips while they were getting haircuts. Another group met with pharmacists in the barbershops and could get treatment if their blood pressure was high.
"Barbershops are a uniquely popular meeting place for African-American men," says Dr. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, making it an ideal place for such an experiment. Black men tend to have high rates of high blood pressure—a top reading over 130 or a bottom one over 80—and the problems it can cause, such as strokes and heart attacks. At the start of the study, participants' top pressure number averaged 154. After six months, it fell by 9 points for customers just given advice and by 27 points for those who saw pharmacists. Nearly two-thirds of the men who saw pharmacists lowered their pressure to under 130 over 80—the threshold for high blood pressure under new guidelines adopted last fall. Only 12% of the men who just got advice dropped to that level. (Read more high blood pressure stories.)